Lesa Sanele Atonio and her husband have been operating a handicrafts stall since 1988 and at 64 years of age, the small business entrepreneur has no plans to retire any time soon.
“My children tell us we should rest now and stop doing this because we are getting old and it’s time for us to sit at home and relax, but we told them we can’t do that. This business put you where you all are now and we can’t just stop running our business that has supported our family for all these years,” said Lesa in an exclusive interview with Samoa Global News.
Lesa has worked the last 33 years to put her ten children through school. She proudly goes through the list from eldest to the youngest; telling us where they now work – both here in Samoa, and overseas in New Zealand and Australia.
“This business has allowed is to put all our kids through school and I am so grateful to God that all of them are doing well with families of their own,” says Mrs Antonio.
Lesa’s handicraft business also allowed them to build their new house at Malie, and develop their family over the years.
“I’d rather be here continuing to work, than stay at home and do nothing! That’s a sure way to get sick,” she laughs.
They started their business by delivering farm produce around their village, and taking them to the Savalalo Market every day.
The business venture took many forms over the years and today, it stands as a fully stocked, one-stop-shop at the Fugelei Market.
Lesa has mastered the art of displaying her products within the confines of the stall space she leases at Fugalei and could possibly teach Business students a thing or two about Marketing, Merchandising and the law of Supply and Demand.
“My highest yielding product is the ietoga”, she shares.
“Sometimes during a faalavelave, people would come in and buy up to three ietoga and they retail between $1000 and $3000 tala each”.
“When we first started my stall business at Savalalo Market in 1988, I experimented with making all kinds of handicrafts to sell, catering for the tourists and visitors from overseas;
“We budgeted the money we earnt each day so we could cover children’s school fees, foods, family needs and then save some to reinvest into important things we needed for the stall,” Lesa said.
When the ietoga was added as a product, Lesa says that is where she started to see good income for her business venture.
“Ietoga sales are always high during times of funerals, weddings and other special occasions.”
“Our handicrafts, elei prints and other locally made products steadily during the time when there were many visitors, but we have felt the difference with the lockdown”.
Since they moved into the new Fugalei Market place, Lesa says her gross sales have improved and she is happy with the new location.
Lesa says she hopes that potential clients from around the world would see her story and come visit her stall at Fugalei when the borders open up again.
“Thank you Samoa Global News for featuring my business to Samoa and to the world…
“To all our visitors overseas, we look forward to seeing you all in Samoa soon!”.