For 16 years, Serena Tamoi has been running her fishing business known as Tamoi’s Investment. She catches fish, crabs, prawns, or seaweed and sells these in the local market to provide for her family.
At 48 years old, Serena is a dedicated fisher. She loves fishing whether in the river or out at sea, despite increasingly challenging weather conditions. Seeing demand slowly increase for her fresh catch, Serena rented a small boat to increase her ability to supply that demand.
“I paid $20 a week to rent a boat without an engine and resorted to row instead. There were times when it was difficult for me to pay the rent as I did not make any profit because adverse weather conditions were making it impossible to catch fish.”
Continuing to run her small business despite many difficulties and setbacks, over the years Serena built a regular client base, and she had a good relationship with those customers. Word spread and she started supplying seafood to local Suva restaurants.
Always with an eye out for new opportunities, in 2016 Serena began thinking about products which would complement her fish sales to local restaurants. She came up with poultry. She started selling ducks and chickens from her home in the tiny Dibulu Settlement, near Kalabu in the Nasinu region north of Suva. With the additional poultry business her financial status improved – until the pandemic struck.
“My business was badly affected by the impact of COVID-19, and I couldn’t meet the basic needs of my family. Therefore, I started selling fish house to house,” the resourceful Serena recalls.
In 2021, Serena became aware of Business Link Pacific’s (BLP) Adaptation Grant, designed to assist businesses to adapt their offering in the new economic climate. She was successful and received a grant of FJD 6,400. The purpose of the grant was to purchase a 20-foot fiberglass boat together with a 15-horsepower engine. “For years, I have been planning to purchase a boat with an engine but due to financial constraints, I was not able to,” she said.
Applications must satisfy at least one of five categories, and as a female business owner whose income directly feeds into a rural community, Serena’s application already satisfied two of these categories. Even so, the application process can be a little daunting, but help is always at hand. Serena is grateful to Ramesh Chand, the General Manager of Business Assistance Fiji (BAF), for guiding her through the process to submit to application online.
In the year since Serena purchased the boat and engine with the grant money, her business is noticeably more financially stable and her customer base has grown. The addition of a motor means Serena can now reach previously inaccessible fishing locations between Suva and the Nausori area.
In April 2023, Serena and Tamoi’s Investment received another boost. Serena was one of 50 small business owners selected to participate in a three-day Women in Business Training Course. The course was jointly run by Business Assistance Fiji (BAF) and the Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion (CEFI) and covered a range of business skills.
The three-day training was an eye-opener for Serena. “I was able to learn about the importance of online banking and e-commerce platforms.” These are core business skills which will enable Tamoi’s Investment to continue to expand its customer base.
Serena is busy implementing all the information and knowledge she gained during the training into her business. Recognizing the value for her own business, Serena says, “I have also shared the information with other MSMEs.”
Serena is thankful to BLP and BAF for the work they do to support MSMEs like Tamoi’s Investment in Fiji.