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.