Saurara Cola is the creative force behind Beyond Talent, a business based in Suva, Fiji, that specialises in designing culturally significant patterns for homewares and decor. Her mission is to preserve Fiji's culture and heritage and reconnect younger generations with their roots.
Saurara believes that generations are gradually losing touch with their cultural identity due to technology and modern distractions. With Beyond Talent, she aims to bridge this gap by incorporating cultural motifs and designs into everyday items. By infusing her creations with traditional patterns and symbols, Saurara hopes to remind people of their rich heritage and ignite a sense of pride in their origins, "I would like to tell our story to show our culture is still here and to encourage people to ask questions."
Saurara's creative vision extends to weddings, as she recognised this as a large market in Fiji. Drawing inspiration from the sometimes diverse cultural backgrounds of the couples, Saurara skilfully combines elements of both parties into the fabrics, symbolising the union of two individuals. Each wedding design is meticulously crafted, ensuring a one-of-a-kind creation that reflects the couple's unique story, "two from two different cultures becoming one."
To bring her designs to life, Saurara employs a multi-step process. She begins by sketching her ideas, which are then transformed into illustrations, followed by the crucial sublimation step to imprint the designs onto the fabric. Saurara also reuses and recycles items, "In most of these shops, they throw away their bags, but we buy them back, and then I remake them into something new with my designs."
However, like any small business owner, Saurara faces obstacles. One significant challenge is the need to outsource the production of her designs, which incurs additional costs. She is currently trying to acquire her own sewing machine to reduce outsourcing expenses and streamline her operations. Additionally, Saurara aims to trademark her designs, safeguarding them from replication and further establishing her brand in the market.
Saurara's 5-year plan envisions collaborating with the tourism sector, furnishing hotel rooms with cultural designs that tell stories of the places tourists visit. One such story is of the whale's significance to the Lomaiviti group and how the whales prospered in the waters surrounding these islands. Through showcasing stories and traditions, tourists are asked to connect with and appreciate the local heritage. By immersing guests in a rich cultural experience, Saurara hopes to create an environment that reflects the true essence of Fiji, moving away from the conventional white-walled hotel rooms that lack cultural representation.
Saurara's business vision flourished when she joined the Fiji THRIVE program with ABV in partnership with BSP Fiji. The program provided her with valuable business mentorship and support through ABV’s Skilled Business Professionals (SBPs), encouraging her to reach for opportunities she had never imagined. Saurara credits ABV’s SBPs for recognising her potential and encouraging her to value her products and creative work, "ABV opened my eyes to a bigger picture that there is more out there for me."
Through the program, working with SBPs Kaylene & Shean, Saurara gained insights into financial management, cash flow, and the importance of establishing herself in the market, "I was at a point in time where I was limiting myself in what I was doing, but ABV showed me another way." The program provided guidance and exposed her to networking opportunities to grow her business.
For those considering embarking on their own entrepreneurial path, Saurara offers words of encouragement. "Keep dreaming and seeking opportunities. It took 7 years for my designs to be noticed as they are now. Never give up." After many years of hard work and persistence, Saurara's engagement in Fiji THRIVE has opened up new opportunities. "ABV invested in me, they invested their words and guidance, and I haven't stopped knocking on doors of opportunity since."
Saurara's talent and determination have set her on a path of success. Beyond Talent is a testament to perseverance, and we look forward to following Saurara's journey as she grows her business, preserving tradition and connecting communities.
As part of National Volunteering Week, we want to shed light on how our volunteers support small business owners like Loise Kondiak. Working with women like Loise, who came to the Apeketon Business Hub (an initiative of the partnership between ABV and Newcrest Mining) with the idea of starting a business, has been a privilege for our skilled volunteers. Through mentoring, supporting, and exploring the local market opportunities, ABV assisted Loise in taking her business idea to the next level.
