By Neehal Khatri
In 2017, Octavia Wilson made a pinata for her nephew’s first birthday party and this opened up a new career path for her.
“Ever since the birthday, I had been getting really good feedback so that’s when I thought about going into the pinata business because it was unavailable in our country at that time and people had to get it from overseas or try to make it themselves,” Octavia shared. At that time, her husband was also unemployed, and she was looking for a way to earn money for their household.
Inspired by the positive feedback, Octavia established her home-based business ‘Pinata and Photo Frames Fiji’ in 2018 and she now takes customised orders for events ranging from birthday parties, baby showers and weddings to end-of-year office parties. Although she is based in Lautoka City in the Western Division, she also takes orders from other parts of the country, using Post Fiji to deliver the pinatas, photo frames and other party props to her customers.
With 3 young children, the flexibility of working from home suits Octavia’s lifestyle and her mum also pitches in and helps her with completing the orders.
“I love doing handicraft work. It was with my grandma and my mum, they were always doing something with their hands and making art and craft and we were always around that,” she said.
“The inspiration behind my business is the children…I gather so much feedback of them hitting the pinata being the highlight of the party. That’s what I enjoy the most – just seeing how happy the kids are during the birthday parties hitting the pinata.”
Overcoming challenges and building the business
Although her business had a slow start, Octavia managed to build her customer base gradually and she now has a thriving Facebook page with more than 1,000 followers. She also joined the Women Entrepreneurs Business Council (WEBC), which is helping bridge the gap between informal and formal sectors for women entrepreneurs.
Octavia is also working on further developing her business skills. This year, she received a scholarship to participate in the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) – a business training program conducted by facilitators from WEBC and the Makoi Women’s Vocational Centre, which is funded by the US Embassy.
With a business dependent on social gatherings, however, Octavia has seen a decline in orders for pinatas and photo frames since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Fiji in March. Her husband also lost his job because of the pandemic and this has placed additional strain on their household income. To overcome this, Octavia and her husband have diversified into selling pounded kava.
Like many women entrepreneurs working in the informal sector, Octavia is finding it difficult to access finance. She shared that she was looking at ways to get a business loan to help her meet her production costs and buy the equipment and material she needed to make pinatas, photo frames and other party props that she specialises in. While she has started the process of registering her business and transitioning to the formal sector, her efforts have been hampered by the financial challenges she is facing because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Looking at the future, Octavia wants to expand her business with a children’s indoor play centre. In addition to being a place for children to have fun, she wants the play centre to help parents with babysitting while they are at work or running errands. She also hopes to open a shop in town to sell her pinatas and photo frames.
To learn more about Octavia’s Pinata and Photo Frames Fiji business, visit her Facebook page here. She will also be showcasing her products at the AWE’s Christmas Fair on 3 December 2020 at the Ratu Sukuna Park from 4-8pm.
In the Spotlight: Informal Women Workers
As part of the 16 Days of Activism global campaign, we are sharing a series of stories featuring the experiences of women entrepreneurs in the informal sector as well as those who have transitioned, or are transitioning, into the formal sector.
16 Days of Activism is a global campaign focused on ending violence against women and promoting women’s rights. In 2020, the Campaign is dedicated to informal women workers whose lives and livelihoods have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 and the unprecedented economic crisis that has followed. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 60% of the world’s employed earn their living in the informal economy and 92% of women in employment in developing countries are informally employed. They face precarious workplace conditions and are typically excluded from national labour laws and denied social protection.
The Australian Government through the Fiji Women’s Fund has been supporting women’s groups, networks and organisations to amplify the voices of women in the informal sector through our partnerships with grantees like the Women Entrepreneurs Business Council, Women in Fisheries Network, Talanoa Treks, Rise Beyond the Reef, Ra Naari Parishad, Naitasiri Women in Dairy, Waisomo Women’s Group and the Soqosoqo Vakamarama Kadavu.