NEWS

‘The Fire Took Everything, But Not My Voice’

Aggie Vakaloloma was one of the entrepreneurs who told her story to help MSME owners in Solomon Islands sustain their business by learning through her experience.
20 Feb 2022 13:00
‘The Fire Took Everything, But Not My Voice’
Aggie Vakaloloma at the workshop organised by Young Entrepreneurs Council at the Fiji Commerce Employers Federation (FCEF) office in Suva on February 16, 2022. Photo: Sheenal Charan.

The fire took everything but not my voice.

Renowned singer, Aggie Vakaloloma echoed these words of encouragement at a workshop organised by Young Entrepreneurs Council at the Fiji Commerce Employers Federation (FCEF) office in Suva on Wednesday.

Twenty-five Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise owners gathered for the first time to share their experiences, speaking of how they sustained their business through three wave of COVID-19 with their Solomon Islands counterparts.

The workshop was held to extend a helping hand to Pacific brothers as they battled their first wave.

Ms Vakaloloma was one of the entrepreneurs who told her story to help MSME owners in Solomon Islands sustain their business by learning through her experience.

Home razed by blaze

On February last year, her home was completely razed to the ground.

“My only source of income was singing and I had lost everything in a fire incident, including my instruments,” she said.

She said she had to perform at a gig a week later and she had been asked if she could still perform as she had lost everything.

“I agreed to perform knowing that I had friends who can lend me the instruments.

“The single mother of two said she had to be strong for those who were working with her because they had families and responsibilities,” she said.

“They were dependent on me for their bills and I had to be strong for them.”

What was your experience with business objectives when COVID arrived?

Ms Vakaloloma performed virtually to generate income.

“In 2020, I had plans, but then COVID happened, on top of COVID, I lost everything in the fire,” she said.

She said due to COVID-19 protocols that were in place such as social gathering, she had opted for virtual performance.

“We did virtual concerts to perform for people locally and for those overseas which was our only source of income,” she said.

“I am thankful to the friends I have here that have supported me.”

What were the opportunities that were created when COVID entered Fiji and how did you as a business owner target these opportunities?

Ms Vakaloloma’s virtual business turned out to be more profitable.

“COVID had impacted people mentally and one thing that people could cope with was music and that was how my business changed,” she said.

“Before COVID, we only had music instruments and sound system, but due to COVID we had to buy gadgets virtually.

“One thing good about doing virtual concerts was less expense.

“If we were to do physical performance, my expenses would have been over $500. Before COVID, I used to be invited globally but when COVID happened, we performed online.”

What has COVID taught you and what did you have to do differently or do better to ensure business success and customer confidence?

“COVID-restrictions were followed in urban areas mainly, but not much in rural areas so they wanted us to come and perform,” she said.

“One of the things I knew was they did not have money, but they had food.

“At the end of the day, when we get money, we feed our families, so I traded.

“I also explored other stream of income, I cooked and sold ice-blocks where the kids just came to buy ice-blocks to see if I am Aggie Vakaloloma,” she added.

Edited by Losirene Lacanivalu



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