By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
Michael Mausio is always reinventing himself. As someone who abhors the status quo, he craves growth and is willing to shift his image, brand, logo, or direction entirely when his entrepreneurial mind thinks of new ways to stay current.
The 32-year-old has always been his own boss. “I have never actually worked for anyone in my life; I probably only interned in high school. But how I got started in business was through my grandfather. He kept pushing me, so when he retired and started his engineering business, he roped me in.”
While Mausio was “learning as we went” with his grandfather, he was also studying at the University of the South Pacific.
As many students can attest, juggling work and schoolwork is not easy, particularly if you are a co-owner of a business, so Michael needed a creative outlet.
“I found that fashion was the best option for me to just sketch and create things; it was more of a hobby, and when I finished USP and my grandfather retired, I realised that there was a market in the fashion industry.”
Running his own business became an addiction; just turning new ideas into thriving businesses became thrilling enough that he has about 23 businesses registered under his name. “Whenever I come up with an idea, I register it, so out of 23, there are only three or four of them that are actually active; the rest are just spontaneous ideas that came out, and I just register them in case I might need them down the line.”
Mausio says in high school he wanted to be a lawyer or an archaeologist and had no ambitions to be in the fashion business.
Many people know him as a clothes designer under ‘The House of Mausio’ brand, but this dynamic individual also has a construction business called WABS Engineering, a travel agency called Pacific Voyager, plus High Garden and Fortune Acres, which are two commercial farms specialising in growing crops on a commercial scale, primarily ginger and vegetables. All the businesses fall under his parent company, KĀNE Holding.
“So currently I do several things; fashion is usually a hobby, but I actually started off with the engineering side of things, primarily in the oil sector, and we have been in business for about 15 years. We build oil tanks and pipelines in the Pacific, and we have slowly diversified into construction.”
The pandemic meant Mausio had to think on his feet to try to get team members, who were deployed in the Pacific region, home safely.
“Before the pandemic, we had a few projects in Samoa, and we just finished the project when the lockdown happened, so everybody was just stuck in these different countries.
“We realised that chartering a plane was probably the easiest way to get them across, and so we got a quote from Fiji Airways, just for repatriation flights,” he said.
The company then charged other people who wanted to get back to Fiji from Samoa: “Within two or three days, we managed to fill the whole plane.”
The success of this repatriation flight saw Mausio’s company organise similar flights from other destinations.
“We knew that commercial flights were not allowed to go in these countries because of the lockdown, only charter flights were allowed to go in these countries as long as we met the quarantine requirements.
“We thought initially we were just going to bring all these people back, but then we got all these other governments and private companies asking us to do repatriation flights. So during the pandemic, we were running quite a number of repatriation flights in and out of Fiji, Solomon Islands, etcetera, and that’s how we got into the travel industry.”
Pacific Voyager now does more traditional travel activities such as facilitating airline ticketing and visa processing, mainly for groups.
Anyone listening to Mausio talk about his entrepreneurial journey might be captivated by his success stories, but he still finds challenges in running his business. “For me, the biggest challenge we find is actually finding the proper manpower and qualified employees to fill the gaps. We don’t have a high turnover, but it took us a long time to try and actually find proper people to work in these vacant spaces.”
He says this problem has been intensified by the number of local people opting to migrate or work in Australia and New Zealand.
“The other thing I have always found quite hard to do business in Fiji is the fluctuation in our tax. But in terms of setting up business, it is relatively easy in Fiji,” he said.
Mausio is now looking to expand his businesses to Papua New Guinea and Hawaii: “People are still not entirely comfortable with purchasing online, so our primary focus is on countries with a higher currency rate than Fiji.”
Having a wealth of knowledge and experience, Mausio has a few words of wisdom to share with aspiring entrepreneurs.
- As a business owner or entrepreneur, you need to be physically, mentally, and emotionally strong because this work is not meant for everybody.
- Time management is important. Set your goals for the year and break them down into months, then weeks, and days. “I spend four hours in each different company, and that’s it, so good time management, a good attitude towards other people, and following your passion.”
- Sometimes you will have $0 in your account, and you wonder what you are going to do. This is when a clear mind kicks in, and it also helps when you are overwhelmed with so much work.
- Have a good relationship with people. Always have a good network of people. Your reputation is actually far more important than a lot of people realise, especially in the business sector.
- Never kick anybody when they are down because that could be you one day.
- One of my go-to strategies that I use in any of my businesses is to actually employ more women. All my businesses are headed by women; they seem to work harder than men, and they are good at multitasking.
- Different businesses require different marketing strategies. For instance, we market quite heavily on social media with our fashion, but we don’t do that with our engineering side because we know our target market is not on social media; they are the ones on LinkedIn, similarly with our travel agency. You can save a lot of money, energy, and resources when you know which platform to use to market your product.
- Find a mentor who has a lot of experience and who you can bounce ideas off and get advice from.