The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program was launched in 2020 by the US Embassy and so far, 300 women entrepreneurs have been trained in and graduated from the program.
Since its establishment in 2020, this year was the first time for a summit to be held for the alumni of the AWE from Asia and the Pacific in Malaysia from March 6-9 with seven members of the AWE Fiji Alumni attending the event.
Small business entrepreneur Lanieta Marama was one of these women and she described her time at the summit as being very fruitful.
Ms Marama operates her business from home and she specialises in quilting, embroidery and screen printing, among others. She started her business – Delai Design – from home with support from her husband and five children.
“I received my sewing and tailoring certificate from the Makoi Women’s Vocational Training Centre and then I started my own business in 2019.
“My business took off during the first wave of COVID and I did really well in terms of receiving orders from my customers both local and overseas,” she said. Ms Marama was later approached by the training centre to join the AWE program and she agreed.
“I graduated from that program too and then I focused more on marketing my business on social media.
“I was able to create a good customer base and now I receive orders from people overseas.” Ms Marama said she made sure that her children were proud of the family business and knew how it worked.
“So now all my children know how to operate the three overlock machines that I have at home.
“When we receive an order, I do the patterns and cut the designs which are then sewed by sons and my daughter irons the quilts and I do the finishing work.”
The family purchased a vehicle from the income the business made.
“Now we are able to use our vehicle for deliveries and transportation.”
Ms Marama said she was grateful for the opportunity to travel to Malaysia for the summit and to learn from other female entrepreneurs about their challenges, successes and the learnings.
“This had been a great opportunity for me and the other women entrepreneurs.”
Seruwaia Kabukabu of the Naitasiri Women in Dairy Group (NWDG) was also part of the delegation that went to Malaysia for the summit.
Ms Kabukabu said the NWDG started in 2016 and the group had 40 members – women from the villages Serea, Waidracia, Nabaitavu, Taulevu, Vuisiga and Wainiqarua settlement in Naitasiri.
She said the summit provided them with a great platform to network with other women entrepreneurs and to share their stories.
She shared that the group was working to acquire some land to build a paddock for their dairy farm.
“We have 45 cows and half of them are ready for milking.
So once the paperwork for the land is completed, we will build a bail so that we could start milking the cows and selling them so that we can pay our members,” she said.