3 July, 2017. Samoa. After 22 years of helping Samoa, the Small Business Enterprise Centre is still lending a hand to vulnerable families in Samoa.
The recent S.B.E.C Trade Fair in Apia, last week, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of assistance that S.B.E.C provides. They also assist small businesses or individuals to stand on their feet financially and mentally.
C.E.O of SBEC, Mr. Alatina Ioelu, gave us an insight into their work.
“The main idea of the Trade Fair was to provide an avenue to showcase small businesses that have been assisted by the S.B.E.C scheme and also to create a space for them to network; to see what others are doing and to share knowledge and experiences with other small businesses.
“However, this initiative has been in the pipeline for years, it was always something that we were trying to do, but the cost was always quite large.”
The S.B.E.C scheme covers individuals that do not have access to any form of assets that they can use to secure a bank loan. S.B.E.C acts as a guarantor for banks loans for the individual in order to obtain equipment or supplies that they may require for their business venture.
Another S.B.E.C employee explained: “Most of the people that we help are from grassroots, they have nothing. They start off by registering with us and then go through training. This training teaches them basic business skills, after they finish training they are qualified to be covered under the S.B.E.C scheme.”
“We assist a broad spectrum of people; this includes youth, people with disabilities, women as well as any individuals that are interested in starting a small business.”
Mr. Ioelu commented further: “This is the fifth Trade Fair we’ve had, the last one was in American Samoa. This year we’re back in Samoa, and we are focusing on the rural communities in Savaii.”
“It’s good to see people taking an interest in businesses that are relevant to the resources they have. Ventures like handicraft businesses have always been here, but people never saw those as great business opportunities.”
“When we talk business, most people think about retail shops or taxis, but now, part of our drive is to allow people to see other business opportunities outside the norm. One such area is in the service industry, like landscaping, transport or financing services. These services support the business community and are growing in number.”
“As Samoans, the challenge that many of us face, in business, is the mind-set. Take a look at Chinese businesses, all the money earned goes back into their business, but for Samoans, we have a lot of obligations to our land, church and culture.”
“Those are not bad things, they define who we are, but it’s just the way we implement those things. We need to understand that all businesses need that money in order to grow. If we do not budget our obligations, then our business can fail.”
Mr Ioelu, finishes of with some advice for people interested in starting a business. “You need to have the passion for the venture you are interested in. People can easily be mistaken from looking at successful business people and assuming that they have a ‘good life’. The reality is that life is hard. Even successful business people work very hard.”
“If you have the passion, be prepared to work hard, and that’s all you need. There is no shortage of facilities or services available to support you, but you just have to be willing to put in the work.”
Reporter with Samoa Planet.