Anne Tamarei Bolavatu – A keen learner

Anne Tamarei Bolavatu holds up a salusalu at her Suva Flea Market stall. Picture: UNAISI RATUBALAVU

Success comes to those who seek it diligently — these words have inspired, Anne Tamarei Bolavatu, one of Suva’s budding handicraft vendors.

Becoming a businesswoman was never on the 43-year old’s mind when she was growing up in rural Cakaudrove.

But being a quick and keen learner, she carved her way to business success by earnest observance and seeking advice.

“I was raised in the village and attended Ballantine Memorial School but only reached form four. Then I got married and settled down to start a family.”

With marriage came the demands of family life and child rearing, which not only cast a burden on her but also inspired her to work hard for her family’s survival.

Good fortune knocked on Ms Bolavatu’s door one day in 2013 when a relative asked her to help mind a stall at Suva Flea Market. Little did she know, this was the start of her journey in business.

“My job was to ensure that all handicraft my relative brought in was sold. I was also required to keep a record of all the daily sales,” she said.

“Over time I started to take a serious interest in business.”

In 2015, Ms Bolavatu decided to take a bold step and start out on her own. The mother of five has never looked back since. Today she manages a small but growing handicraft business at Suva’s flea market.

“I sell mats, masi (tapa cloth), wedding sets, baskets, wreaths and other traditional handicraft items,” she said.

Her specialty is designing traditional garlands known as salusalu. “I sell the salusalu to cater for prefect induction and graduation ceremonies.

“Now, that the economy has picked up, I notice that people are attending many functions. They come in to buy my products. Selling salusalu is a great business.”

Ms Bolavatu said the last two years were challenging. She felt the crunch when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. But with sheer dedication and perseverance, and prudent financial management, she has managed to keep her business open.

“We had to close our business for about eight months during the pandemic and that was not easy on me and my family.”

“However, during those times, people continued to order salusalu from me and that kept me going. I was also able to sell mats for funerals and other traditional events.”

Ms Bolavatu, who hails from Yacata Island in Cakaudrove, said she was grateful to her clients who supported the business during the economic downturn. She hopes business will continue to improve without any more threats of lock downs.

“Now we are busy from Monday to Saturday just like in the pre-COVID days. One thing I’ve learnt from running my business is we have to make friends and establish a healthy working relationship with our customers. We also have to make sure the products we sell are of good quality, so that customers keep coming back.”

Ms Bolavatu said her motivation was her family.

“My business has enabled me to support my two older children who have finished their studies and three younger ones who are still in school.”

She is stationed at stall number nine at the Suva Flea Market.

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