The first Samoa Business Network Awards held this weekend in Auckland proved to be an enormous success.
Samoan business owners and entrepreneurs from Samoa, New Zealand and Australia were recognised for their excellence and efforts in business while serving and inspiring their communities.
The network was launched to assist a growing trend of Samoan-owned businesses. The awards also marked the network’s fifth anniversary in operation.
The opening speech by SBN NZ Chairwoman Laura Keil-Hall was tinged with emotion as she thanked her Executive Committee for forming a cohesive and effective team.
“The SBN has been a pivotal network in connecting Samoa-owned businesses across geographical boundaries,” she said. “This has been a fundamental purpose of SBN and just as important, has been the desire to promote Samoan businesses and their products to our communities.”
Host city Auckland was seen as a poignant tribute to the first Samoan migrants from the 1950’s onwards who were in search of the ‘Milk and Honey’ dream. The work ethic of those migrants was remembered and mirrored in the room full of entrepreneurial talent.
The night began with a prayer by Reverend Tafesilafa’i Lavasi’i and an opening speech by Hon. Minister Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour in Samoa who described the night as a testimony to the evolving entrepreneurship of Samoan communities in Samoa and abroad.
“Tonight we recognise, acknowledge and raise more awareness of Samoan-owned businesses,” he said. “And to celebrate the efforts in enhancing business development with strong evidence that they have successfully secured their fair share of local and overseas markets.”
Other dignitaries and representatives of the Samoa and New Zealand governments were also present including Hon Aupito William Sio (Labour NZ) and Hon. Afamasaga Fonoti Lepuia’i Rico Tupa’i (Samoa) along with stakeholders, business leaders and the wider Pacific business community.
On his Facebook page, Hon. Aupito thanked SBN’s chairwomen Laura Keil Hall and Jackie Curry for their leadership and acknowledged the evening as ‘an exciting example of Pacific communities creating their own opportunities to generate two-way trade between New Zealand and Samoa.’
Masters of Ceremonies Yolande Ah Chong & Tauiliili Alpha Maiava entertained the audience with introductions and comedic insights.
Keynote speaker, author and Former NRL star Sione Faumuina shared positive words of wisdom.
“Your story is so important as it connects to our next generation of Samoan business owners,” he explained. “They will look at you and think, ‘If she can do it so can I; if he can make a million dollars, so can I…running a business is hard. But we are Samoans. It’s in our DNA.”
He added that it is important for business owners to share their mistakes and errors just as much as their successes as this will help other people who aspire to start a business.
The big winners of the night included a three-award sweep by Samoa Stationary and Books (SSAB) winning ‘People’s Choice Award’, ‘Samoa Based Business of the year’ and the ‘SUGA Businesswoman of the year’ for CEO Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai.
Shoe company founder Gustavia Lui of Staavia’s Limited walked away with the ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ award.
‘Start Up of The Year’ was given to Manutui Alex Talopau for his financial consulting business Arbez Group.
‘Excellence in Hospitality’ went to Auckland and Melbourne Catering company D’Vine Banquets whose stunning presentation in Samoan food has become popular with corporate organisations.
MYRIVR took out the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ award for it’s popular social services app which has received widespread mainstream and Pacific media attention throughout the year.
Entertainer Cindy of Samoa delighted guests with her rendition of ‘Simply the best’ which was deemed fitting for the occasion.
The awards were sponsored by the Pacific Media Network (Niu FM & 531 PI) and associate sponsors, TV 3 Samoa, SUGA Magazine, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Blu Wave, Emotions Events, RISE2025, N5 Consulting, Rimani Samoa and BNZ Manukau.
Keil-Hall emphasised that the SBN team are committed to ensuring that Samoan communities are able to benefit from their collective work. She says the network’s pooling of knowledge and resources are beneficial to budding entrepreneurs as they grow and develop their businesses.
“Samoa may be a small island developing state in the Pacific but it’s influence is transnational, global and ever growing. Nowhere is this seen more than in the world of business.”
Full List of Winners:
Excellence in Small Business: WE Accounting and Business Services
Excellence in Professional Services: Home Graduates
Excellence in Hospitality: D’Vine Banquets
Excellence in Construction & Trades: Levi Plumbing
Excellence in Innovation: MYRIVR
People’s Choice Favourite Business: SSAB
Start Up of the Year: Arbez Group
Samoa Based Business of the year: SSAB
Young Entrepreneur of the year: Gustavia Lui, Staavias Ltd
SUGA Business woman of the year: SSAB – Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai