Decisive, single-minded and determined, these are the foremost qualities that best describes Rebecca Bogiri, an entrepreneur who may be new to the V-LAB/YumiWork Business Incubation program but has made herself quite known in the business industry.
The 31-year-old from Pentecost is currently working as a Senior Exports Market System Facilitator at the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA).
PHAMA is an Australian Government initiative, co-funded by the New Zealand Government that provides practical and targeted assistance to help Pacific island countries manage regulatory aspects associated with exporting primary and value added products.
Rebecca was awarded a New Zealand scholarship at the Emalus University of the South Pacific and has successfully graduated with her Law Degree.
Later on, she was accepted under the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to study at the University in China and has graduated with a Bachelor of Economics.
In 2011, Rebecca began her first job working at the Department of Finance and Treasury as an Economist.
The Department acts as the adviser to the Government on economic, financial and regulatory policy. It is responsible for the government’s budget process, fiscal policy, supervising government expenditure, and economic analysis and policy advice.
“As an Economist within the Economics section, my duties included writing economic reports, analysing and forecasting local, regional and world economic trends, advising the Principal Economist, directors and director generals on economic matters, carrying out provincial and national economic surveys and general data analysis.”
In time, Rebecca has successfully managed to complete her Masters and pursued on to achieving her PHD.
In 2015, after her graduation, she went on to work as a Branch Manager at VANWODS in Santo for 7-months.
VANWODS Microfinance is the premier micro finance institution in Vanuatu with a client base of over 5000 members with an extensive network that covers four different islands.
“My role as Branch Manager included working with over 1600 clients in SANMA Province to provide micro-savings and micro-credit services to both rural and urban clients,” she said
“The model of group lending and mobile-banking results in lower costs and higher profits which are returned to clients through interest paid to their savings accounts.
“VANWODS clients are mostly women and empowering them financially to access micro finance services has a ripple effect that contributes greatly in improving the livelihoods of their homes, communities and villages.”
She later on moved to working as a Project Manager at the Vanuatu Red Cross Society (VRCS) for a period of 5-months.
Her work was centred on Empowering Vanua Malagwelo (EVM) Project which included establishing relationships with stakeholders, organizing community consultations, drawing up budgets, project planning and report writing, monitoring and evaluation.
The EVM Project aims to empower young girls from TC Pam affected areas by providing training on life skills, civic education, health and hygiene, first aid, income generation skills, agricultural methods during times of disaster, business management and further learning opportunities.
The Vanuatu Red Cross Society was established by an Act of Parliament in 1982 and serves as an auxiliary to the Vanuatu Government committed to saving lives and changing minds.
The EWM training is purposely created to empower young girls and enable them to contribute effectively and positively to the livelihoods of their families.
Since then, Rebecca has managed to successful run two businesses: SH Perfumes and SH Products and Services.
When COVID-19 arose, she had implemented an ingenious idea to create a more accessible and affordable system that delivers, quality grocery packs at reasonably prized rates.
The novel business – Isi Kaikai aims to provide affordable basic household items with free deliveries.
“I had this realization that even though the virus has not yet reached our shores, many individuals have lost their jobs and are now struggling to fend for themselves and for their families.
“But if you have a business or a backyard nursery that can provide food for you and your family, then it should not be a problem for you.
“We must not depend on our job alone, especially for it to last forever, there has to be something else to support you financially and keep you stable even when you retire.”
Isi Kaikai has categorised its grocery packs into 3 package deals:
- Vt1,500 package: 5kg of rice, 5 rolls of toilet paper and 1 packet of Vegetable seed.
- Vt2,500 package: 5kg of rice, 5 rolls of toilet paper, 1 packet of laundry detergent, 3 bars of soap, 1 tube of toothpaste, 5 packets of noodles and 1 dish washing detergent.
- Vt3,500 package: 5kg of rice, 5 rolls of toilet paper, 1 packet of laundry detergent, 3 bars of soap, 1 tube of toothpaste, 5 packets of noodles, 1 dish washing detergent and 1 bucket of breakfast crackers (2kg).
Customer feed backs were very impressed but preferred the packed seeds to be Chinese cabbages since they tend to grow fast and require a much lesser area of space.
Beforehand, there were 3 staff members working at Isi Kaikai, now the figure has limited to one full-time employee.
“As a fact, 90% of the customers are female and 80% are minimum waged workers, which is why Isi Kaikai is become an increasingly high demand for families, since they are inexpensive.”
Despite all achievements being made, there have been a few challenges that was dealt with to improve and keep the business running.
“First and foremost was the access to finance, I had to dig into my other businesses and use the investment money to build Isi Kaikai.
“Another issue which is seemingly common in the business industry, is to avoid fraternizing personal affairs with your business matters, our closest family or friend should not be treated indifferently to our customers.”
Rebecca has recently joined the Business Incubator Program in June.
“Having a Degree and PHD is very different compared to the knowledge of entrepreneurship.
“For your business to thrive without complications, you need to upgrade your skills and expertise in business management, which highlights the significant importance of the Business Incubator program.”
In our country, the business ecosystem is limited. There was no modern co-working space, no business incubator, no innovation agency, no robust structure to promote entrepreneurship.
In time, this challenge was confronted by a group of expats and Ni-Vans who came together to create the V-LAB (Vanuatu Laboratory) – a charitable association aimed to influence the development of a conducive environment while offering practical accompaniment solutions to young entrepreneurs.
V-LAB has partnered with YumiWork – the first co-working space located in the heart of Port Vila which offers premium facilities, specifically designed to ensure access to quality services and optimal interactions.
All in all, V-LAB and YumiWork are both distinctive structures with collaborated relations.
At the Business Incubator training, Rebecca was taught the fundamental basics of entrepreneurship.
She was trained to be able to advertise her products through Digital Media Marketing, to write up business plans, to understand pricing strategies in order to earn profits, to recognise customer segmentations and to learn how to pitch products to customers.
“When it comes to pitching a product, you must the promote the product solution and how it can improve the customer’s life.”
She mentioned at first, Isi Kaikai had only stimulated one package deal for Vt5000, but with the recent trainings under the Business Incubator program, she then realised the importance of appealing to different working groups, which gave her the idea of introducing the 3 grocery packs.
A resolute and headstrong worker who motivates herself each day by thoroughly managing her time, Rebecca always manages her time by making a to-do-list which keeps her on track on what she should achieve in a day.
“I keep a to-do-list schedule on my notebook and would jot down every necessary details and objectives that needs to be fulfilled by the end of the day.
“If I don’t complete a target then I would feel like I didn’t fully achieve anything that day.”
She said during this global pandemic, having a business is the safest and secure approach to sustain and keep you anchored.
“I have also received extensive support from my fiancé, his moral support has pushed me to fulfilling my goals.”
With a one-year-old child at home, Rebecca has to properly manage her job, business and her home and does it accordingly without flaw.
Her goals in 5-10 years’ time is to deliver locally fresh produce than processed food.
“I look forward to one day work with the Farmers Association to bring in fresh produce to the market and to my customers.
“As a fact, we can now see the price increase of imported foods in the market which becomes a burden to those living in town, Isi Kaikai believes otherwise that there is a need to promote local food in markets and to help support our indigenous farmers in the islands.”
She said her goals at the moment, is to launch organic food packages.
Rebecca encourages all young thinkers and entrepreneurs to be mindful and be fearless in starting something new.
“If your business idea isn’t beneficial or it won’t help anyone then it won’t succeed.
“Always be time-manageable and never be afraid to think big.”