By Gladys Hartson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Samoa's business community from across the country, Samoa and Australia gathered in Auckland over the weekend to celebrate the inaugural Samoa Business Network Awards.
Chief executive of the Samoa Business Network Laura Keil- Hall says it's been a labour of love to bring the awards to life.
"It's taken us five, six years to get to where we are now and I feel very proud of our winners and our finalists because this is what we wanted to do - to showcase and promote and recognise our businesses."
Samoa Minister of Communications and Technology Afamasaga Lepuia'i Rico Tupa'i says this is one way to empower the Samoa community.
"I'm very happy with this initiative and we have the opportunity to remind the business operators, our people, that they need to contribute back home."
Owner of Samoa Stationary And Books Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai took home awards for Samoa Based Business of the Year, Pacific Peoples Choice Award and Suga Business Women of the Year.
Tofilau says she's overwhelmed by the win.
"These accolades, actually it's not just the work of my own, it's everyone's work, especially my SSAB family, my workers and everyone that has prayed for us our families, mothers, fathers and our prayer warriors who pray for us at the company."
Creator of STAAVIA shoes, a Brisbane-based online store that offers shoe sizes 10 to 14, took out the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Chief executive Gustavia Lui says she realised there was a need to cater for women with big feet who struggle to find shoes in their size.
She says this award acknowledges that.
"I'm so humbled and grateful and it's amazing that they acknowledged everyday Pacific Islanders, Samoans, who are just doing what they love and it's amazing to be acknowledged, for having big feet."
Gustavia Lui. Photo/ PMN.
The creator of a social services mobile app MYRIVR took out the award for Excellence and Innovation.
Former policeman Akerei Maresala-Thompson says it's been a lot of hard work and struggle to get MYRIVR operating.
"It's by no coincidence our success was founded on a dream that started on the plantation and fishing boat back in Samoa, by my late mother and my father. The success just acknowledges them and validates their dream to come to New Zealand and create opportunities for us."
Samoan fashion designer Nora Swann says the Samoa Business Network is paving the way for the business community.
The founder of Nora Swann Limited was a finalist for the awards. She says she's humbled to have the support of Samoa entrepreneurs.
"When you're surrounded by Samoan entrepreneurs who are doing their thing and following their passion, you can't help not be inspired, so really really grateful for the opportunity SBN is giving to all of us entrepreneurs."
Keil-Hall says she's proud of what they have created and the best is yet to come.
"If you ever had an idea, if you're passionate about something, go for it. Now you've got a network that you can come for support if you need someone to come walk with you on the journey."
Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai and Afamasaga Lepuia'i Rico Tupa'i. Photo/ PMN.