Since our previous update on Loise, her businesses have grown exponentially. In 2019, she participated in our Family Money Management and Your Enterprise Scheme (YES) program, facilitated by our volunteer mentors. Through this, she acquired valuable knowledge to support her entrepreneurial journey. Alongside raising her family, Loise operates a bus service she funded through BSP Financial Group Limited, "my famous story is that I got help through a loan with BSP to get help to purchase my first bus, which got me started." Loise recently purchased another bus to do the public motor vehicle runs for the community, while her first bus still does the school drop-off and supports the mine during the shutdown.
She put the financial knowledge she gained from ABV mentors into action when future planning for her business "With the new bus, I thought of purchasing it earlier, but I saved first to manage the loan once I got it." Loise's entrepreneurial mind is always searching for ways to generate additional income to contribute to the bigger picture of her business plan. On top of being a successful businesswoman and mother, she is also the Financial Controller for Newcrest Mining.
Most recently, as another revenue stream, Loise also hires out a car alongside the buses. Loise says her next challenge is trying to invest. As always, she thoroughly researches before starting her new endeavour, "I want to understand the market before I jump in so I can make good decisions."
Loise Kondiak is a changemaker, and her success is blazing the trail for women entrepreneurs in the future. She had this to say for those wanting to start a business, "my advice is to start small and start somewhere, no pressure. Don't compare yourself to others; just because you see someone successful doesn't mean they didn't have to work hard first to get there."
#NVW2023 #TheChangeMakers Volunteering Australia (VA)
Image: ABV, CEO Liz Mackinlay with Loise Kondiak at the Apeketon Business Hub.
Evelyn (Eve) Moolenburgh has been volunteering with ABV since 2019, working alongside ABV staff and those of our partners throughout the Asia Pacific region. Born in Perth and now living in Sydney, Eve's life has been shaped by diverse experiences, both in Australia and abroad. From her time in Nauru supporting sustainable tourism development with ABV and our partner the Nauru Chamber of Commerce to her dedicated role as a community firefighter, Eve embodies the spirit of giving back.
Let's take a look into Eve's inspiring volunteering story and her impact as a changemaker:
Volunteering has been an important part of Eve's life since her early years. Inspired by her mother's 45 years of service to Meals on Wheels, Eve has continued to make a positive impact through volunteer work. "From my days as a Brownie and Girl Guide to now, volunteering is so important to me. First, I did 'Cents for Service,' sweeping up the leaves and pathways for elderly neighbours; then, it was volunteering at the local hospital and running fundraising at the school to build a new library. Now it's community firefighting; and business volunteering with ABV," Eve shares. The rewards of volunteering extend far beyond the tangible outcomes, as Eve has forged lifelong friendships and witnessed the transformative power of helping others.
For over 20 years, Eve has dedicated herself to the role of Team Coordinator in her local Community Fire Unit. Although her suburb is surrounded by bushland, active firefighting situations have been rare. Nevertheless, Eve's role extends beyond fighting fires; it encompasses educating her community about fire safety and helping them prepare for potential hazards. "Ensuring our suburb is fire-ready and raising awareness about fire safety measures is crucial. Our collective effort contributes to a safer community," Eve emphasizes.
Eve's volunteer experience is complemented by her 40+ years' business experience, including working as an insurance broker in London and later starting her own thriving consulting business with 10+ staff in Sydney supporting organisational change, leadership development and making businesses successful through their people, with many clients in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Accolades include an Inbound Tourism Emerging Leader talent program which won "Best Talent Program" in 2016, a program still running.
Among Eve's numerous volunteering assignments with ABV, one of her most cherished experiences took place in Nauru, where Eve discovered a country brimming with warmth, creativity and the huge potential of its young people. Collaborating with ABV staff and our partner, the Nauru Chamber of Commerce, Eve has worked with a wide range of local stakeholders to help lay the groundwork for a private-sector and youth-led sustainable tourism industry. Through her work with ABV, Eve not only learns about different cultures but also has the opportunity to inspire -- and be inspired by -- local changemakers, supporting them to drive new opportunities with their communities.
