The second Pacific Women in Business Conference set the stage for 187 women business leaders from 13 Pacific Islands Countries to share success stories, exchange ideas and best practices, cultivate networks and discuss solutions to challenges facing women entrepreneurs.
Organized by the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), the three-day Conference, held at the Sheraton Resort Nadi, follows the success of the inaugural Conference held in 2012.
With the theme Building Women Entrepreneurs – Building Nations, the Conference supported by Pacific Women featured over 40 inspiring regional speakers and included parallel workshop sessions on marketing, financing, export opportunities, training and networking, growth strategies and product development.
In her opening address to participants, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja said: “We’re here to advance the rights of women, to bring justice and equality but today our aspirations extend even further. As the title of the Conference suggests and underlines, we’re looking to build nations, by building women entrepreneurs. To achieve economic expansion we need to unlock a vital source of growth that will fuel our economies in the coming decades. And we all know that source is women.”
PIPSO’s Chief Executive Officer Mereia Volavola shared the importance of supporting women in business.
“In the Pacific region the majority of businesses are micro, small to medium enterprises and a large portion of this exists in the informal sector which involves many women. With limited job opportunities we are seeing more women in business in the informal and formal sector. These women are contributing to the economic growth of the country. It is also exciting to see a new trend of business women setting up businesses to assist other women in villages and communities.”
The Director of Value City Ltd (Fiji), Fiji’s largest recycled clothing retail outlet, Vera Chute, said the Conference has enabled her to have discussions with business women on potentially franchising her company in other Pacific countries.
“I was able to network with business women from Tonga, American Samoa and Vanuatu about setting up a franchise in their country. They are very eager and we are currently in discussions,” said the 2014 Westpac Women in Business Awardee.
Another exhibitor, speaker and participant, the Managing Director of Pacific Seaweeds Shamron Pickering, received positive feedback on her seaweed products that were displayed at the mini trade fair.
“The Conference provided a great opportunity for networking and I have made contacts that will assist with growing my business. We also had chefs from some of the hotels in Denarau come and try our sea grapes,” she said.
After the success of the last two Conferences, PIPSO has scheduled to host the next one in 2016.