As part of the ongoing series #PacificPossible, the World Bank has been getting to know some of the region’s young and emerging leaders for their take on what’s possible for the future of their countries and the major challenges ahead.
For International Women’s Day 2018 – the World Bank is sharing stories from the inspiring young women they met from across the Pacific - highlighting that one of the Pacific’s best resources is its people and talented young women.
Today she is described as an entrepreneur and fashion designer. From her home base in Kokopo she runs a handicraft gift business called Maku Gifts, using natural items, like wood, driftwood, sea shells, coconut shells, even recycled plastic bottles and has a fashion business called Lavagirl.
So how did you become to be involved in this?
So, about three years ago I quit my sales and marketing job and I was doing a bit of consultancy work at home. The gifts and jewellery came naturally to me as I used to make things for myself. But when I was in my job, I travelled a lot throughout the country and in the Asia Pacific region. One of the reasons that I wanted to start this sort of business was that I couldn’t find Papua New Guinean items that were made in PNG by Papua New Guineans.
That’s interesting that you never found much made by Papua New Guineans, did that surprise you?
Very much. There were only the craft markets where you can find huge carvings and things like that. A lot of things you see there must clear quarantine, which can be a problem. I wanted to see if I could solve that problem. I was home and had time on my hands. Facebook helped us to sell as well because when I started posting pictures about what we were making, it gained interest from the public and from my friends. Then we thought “hold on we could actually do that as a proper business”.
You started from yourself working at home looking around seeing that there was a hole in the market? How many people, I presume predominantly women, are involved in the business?
I have about four males [staff] and they work at the workshop. They handle a lot of our gift items and jewellery and six women are involved in selling, beading, crocheting with two that are full time seamstresses. We have many women that are on our network that do casual work. They supply us with raw products, such as seashells or they pick up orders from us to work or supply our shop and clients. These women do things like crocheting on blouses or dresses. They put together earrings for us. They also do bits and pieces that we can’t do at the workplace. Basically, they supply, they also take from us, and work on our orders.
Would you describe yourself as successful?
I think it’s a work in progress at this time. Very much a work in progress. But we haven’t drowned - we are still swimming. We have survived. We spent about six months trialling the idea and this is going to be our third year operating as a business. We trialled here and built our market. We created the big demand for our products and now we are operating as a proper business. We used to sell individual items online but we have come to realise we can’t keep up with things like that. So, we are now identifying strategic resellers, main distributers in the main centres, and we just supply the main shops instead of handling individual orders which is time consuming for a small margin.
What do you see as being the main ingredients that have helped you to date?
Dedication, commitment, and social media have helped our business growth and pushed our story further… That our story resonates with the community. We are also able to relate to the community. Our story is more human so people can relate and what better way to promote than on Facebook. When we post something on Facebook, people are willing to share our story as they do feel that it’s touching a life somewhere else. I feel some success and self-satisfaction that we can help in our own little way; whether it be providing employment, money earning opportunity, empowering other women, or just being an inspiration to others.
What’s your vision of an ideal future for Papua New Guinea?
For Papua New Guinea, I would like to see the handcraft market move out of the craft market and make the international market. And I don’t just mean the carvings and stuff, but I mean people getting to deal with spin offs from that. Not everybody wants to keep a huge carving in their house. How about we downsize it to something like a fridge magnet? I want to push to have a lot more products coming up from PNG that tick the boxes. Quarantine-risk free, made by Papua New Guineans, using materials from PNG.
I think for the whole of the Pacific, we are invited to things like the National Fiji handicraft workshop to see what the other Pacific Islanders are doing. We are working with women in Vanuatu and seeing what they do and what we can learn. We are tapping into those areas. It would be great to see our products also going out that way and possibly be sold at their handicraft markets because both areas have a lot of tourism happening, much bigger industries than PNG. Instead of them ordering the Indonesian-made or something made in the Philippines, we can have PNG made products selling in a bunch of places. The Pacific industry would grow a lot more if we started to do it ourselves.
*The IFC (a part of the World Bank Group) is supporting people in PNG to get safe, affordable off-grid lighting, allowing children to study, cut household costs, and help women stay safe on the streets.