Mailelani Samoa – ‘Tis from the heavens’
Sylvie and Kitiona Salanoa have always nurtured a dream to showcase the beauty, tranquility and lush lifestyle of their homeland Samoa, and of the islands. They need not look further than their compound, as staring them in the face as they lounged in their veranda was the ever hardy, resourceful coconut tree!
They vowed that they wanted to develop a business that was not simply about making money. Their shared vision was to boost the local economy, by getting villagers to participate and benefit from active enterprise and showcasing the results from locally produced products using home grown resources.
A few experiments and daring ventures with various natural products were just that, but that certainly did not deter them; if anything, it egged them on even further. Right at the same time the Samoa Women In Business had introduced the DME (Direct Micro Expelling) coconut oil process to extract pure, natural, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil from fresh coconuts and the rest, as they say is history.
The product lines were created in the confines of their home, where Sylvie and Kitiona (Kiti), tirelessly tested and re-tested formulas, mixtures, combinations to obtain what they had in mind.
However, admits Sylvie, “we didn’t really think that one day we will be making natural body care products and because of that we were inclined to think and feel it was something that came from the Heavens.” And that is how the name Mailelani came to be.
Starting such a business was no easy feat. The Salanoas relied initially on their own savings to finance their business, and later, additional support from family as well as the bank. The biggest investment by far has been their time and dedication. Sylvie recollects,
“Every waking moment was dedicated to building Mailelani Samoa and the product lines. We would attend to other family and community work but when all that was over, we would come back and see what more could we do to improve our business and products.” In retrospect, asking them what they could have done differently, Sylvie quips, “certainly to have worried as much as we had, knowing things were going to turn out.”
Today, Mailelani supplies many of the hotels and stores in Samoa with their assorted coconut soaps, lotions, oils and body scrubs and mists. If you’re undecided which to try out, maybe go with the most sold range – the popular mango-papaya range of oils, soaps and lotions. Supplies of coconut oil, fruits etc. are from the farmers mainly in Savaii and from partner farmers nearby.
Working with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO)
In recent times the Salanoas have reached out to various partners for assistance and technical support to enhance Mailelani Samoa’s potential. In 2013 they were the recipient of PIPSO’s Business Development Fund (BDF). This fund was created by PIPSO to assist micro, small and medium enterprises of the Forum Island Countries, to assist these enterprises with an injection of direct financial assistance targeted at specific market and product development projects.
The funding support they received enabled Mailelani Samoa to obtain resources to produce promotional material for exporting. Essentially two promotional films were produced to showcase the company and its products for export markets. Said Sylvie, “the support from the PIPSO’s Business Development Fund, was an important part of this exercise. Without it we would not have been able to have the two marketing films.” She added, “we were happy with the outcome of both videos and how we have used this to promote Mailelani Samoa, especially as we are targeting export markets – Australia, New Zealand and the USA.”
In April this year, Sylvie and Kitiona have been a part of stakeholders participating in Samoa’s pilot cluster initiative (facilitated by PIPSO) focusing on the coconut industry and virgin coconut oil. The Salanoa’s enthusiastically shared, “we are thrilled to be part of the cluster development work because it is on coconuts and we are keen to get engaged with individuals or groups sharing information on working in this sector.”
For more information on Mailelani Samoa: www.mailelani-samoa.com
This story is courtesy of the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO).
Featured Photo Credit: Mailelani, A Samoan Connection, Facebook Page