When she isn't occupied with her professional commitments, Eve finds serenity in her beloved hobby of kayaking. Living near Sydney Harbour has provided Eve with the perfect playground to embark on kayaking adventures with her son and husband. One of her most memorable kayak adventures was recently navigating Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands with her husband.
Reflecting on her ABV volunteer work predominantly in the Pacific region, Eve shares that, "One of the most significant lessons I've learned is about different approaches to time." It has been an enlightening experience for Eve, who has found that investing the time to listen, learn and adapt her approach to each country's own unique rhythm allows more time for reflection and enables you to embrace a more present and mindful approach to life.
In Eve's words, "There is twice as much to be gained from being a volunteer; not just the fruits of fundraising and the sight of a brand-new library at the local school but the friends and people you meet and the reward of seeing someone else benefit and thrive."
Image: Eve is pictured with Nauru Business Hub Manager, Jennifer Harris.
Jarrod Joske has been an invaluable part of the ABV family since 2021 and continues to offer support in a variety of areas due to the versatility of his skills. Jarrod's passion for lending his experience to community organisations stems from his belief in the power of teamwork. Living in West Melbourne, it was during his time as a product manager for NAB (National Australia Bank) that he was recommended to apply to ABV's Corporate Skilled Volunteering program by a friend.
This led to Jarrod becoming a part of the ABV/NAB Community Strategy Challenge (CSC) to support the Queensland Rural Fire Service. Immersed in a tight-knit team of six volunteers from all corners of NAB, the CSC became a transformative experience for Jarrod and his colleagues. Their collective knowledge and dedication allowed them to accomplish three months' worth of work in a mere ten days. Jarrod thrived in this collaborative environment.
The impact of their efforts didn't stop there, Jarrod and the NAB volunteers created a streamlined onboarding process for rural fire service. By implementing solutions, they suggested how to compress the typically year-long volunteer application process to a remarkable 35 days. The Queensland Rural Fire Service team was so grateful for their contributions that they sent Jarrod a bundle of merchandise, serving as a daily reminder of his time with them.
As he ventures into a consultancy role with a boutique management company, Jarrod's dedication to ABV remains, and he has since been able to work on regional projects in Batlow and Orbost in NSW/VIC.
To Jarrod, ABV stands out from the crowd as an organisation, with its remarkable team embodying authenticity and genuine compassion. "ABV is set-out from the rest. Their key differentiator is their team, everyone I've crossed paths with from ABV has been genuine, and I've loved working with them and making lasting friendships."
When Jarrod isn't busy volunteering or working, he immerses himself in his music, playing gigs at local venues and supporting Melbourne's unique music scene. He also advocates for mental health awareness, participating in the 3144 push-up challenge (symbolic of the lives lost to suicide in 2021); he raises funds for Lifeline—a testament to his commitment to giving back.
In Jarrod's words, "It's not just about doing good; it's also about building lasting connections and the fulfilment that comes from knowing you’ve helped made a difference."
To give an idea of how Shean Gannon ended up volunteering with us, his story starts with a passion for business, adventure, and a deep commitment to making a difference. From growing up on a dairy farm in the small town of Tinamba, nestled in the heart of Victoria's Shire of Wellington, to the far reaches of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, Shean's journey is one of growth and transformation.
After studying civil engineering in Melbourne, Shean embarked on a successful career in the construction industry. With his education and entrepreneurial spirit, he moved to Fiji with his young family and started his first company. From this, he had the opportunity to work on construction projects throughout the Fiji Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu for AusAid, World Bank, Defence Force, and Fijian government departments.
After this time, Shean moved to Tanzania, East Africa, for 3 years to volunteer at the school of St Jude; "I enjoy a challenge, and I enjoy the interaction with people who are always eager to learn," he says. Shean grappled with adapting to a new culture and navigating unfamiliar territory. However, he is always up for a challenge; he learned to speak basic Shawali and embraced his work teaching.
