Vini’s new beginning

Viniana Mole Vakatoto sits outside her stall at the handicraft centre in Suva. Picture: RUSIATE VUNIREWA

Retirement is not the end of someone’s life story. It is simply the beginning. This is true for former event planner, Viniana Mole Vakatoto.

After working in the hotel industry for 16 years, she considered going on early retirement in 2020. But destiny had a mind of its own.

She was approached to look after her mother-in-law’s stall at the Suva Curio and Handicraft Centre. Little did she know that would pave for her a new beginning.

“My mother-in-law asked me to look after her stall because she was sick. Before she passed away, she gave me this stall,” she said.

“I would have gone on retirement but I also wanted a new experience. I don’t sell nor do I have the skill for it but after trying it out, I got hooked.

“It was exciting. I also tried creating my own handicraft and people would buy it,” she said.

She took on the challenge amid one of Fiji’s most trying times. “I started at the beginning of COVID-19,” she said.

“At first, I would only make $5 to $10 in a day and that was challenging but I kept on coming and kept buying whatever little thing I could to fill up the stall.”

Surviving on meagre wages during the pandemic did not discourage Vakatoto. She remained positive the situation would change.

“I was getting very little but that was still better than not getting any money at all. Mostly local customers would come and buy the goods I sold”.

There were no tourists around so her faithful local customers kept her business above water so she could continue to support her family.

“I relied on local customers to buy from my stall during pandemic. Still now, I depend on local buyers and not so much tourists.”

“Tourists don’t usually come and buy. I believe this is because other retail shops buy from us and when the tourists come, they would be taken straight to those stores.”

Being the newest stall owner at the handicraft center, she tries to maintain good relationship with other vendors.

“I have a good relationship with my fellow vendors. I often pray to always have a positive outlook on life whether its towards vendors or about anything in general.”

“As a Christian, I believe that God will always provide. If it’s God will for me to have customers, they will come. If not, I am at peace.”

“When I see customers pass by all the vendors in the center, and come to buy from me. I tell myself, yes God is in control over everything.”

More Stories