“I’m starting to see the results in my business now and this is what inspires me,” says Sylvia with her warm and cheeky smile.

A brave and resilient businesswoman from Mele, Sylvia has seen her share of struggles and discloses her thoughts and tips to us, in the hope to provide inspiration to others facing the same situations.

Sylvia has been managing her family store for some years now, and juggling the children, the family obligations and keeping everyone happy hasn’t always been easy. It got tougher with the COVID situation. Her husband has now been away for 15 months working the banana fields in Australia. This has meant more responsibilities for her to manage. But luckily, she is not alone. Her brother Eric attended the new Business & Life Coaching sessions at the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and this was really effective for his continued business success. So he encouraged Sylvia to step up for some support also. After attending a Business Basics workshop that ANZ facilitate through VCCI, Sylvia felt encouraged enough to apply for the women in business program called Phoenix and was one of the 10 chosen women to attend the year long program that started in January 2021.

“We were working hard but we weren’t always making good business” says Sylvia and that’s what lead her to look for solutions. She knew that at the end of the month there wasn’t enough money left for all the bills. This situation was very discouraging.

One of the first things to change was Sylvia’s financial management. Improved understanding of pricing and costing as well as record keeping meant Sylvia was better able to manage her money.

This took some stress off her situation. She then participated in a workshop about confidence and self-esteem as well as quickly implementing the tips she was learning about marketing. That is what turned things around. She now suddenly has a steady flow of orders for her tailoring business and that’s boosted her confidence. With retail and tailoring combined Sylvia is now really focused on good time management to make the most out of her days. She’s also successfully employed 2 staff to assist with the work. Sylvia’s dream is to be a strong and respected business person in her community and through the business to offer opportunities to other families to gain employment and support.

“A big part of this for me is my support network” she adds. Sylvia has a kind family member providing support at home looking after the kids, and her parents and extended family supportive of the changes and this enables her to make the required changes at work. This support has enabled Sylvia to discuss changes with the family so that they are part of the new solutions and new business approach. “And when things get tough and I feel overwhelmed, I video chat with my husband” says Sylvia. “No one can do this alone. Supportive family are a big part of any businessperson’s success.”

Sylvia’s top 3 tips for building your business are:

1. Build up your confidence, if I can do it so can you. Believe in yourself.

2. Ensure you are supported and people around you help and care. Invest time in your support network

3. Go and find opportunities – if you are serious there are opportunities to grow and learn. Go sign up for things and try them out

The Phoenix Project is being implemented by VCCI on behalf of the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council and is a COVID-19 response project funded by the Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund, with technical support from UN Women.