Seeking to further expand his horizons and take on a new challenge, Shean joined ABV (Australian Business Volunteers) in 2019, and his commitment took him on two remarkable international assignments, first as a mentor in Lae, PNG and then to the shores of Suva, Fiji, for the launch of the Fiji Thrive Program, "Both were great experiences, but Fiji was my favourite, as I feel at home in Fiji."
During his recent trip with ABV's Fiji Thrive Program, Shean put his experience of launching successful small businesses to work, collaborating with local entrepreneurs and mentoring them through the program. One lesson he learned across different cultures was the importance of valuing one's time. Shean has encountered many small business owners who underestimate the worth of their labour, "We had one designer who would only charge $12 for three or four days of work," he says. Shean encourages and empowers business owners to take the time to understand their financials and ensure that they pay themselves a fair wage.
Shean shares why he chooses to volunteer with ABV, "What makes ABV stand out is the research they put into the projects they are sending volunteers to," he says. "When you go on an ABV Assignment, you know you will deliver something meaningful, and you will have the support to do it."
Shean loves the innovation and the level of opportunity he can access with ABV, "You know the work you're doing; the mentoring is building something sustainable that will have a greater benefit in the long term." Shean attributes this to the unique collaboration between ABV and the private sector, "It's not every day that not-for-profits work with other businesses and large corporations so effectively."
Beyond his work with ABV, Shean found joy in sailing, and is a member of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard. Wherever he may find himself in the world, Shean remains dedicated to volunteering, driven by an unwavering belief in the importance of giving back.
Family Money Management Program (FMMP) participant Christopher Masep Glaglas has received his certificate of completion from ABV Trainer Hitolo Galamo. Christopher travelled by dinghy daily from Mali Island to attend the three days of training. The FMMP ABV program is designed for families to strengthen their knowledge in managing household income, financial planning, future-saving and budgeting. This program currently is conducted in Lihir, New Ireland Province.
This program is vital for Christopher as he operates a ferrying service from Mali to the mainland, transporting students to school in the morning and afternoon. Christopher's ferrying service works with minimal operating margin, which almost affected his first training day, because he did not have any extra funds to buy fuel to operate for the next few days.
Fortunately, through the training we were able to provide from day one, Christopher was able to resolve this situation quickly to continue the training course. Christopher is now on track to manage his budget for fuel and other costs ahead of time to avoid loss of income.
ABV Trainer Hitolo Galamo received positive feedback from all attendees about the program.
"I was told by the participants they were glad to have completed the three-day training program because it helped them to understand how to better manage their future family finances."
To learn more about the programs ABV offers visit: Our Work - Australian Business Volunteers (abv.org.au)
Challenges like disaster recovery and resilience building, regional development and community safety cannot be solved through traditional models.
Holistic, place-based planning must be developed for each area utilising community-led, collaborative approaches.
During August 2020 – October 2022 ABV demonstrated a model of support to disaster affected communities in NSW and Victoria.
Drawing on ABV’s 40 years’ of experience in international development, ABV developed a unique planning approach to some of Australia’s bushfire-affected communities. This approach connects community priorities with skilled volunteers that can facilitate community-led visioning to plan for the future. ABV played an important mediation role supporting community organisations to engage successfully with government agencies.
In ABV’s submission we proposed the need for reform of resilience building at government levels and invest this into community -led solutions with greater transparency behind funding allocation.
By funding facilitators like ABV instead solely in government organisations there is an opportunity to allow communities to set their own priorities and provide feedback during and after the process. Funding allocation needs to be executed timely to reduce immediate risk while also allowing communities to collectively plan a rebuild and coordinate projects without having to compete against one another. ABV facilitates cooperation and collaboration between community stakeholders to help organisations understand each other’s initiatives and projects.
ABV believes pressure can be taken off already stretched community groups by restructuring grant applications to have less complexity and allow for longer submission deadlines. ABV has put forward that it is crucial to recognise the impacts of trauma on communities and to acknowledge how the funding process can exclude a large portion of members who don’t have the skills and resources to apply for complicated grants. Ultimately the current funding structure doesn’t work to support vulnerable communities to improve their resilience or to build back better.
