Food companies worldwide are riding the ‘clean eating’ wave promoting food from Paleo diets to Organic ingredients and American Samoa is no different. Solo mom, SUGA Sapioamoa “Sapi” Poumele Galea’i, is the owner of American Samoa’s chic new health food store, Tropical Blends.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Sapi has since returned home to American Samoa. Contrary to the usual dreams of becoming a doctor or lawyer, it is not often you hear someone wanting to work for a School Lunch Program. When a job opportunity opened up, she knew it was her chance. Today, on top of owning a small business, she is also the coordinator for the American Samoa Department of Education School Lunch Program, which serves over 15,000 students.
At home, Sapi also has a “student” of her own. She is a single mom to two-year-old Gaoioilemua’ilemataolelaisaua Mataniufeagaimaleata Kapeka Poumele Galea’i, better known as “Baby Nainai” – the comical version of her free spirited, strong minded Mom. Baby Nainai is the drive behind all her mother’s ambitions. Sapi believes that since having her daughter, her life has truly changed for the better. Although Baby Nainai is a busy bee in her own world, she has added tranquility and balance to her mother’s life. Like any other single parent, Sapi has had her fair share of challenges – juggling parenting with her business. Fortunately for Sapi, her support system, consisting of her parents and sisters are by her side every step of the way and are the greatest help to her as a mother and entrepreneur.
Fueled by her health goals and love for good food, Sapi set out to start her own venture. It became evident to her that a healthy meal wasn’t easy to find on island. Tropical Blends opened its doors in September 2014. Although it is not the first health based food store on island, Sapi sets it apart by bringing her educational background and passion for nutrition to the table. Her knowledge and hopes for what good nutrition can do for the people of American Samoa portrays a vision of success in the long run. When sharing her experience in starting a small business for the first time, she looks back on all her struggles and laughs remembering the much needed renovations to her location and investing all her School Lunch paychecks into her project as capital – leaving her with little discretionary income.
When customers step into Tropical Blends for the first time, the vibrant atmosphere is immediately inviting. The interior décor really reflects Sapi’s energetic personality and the simple but tasty menu items are a result of carefully selected quality ingredients. The use of local produce is important to Sapi – it means the food is healthier and a great help to the local economy.
Recently, Sapi had a huge hand in coordinating Nutrition Week events in American Samoa and invited Robert Oliver, author of Mea’ai Samoa and renowned winner for Best TV Chef Cookbook in the World 2013, to be a part of the festivities. Robert Oliver was gracious enough to spend time with local School Lunch cooks, giving them a few tips on cooking. The results of Sapi’s hard work speaks volumes. Her work with the School Lunch Program promotes healthy lifestyles among the youth of American Samoa and Tropical Blends is buzzing with business – the shops success has exceeded all her expectations, thus far.
Her advice to other SUGA Entrepreneurs: “Once you set your mind on something, you’ll always achieve it. Learn to let go of the things you can’t control and just keep pushing forward.”