A dream turned family legacy

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Wasa ni Tadra co-founders Salome Seru (left) and Laisenia Seru (right) with their daughter, Penelope Seru (middle). Picture: SUPPLIED

Laisenia Seru, a 51-year-old entrepreneur, aspires to excel in his craft. This vision, coupled with family support, serves as the driving force behind his local screen-printing business, aptly named Wasa Ni Tadra, meaning Ocean of Dreams.

It’s a dream that began over three decades ago. Laisenia developed his creative talent through assisting his uncle with his wood carving business.

“One day, while ripping a piece of timber, I injured myself with the sharp carving tools.

When that happened, I decided to venture full time into a tourist clothing business because I was already doing a bit of tie-dying on the side. So that’s where I started,” recalled the father of five.

After leaving school, Laisenia began developing his business acumen alongside his artistic talent while working for several prominent businesses in Suva, including Tiki Togs, Xoolu Enterprise, Asia Pacific and Big Island Graphics.

His experience with these businesses taught him the basics of how to operate a business. “Thirty years ago, I was asked what my goal was for the next three years? It was the first time I had been asked this and this was when I learnt to set goals for myself.

I remember responding that I wanted to be the best screen printer in Fiji in the next five years. I wrote this goal down, but later crossed it out and wrote; the best screen printer in the Pacific, and I am still working towards that.”

That goal set him on a path to starting a small operation out of his home some ten years later. Wasa Ni Tadra came to life through hard work and dedication to his craft. “I chose that name because I love diving; that’s my hobby.

The sea life, with all its colours, inspire me. The limitless ocean can take you anywhere.” Today, Wasa Ni Tadra has carved a name for itself, catering to various clients, including corporate companies, institutions, and sporting teams.

The business is now a shared family aspiration, with Laisenia’s wife, Salome, ensuring the smooth running of daily operations. Two of his daughters have also found their niches within the business.

Penelope works closely with Laisenia in the production process, while his other daughter Sala manages their popular online store, Lolani Boutique.

“We used to have a boutique in Suva which did very well, but we closed it down during COVID and focused on online sales because we continued to incur rental fees despite being on lockdown and unable to get to the shop,” explained Laisenia.

“After a year of reflection and planning, we have now reopened our office space and set up the boutique in Suva. We’re excited about that.”

To support their business growth plans, Laisenia and Salome joined the third Fiji Enterprise Engine (FEE) cohort in late 2022. FEE, managed by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, is Fiji’s first private sector-led business accelerator for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The program is supported by the Australian Government through its Market Development Facility, the Ministry of Trade, Cooperation, Small and Medium Enterprises and Communications (MTCSME), the iTaukei Trust Fund Board (TTFB) and the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

The six-month program offers classes and mentoring in six key areas, as well as networking opportunities with industry leaders and other MSMEs to support entrepreneurs in developing stronger business models and accessing new opportunities.

“You know, for almost 20 years, I’ve been running our business with what I know. With FEE, we’ve learned more about things such as human resource management, developing a business model, branding, marketing and bookkeeping. We’ve learned a lot from FEE, and I always encourage my wife and daughters to learn as much as they can.”

Laisenia believes that family support and the valuable learning from FEE has provided a solid foundation to pursue growth opportunities for his business. Reflecting on his journey, Laisenia emphasises the importance of setting goals, valuing a work-life balance, embracing learning opportunities and building strong networks.

“I’ve always encouraged my children to pursue their dreams, and I think one of the biggest challenges lies in setting clear goals. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to set ambitious goals and put everything into achieving them.”

Australian High Commission First Secretary Susannah Hodson visited Wasa Ni Tadra’s new premises this month.

“Small businesses like Wasa Ni Tadra play a very important role in supporting livelihoods and economic growth in Fiji. It’s great to hear firsthand how the FEE program has helped Wasa Ni Tadra to innovate and grow. We wish Laisenia and Salome all the best with their impressive new boutique in Suva.”

The comments and views in this article are of the Market Development Facility. For more information about Wasa Ni Tadra, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook. com/WNT23 or explore their online store, https://www.facebook.com/ lolanifiji, to discover their latest custom-made designs and creations.

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