Sweat, tears pay off

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Laisani Saumaisue. Picture: WATA SHAW

Laisani Saumaisue was a single mother and stay-home mum for many years, but she kept her hopes up throughout that challenging period. She has never let her situation stop her from achieving her dreams.

Years of sweat and tears later, Ms Saumaisue is one of many successful female Fijian business owners in the country.

Hailing from Namasimasi, Serua, with maternal links to Lau, the 43-year-old is the sole proprietor of a local travel agency called Vines Travel Fiji.

The business is located at Yatu Lau Arcade in Suva and assists people with their passport, visas and air tickets. The mother-of-six said with the help of a high school friend in 2013, the pair decided to start their own business.

“We were friends from high school and we decided to become business partners,” she said.

“We had started off in a small office in the Yatu Lau Arcade with pretty much the money in our pockets, but we never gave up.

“We were running the business together until she left for America after our third year, so I continued until today.”

She said the company would be celebrating its 10-year anniversary in December and has employed more than 10 women, most of them single mothers.

“The first year of business it was a struggle, but the both of us managed.

“The second year, I started employing people and most of them were women and single mothers. “Today, I have 10 women working under my agency and that is something I never thought I would have done.”

In 2020, Ms Saumaisue was awarded the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) National Small Medium Enterprise (SME) Business Women Entrepreneur prize and was shortlisted for a number of awards.

“When I won that award in 2020, it was a really memorable moment for me, my family and for my business.

“It felt like all the challenges I faced were all worth it and it encouraged me to also become a better business owner.”

She said during the pandemic in 2020, international borders were closed, which meant her business could not be sustained.

“When COVID hit Fiji in 2020, it was a huge blow to my business as we deal with people going in and out of the country.

“I also had to lay off some of my staff, but I kept going on. I didn’t close the business because I knew that God would sustain my business and He did.

“I received a contract from Australia within that COVID period and it helped my business.”

Her message to young business women and men is to “believe in yourself” and to have the right support system.

“As a sole owner I struggled not just being a business owner, but having the right support as an iTaukei woman.

“But as a woman of God, I prayed and did my best because without God nothing is impossible.

“Also, your business has to be your passion.

“Don’t venture into a business if it is not your passion. You have to love what you do, only then you will go far.

“And when you run the business, make sure it is done with integrity and whatever you do — you think of your family, especially your children.”

Ms Saumaisue plans to venture into opening her own restaurant in future.

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