In a world where success stories often revolve around long-established careers or inherited businesses, the story of Meena Gounden stands out as a shining example of perseverance and tenacity.
For 16 years, she diligently worked as a cleaner, dedicating herself to her profession. Keen to realise her dream of owning her own business, in 2010 Meena took a leap of faith and embarked on a remarkable entrepreneurial journey, establishing Gopal’s Poultry Farm.
Located in the small village of Coqeloa within the Macuata Province, 30 kilometres away from the bustling town of Labasa on Vanua Levu Island, Meena began her business with just 200 trays of eggs.
Today, her poultry farm boasts an impressive flock of 2,500 layer birds (chickens). The path from start-up to today’s successful business was not easy. With no prior knowledge of running a business, Meena initially faced challenges with water and electricity supply. Yet, it was her strong willpower and dedication that kept her going and enabled her business to thrive. Meena’s husband and two children also contribute to and support her business which now provides a comfortable life for the family.
In 2015, Meena’s hard work began to gain recognition when she received the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) Microfinance Award for Micro Entrepreneur of the Year. Three years later, she achieved further success, earning two prestigious awards from the Fiji Development Bank (FDB): the Best Risk Managed SME Award and the National SME of the Year Award.
“With no knowledge and experience, I started my small business, and I’m glad that today it’s thriving,” she said.
Gopal’s Poultry Farm recently received a Business Link Pacific (BLP) Business Support Grant. Meena submitted her grant application under the “Inclusion” category. BLP has established inclusion as one of the categories for projects that aim to enhance a business’s ability to reach and serve underserved communities, including rural communities, youth, women, indigenous groups, and people with disabilities. Additionally, the business support category for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is centered around promoting gender equality and social inclusion.
The $6,000 grant will enable Meena to purchase layer chicks and layer feeds for her business. “I am thankful to BLP and BAF for giving me this grant. The grant will further help me expand my business. I would also like to thank General Manager of BAF, Mr Ramesh Chand, for informing me about the BLP Business Support Grant,” she said.
At present, Meena has a team of four employees. Among them are three dedicated women who take care of the poultry farm, and one male who is responsible for carefully handling the delivery of eggs.
Meena strongly believes that women can achieve success and excel in any field. She also believes that women often have to work harder than their male counterparts to prove themselves, a factor which engenders great resilience and determination to succeed. This belief is reflected in her decision to employ females to look after her poultry farm.
“These women have families to care for, and if they were to travel from the village to work in Labasa town, their traveling costs would be very expensive. That’s why I have employed these women to help and support them,” she explained.
As a supplier, Gopal’s eggs are delivered to small and large supermarkets in Labasa town, Labasa Hospital, Labasa Market, Grand Eastern Hotel, Friendly North Hotel, and various nearby villages.
Meena first learned about BLP and Business Assistance Fiji (BAF) when she attended BAF’s Awareness and Networking workshop in 2022 in Labasa.
She was one of 50 participants who attended a three-day Women in Business training course run by BAF and the Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion (CEFI). Applying the knowledge, she gained and information she received during the three-day training session, she was able to expand her business.
Meena is happy to know that organizations like BLP and BAF are solely dedicated to helping micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Fiji. She encourages business owners to visit the BAF office to learn more about the valuable assistance BAF provides, as well as finding out how BLP can help their business grow and succeed.
“Life is not an easy journey and in order to achieve something, one must have a strong will power and be determined to work hard,” she said.