Mereani, 60, is a retired school teacher who lives in a village on the Coral Coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. Despite the idyllic surroundings, life has not been easy for Mereani, her husband, and her 19-year-old son. Before Mereani joined MicroDreams’ partner, SPBD Fiji, the family had a difficult time staying financially afloat. “My husband is just a fisherman, and I had to work hard on the farm to make ends meet.” She wanted to do more to help lift her family out of its hardship, so she decided to use the skills she gained as a home economics teacher to start her very own business with the help from SPBD Fiji.
Mereani used her first loan to start her baking, screen-printing, and tailoring businesses. With the proceeds from her first loan, she purchased an electric oven, frames and paints, fabrics, and other needed materials. Mereani is a sharp business woman – she understands smarket opportunities and takes calculated measures to afford her businesses the best opportunity to thrive. For example, instead of only selling her wares in her village, she travels an hour or more to reach areas with high-end resorts or wealthy villages to sell her dresses, cakes, and pies.
Mereani successfully repaid her first loan and has taken her second loan. When asked what difference the loans have made in her life, she says, “[life] is easier now because I have more income from my business....My family’s standard of living is improving.” In addition to using her second loan to expand her business, she used a portion to make housing improvements. Mereani plans to take full advantage of the opportunity and hopes to improve her small timber-framed house by adding a proper kitchen, bedrooms, and a veranda.
Mereani also benefits from the financial education training she receives through SPBD. The program “teaches me about cash flow, money, expenses and profit. The financial diary is very helpful to learn about the financial side of the business.”
Due to her successful business and the trust and respect she enjoys among other members of her centre, she was elected Centre Chief, a leadership position she says she thoroughly enjoys. She is a motivational leader and pushes her fellow centre members to strive towards success and winning awards at the annual “Businesswoman of the Year Awards.”
Mereani is currently leading a centre project to donate two bus stops to her village. The project is to be completed by November 2014 and is funded in part by her centre’s funds and in part from SPBD member fundraising. She believes that SPBD has benefitted her community by giving women like her opportunities to improve their lives, their families’ lives, and those of their community. “The village looks up to the ladies because of their businesses.”