By Angus Delaney
Elisabeta Waqa founded her business, The Lovo Queen, during the pandemic with a few key principles – passion, faith, hope and love.
Speaking to a full auditorium at The University of The South Pacific’s Entrepreneurs Fair this week, Waqa shared her experience as business owner and single mother during one of the most trying times in recent memory.
Initially during the pandemic, Waqa was delivering milk in Lami for an elderly couple, who could no longer sell their produce at the market. She would add a dollar to the price she paid the couple for their milk so she could cover her fuel costs. Dropping off deliveries in her bright red car, she became a well-recognised figure in Lami during this time.
“They called me the red cow,” Waqa laughed.
Waqa also tried her hand at sewing, fabric painting and then gardening. Using her home grown produce, she would cater for events in Lami. It was out of this venture that her lovo business was born.
With so many different kinds of businesses on the go, Waqa says she had to decide which suited her best and would be most sustainable.
“I had to assess my strengths, weaknesses, costs, existing players, the demand on time… the labour… the profitability.”
Eventually she focussed on selling lovo packs, originally calling the business ‘Joskes Lovo’, before becoming the queen.
The business started humbly – but has grown to have thousands of customers and followers on social media.
“When we started, we only had five packs of lovo delivered in the Lami area and we rejoiced,” said Waqa.
Along the way Waqa developed expertise in market research, bookkeeping and how to gain a competitive edge.
“What is your edge?” she asked the USP audience to consider.
“For us, we pride ourselves on organic lovo, we banned the use of plastic to light the fire. From feedback we are priced well and we deliver free.”
As well as business skills, personal attributes are important for an entrepreneurs’ success, said Waqa.
“Self discipline is needed… it is very important to multitask. Teamwork – [it just takes] one team member to bring everything down.
“Teamwork is very important, time management is very important, financial literacy, professionalism in customer service, conflict management, communication skills, team management, leadership skills.”
Working alongside her children, and then hiring three staff members one year after starting the lovo business, has “raised our quality of life”, Waqa says.
With her earnings she has celebrated her sons 21st birthday, purchased and repaired a vehicle, assisted 30 families during Covid, sponsored Lakeba Rugby, contributed to Naduruvesi fundraisers and covered education costs, among other expenses.
“Why am I telling you this?” asked Waqa.
“If you think you are starting from nothing, there is so much you can achieve. You just need to have the faith and the passion.”
In giving advice to budding entrepreneurs, Waqa warned against greed.
“Greed is very, very tricky. It is important for us to be aware of, once it gets in, your business is heading down.
“Never forget how you started… that’s how you keep away the spirit of greed.”
She also advises people to celebrate their successes, always strive to be better, accept feedback positively, compliment and invest in staff, and remember the value of time over money.
“Time is way more than [the value of] money. You can’t get time back, but you can make money back,” she said.
“Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovery. You don’t know yet what you are capable of. Step out of your comfort zone. Dare to be an entrepreneur.”
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/9TentBlessed
Her personal page: https://www.facebook.com/etwaqa