Pacific businesswomen says 'it's not a competition, we've got to work together'

Hundreds of Pacific businesswomen have banded together in a unique attempt to break the competition culture in business by championing one another.

The diverse group met in Central Auckland to participate in the Pacific Women in Business workshop run by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation. ​

Although there were differences in age, brands and experience, they all had one common goal, connection.

One of the key speakers for the event was Fonoti Agnes Loheni who co-owns Pacific fashion brand MENA.

She describes their goal as the creation of a "space for women to feel safe to talk about their dreams, aspirations but more importantly to connect with each other, because through connections we can build extra strength, capacity and empower each other."

Among the seasoned businesses that attended the workshop was Pacific fashion brand Tav Pacific who have been operating for 32 years. 

Despite that experience, Sheena Tavioni who is the daughter of Tav Pacific creator Ellena Tavioni and the regional sales manager, believes there's always room to grow.

"You have to put aside this competition thing and realise we each bring value to each other and if we want to make it in this world, we need to back each other up.​​"​ 

The workshop speakers included Coconut Wireless creator Mary Aue and entrepreneur Hana Schmidt who shared their wisdom about social media and e-commerce.

Schmidt says: "The message I wanted to get across is that you can come from nothing and turn it into something, you have a large network of people who can support you, if you ask.​"

Aue wants Pasifika to "embrace your strengths and embrace what it is to be Pacific.

"Sometimes people take business so seriously, they're too busy trying to please everyone and when I decided to get into business I thought, look I'm only answerable to myself, but at the same time why not take your community with you."

One of the main takeaways Tavioni left with was that "networking is a must". 

She believes pride and shyness​ stop a lot of start ups and Pacific business from networking.

"The speakers reminded us to not be shy about our products, and about our business. You have to get out there in order for you to achieve." 

But Tavioni had some advice of her own for aspiring Pasifika businesswomen.

"In the business world there is going to be a point where you're going to fail or you're going to struggle, get back up, reset and get back out there again.

"To take the next step is to look for the business mentors that are going to help you, and speak to other successful women.​"

Taking their first steps in the business world are sisters Anasha McCarthy and Sharrayah Temita, who launched their events business Miss Evie Picnics a week ago.

McCarthy says it was through conversation where the desire to start a business was sparked.

She was asked why she doesn't package her own skills.

"I have a lot of skills that I've built over my career so why wouldn't I do that and become my own boss?

"My skillset is administration, operations and finance, whereas my sister is very creative, she's an actress by trade but she loves to incorporate that creative side of her in other ways.​"​

Offering picnic packages for any occasion ​McCarthy says: "What we're promoting is an experience for people, an experience they don't have to do anything for, we provide it and they just turn up an enjoy it.​"​

McCarthy says she's looking forward to applying all that she's learnt from the workshop.

She says: "There are people who have already worked it out, so I don't need to make these same mistakes.

She sets out now to find a "great" business mentor.

"They can look at what I'm doing and provide different platforms where I can partner up with them and their wealth of knowledge and experience and learn from that and apply it to me."