Through ABV’s work in the disaster resilience space, ABV has successfully built the trust of local community organisations and NEMA across the 7 LGAs.
Click here to review ABV's submission.
One year since their first consultation with Lihir’s business development centre, the Apeketon Business Hub, PNG small business owner Benny Arowore says he’s been able to take his business to the next level.
“Nobody knew Momot in the past, now everybody knows Momot and what we can offer,” Benny says. “The mentorship and coaching provided through the Hub has taught me to be committed to what we put in our contract.
“I now know about financial capabilities and budget allocations, which has given me the knowledge I’ve needed for business growth.”
Attending the business development centre one to two times a week, Benny has gained strong mentorship and coaching from the ABV team and skilled ABV business volunteers to build not only his confidence but foundations for growth.
The Lihir based relocation company has since received Newcrest Accreditation as a preferred provider; and expanded its services to offer labour and vehicle hire, employing two staff and investing in three light vehicles.
Benny says he’s now looking to expand this by building new partnerships with international companies that are seeking to deliver services in Lihir going forward.
“Through the Apeketon Business Hub, I now have the confidence to make the impossible possible,” he says. “Without the Hub I would not be at the level where I am here today.”
Launched by ABV and Newcrest in 2019, the centre provides the local Lihirian community with tailored business development pathways to build sustainable businesses for lasting change.
ABV’s CEO Liz Mackinlay says as an international development organisation, this program is building local community resilience and walking alongside emerging local business owners to elevate their business journey.
Find out more on the Apeketon Business Hub and the impact it’s having.
One month into delivering ABV’s latest business capability development program
Preparing for her trip back to Australia following an intensive workshop period for 21 promising local business owners, Kaylene describes the program, FijiTHRIVE, as achieving 10 out of 10.
“It’s actually widely exceeded expectations and shows what you can bring about when you elevate people,” she said.
“One of the participants said they’ve been unable to sleep with so many ideas. She’d stayed up all night on her plan.
“It’s pretty good proof of the energy and focus that people have found.”
The intensive workshop series in Suva is just one part of the 12-month program that provides small business owners with ongoing individual coaching and business mentorship by ABV’s experienced business volunteers.
A co-designed program with BSP focusing on real-time support needs of their clients, the facilitators meet with each participant before the training to ensure that ABV’s comprehensive training materials and business management tools are specifically tailored to meet the needs of the individual businesses involved.
“Some have come to us as sole traders who are still working out what their business offering looks like, and others have an established cash flow and customer base,” Kaylene says.
“It’s all about listening to where they’re at and taking them to that next level. That can mean identifying what’s not profitable or looking at new avenues of operating altogether.”
Viviane Wade (pictured below), owner and director of Suva based refurbished furniture and home decoration store, says the ability to have external input and support has been invaluable.
“FijiTHRIVE is phenomenal,” Viviane says. “They’ve shown us ways to look at our business in a different light.”
“It was nice to step out and look at your business from an outside perspective looking in.”
With a number of women-led businesses, FijiTHRIVE draws on the potential of micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to deliver locally-owned and inclusive economic growth for Fiji in the years to come.
Find out more on FijiTHRIVE and register your interest to volunteer with ABV today.
Pictured in header image: Aachaal Reddy from Sweet Sip, Liz Mackinlay ABV CEO, Shivanagani Kumar from Satrupa's Investments.
Skilled Business Volunteer, Kaylene Benson, is back home after following an intensive three-week program equipping 25 promising Fiji business leaders under our latest program with BSP Financial Group Limited, Fiji THRIVE.
As she says, it comes back to bringing out the best in people. "When you're able to elevate people with the support of the region's largest bank, the British High Commission, and the expert training we're providing on the ground, it just brings out the best in them and their business."
Each program participant will receive ongoing tailored mentorship from Kaylene and her colleague over the coming six months to lift their businesses to the next level. We cannot wait to follow the transformation that these locally-led, and largely women-led, businesses bring about for their families and community!