Samoa Stationery and Books (S.S.A.B.) is spreading its wings to New Zealand.
But the Auckland branch of the fast growing business will be called the “Sei Oriana Gift Shop” when it opens in Mangere, South Auckland.
The week, Owner and Managing Director of S.S.A.B, Fiti Leung Wai, is leading a team from the company in Auckland to prepare for their official launch – once all the documentations are in place.
It’s an exciting time for the company, which now boasts branches in three countries – including American Samoa.
Mrs. Leung Wai said the opening of the business is dedicated a woman she described as one of her mothers, the late Epenese Saifoloi Malepeai. She added that Sei Oriana will also honour all the businesses which will have products sold at the store.
“Epenesa had a big heart and was always willing to help whoever sought her help,” Mrs. Leung Wai told the Sunday Samoan.
“I believe our branch in NZ is reflective of Epenesa’s heart as it will basically be helping our people here in Samoa to sell their products overseas. It will simply be ‘our Samoan people’s shop’ in NZ.”
For Mrs. Leung Wai, she said she wanted to open a branch in New Zealand because she sees a lot of potential there.
“I say a lot of potential because a lot of the Pacific Islanders live there especially Samoans who will be the main targeted market.
“Not only that but many of my suppliers as well are also based here so it will make a lot of business sense to have a branch here.”
Besides, she believes that having an S.S.A.B branch in New Zealand will benefit both Samoans in New Zealand and in Samoa.
“We sent a container from Samoa to New Zealand comprising mostly of Samoan made products like, handicrafts, puletasi, elei shirts, fala, salu lima, printed elei material, tuiga, etc, and all these Samoan products were sourced here from our own people,” she said.
“Quite a number of our people have started their own businesses but there is a limited market here in Samoa and my hope is for our branch here to be an outlet for mostly Samoan made products.
“I am sure our people here in New Zealand as well as the Pacific Island community will support our branch here as all the Samoan products on offer there are made in Samoa.
“I will also be selling Pacific books, mostly Samoan books on subjects pertaining to Faalupega, Lauga, Aganuu, including all of Lani Wendt Young’s books, etc and part of the shop here will be a display area for products that we sell in Samoa such as Samsung TVs, washing machines, refrigerators and Sleep well beds.
“My hope is that our people here will pay for such items (in NZ) whilst their relatives in Samoa will collect them from our branches in Samoa and this will be convenient since the products are already in Samoa and S.S.A.B provides the after sale support and maintenance.”
The opening in Auckland is only part of a dream to take S.S.A.B to the region and the world.
Mrs. Leung Wai however admitted she was only fully committed to the idea of opening in New Zealand last year after she met up with New Zealand Prime Minister, To’osavili John Key. “Before I met with the NZ Prime Minister, our Trade Commissioner to NZ, Tofaeono Iupati organised a round table meeting between the Pacific business community and me,” she said.
“I discovered at that meeting that there was so much potential in NZ that our Pacific people from the islands have yet to utilise and I also found out then that our Samoan Government had space available for rent at its new premises next to the Mangere Town Centre.
“After committing the project to God, I felt that the time was right to set up a branch in NZ. I knew as well that I can’t compete with the other stationery and electronics stores in NZ so the focus of this new branch had to be different from what I sell in my other branches and you also have to know your market and explore ways to target and increase that market.”
Asked how much the project cost, Mrs. Leung Wai said: “The project has been costly, especially when the banks I approached for financial assistance did not believe in the project.
“The National Provident Fund believed in the project so I approached them and they were able to provide some of the funding thanks to the C.E.O of the National Provident Fund Faumuina Esther Lameko - Poutoa and the (former) Manager Petra Chan Tung for believing in S.S.A.B New Zealand but we are also waiting for B.S.P to provide us with some additional funding.”
She added that with every success there are also challenges that come with it.
“This project has been very challenging, especially in terms of finances and getting the fit out completed on time,” she said. “However, our God is a big God and so I have committed this project to him for his blessings and to open doors to ensure its success.”
Speaking about the name of the shop “Sei Oriana Gift Shop” Mrs. Leung Wai said it just came to her naturally.
“It must be a name God wanted the shop to be called,” she said. “[And] besides “Sei Oriana” is a beautiful name and it refers to the beautiful flowers of the Oriana Plant.
“Since the shop will be selling mostly gift items, including many different types of artificial flowers or seis, I felt it fitting that I call the shop “Sei Oriana Gift Shop.”
The branch will be run by Mrs. Leung Wai’s husband, Aumua Ming Leung Wai’s cousins, Leitu Puleitu-Ligaliga as the Managing Director and Lydwina Tasipale as Assistant Manager.
Lastly she acknowledges the support of everyone especially her family.
“It would be remiss of me to not to mention those who have supportive and instrumental in establishing S.S.A.B Auckland.
“First and foremost is our Heavenly Father who gives wisdom, faith and courage. My three mothers for their ceaseless prayers for me, namely Nino Fuimaono Lafaele, Kuini Leung Wai and my late mother Epenesa Saifoloi, my dearest brother Tagaloa Fritz Vito and his wife Serah Vito for their prayers.
“In addition to the above is my strong S.S.A.B Family and team especially my Deputy C.E.O I want to sincerely thank my team here in Samoa especially Gase Pelenato (my right hand and Deputy CEO), Jody Toleafoa (Manager Stock and Procurement), Marlene Mulipola (Manager of Stationery and Office Supplies), Dora Malele (Manager of Sales) Bronwyn Hunt Keil (Manager Education); Manu Ken Saifoloi (Manager of Logistics), Gloria Takazawa (Executive Assistant) Lyman Ah Chong (Senior Graphics Designer), Aoge Moto ( my PA); Fereti Fereti (Copier Technician) LA Ilalio (Senior Delivery Officer)Nancy Vito Alefosio (Manager Operations), Sia Namulaulu (Assistant Manager Cashiers) and Mei Willy.
“Our accounts team – Logo Iakopo, Ana Stowers, Christy Falemai; my nieces Memoree,Poima and Matlie Fakaua Vito.
“I would also like to thank our Managing Director in NZ, Leitu Ligaliga and our Assistant MD, Lydwina Tasipale who have helped in setting up our branch in NZ.
“The Samoan Consul, Faletoi Reupena for being so helpful and accommodating, Samoa’s Trade Commissioner to New Zealand, Tofaeono Fuatai for suggesting ways to promote trade which resulted in the idea to open this shop.
“And lastly, I sincerely thank my husband, Tuatagaloa Aumua Ming Leung Wai for his endless support for me.”