Success in the oversaturated Facebook market - A small business story

Happy Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Day! Today, we celebrate the businesses that are the backbone of our economies.

As mentors to small businesses, Australian Business Volunteers have a front-row seat to their challenges.

One participant in our program Gulshad Begum, entered the fiercely competitive world of Facebook selling and carved a niche for herself through integrity and persistence.

Launching her brand, Optimum Image, in 2014, with the support of her husband Zahir Ali, she was inspired by the rising trend of Facebook sellers importing goods but saw a significant gap in quality.

Gulshad faced substantial barriers, particularly in finding a reliable supplier who could deliver quality products at an affordable price.

"I would never want to sell something I wouldn't wear myself," Gulshad said. Driven by this principle, she contacted numerous suppliers until she found the perfect match. Overcoming the challenges of the customs process, she finally received her first shipment.

With no dedicated space, she transformed her sitting room cupboard into a makeshift showroom, inviting friends and family to view and purchase her garments.

Exposure became her key strategy. "I created my Facebook page and made friends with one and all, anyone I came across, I just made friends," she recalls. 

Through her efforts, Gulshad's sales grew, and she built a home office off her sitting room. In 2018, after 20 years in the printing business, her husband established his own office supply company and started sharing the home office space.

Despite having to share her space with toner cartridges and stationery, Gulshad cherishes their collaboration. "Sometimes on his way to service an office, he will take a delivery for one of my customers. I keep his books as well, so we work well together," she said. 

Balancing work and family life remains a challenge for Gulshad. She juggles customer calls, school projects, and last-minute requests, often going the extra mile for her clients.

Image: Gulshad and her husband Zahir.

"The other day we had an urgent call from a mother who needed a lion picture for her son's assignment. I printed it and handed it to her myself at the school gates," she recalls with a smile.

In 2023, Gulshad attended the Fiji THRIVE small business program, a partnership between BSP Financial Group Limited and Australian Business Volunteers (ABV).

This program offers bank customers like Gulshad essential business training, coaching, and mentoring delivered by ABV’s skilled business professionals who have experience working in a range of Pacific cultures, including living and working in Fiji. Gulshad found the sales skills she learned invaluable.

"The advertising tactics that I learnt with ABV were very beneficial," she said. The course also instilled a new discipline in her financial management, helping her separate personal and business finances and manage margins more effectively.

Despite her modesty, Gulshad is ambitious. Her future plans include setting up a larger space and possibly opening a shop for Optimum Image Clothing. Her eldest child has shown interest in fashion, hinting that the family business may soon become a shared passion.

This article was featured in the Fiji Times.

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