Encouraging Vanuatu’s women entrepreneurs to access support from Business Link Pacific (BLP) is a key focus of BLP’s newly appointed Business Service Manager, Yvonne Leo Taiki.
Based at the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Yvonne is enthusiastic about the opportunities BLP offers Vanuatu’s SMEs and wants to see more local businesses, tapping into business support services.
As a busy working mum with an active six-year-old, Yvonne knows all too well the challenges facing Vanuatu’s women entrepreneurs. We recently caught up with Yvonne to learn about her work with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
Tell us about your background and education:
“My Vanuatu Island heritage is Ambae and Pentecost. I have a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Tourism Management from the University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus in Fiji and have previously worked for the Vanuatu Tourism Office and the Department of Tourism. My role was to help local small businesses, such as bungalow owners, with basic business planning and standardizing their businesses to help them grow. Many of these tourism small businesses are owned and operated by hardworking women juggling families and community work.
Later I worked with the United Nations Development Programme as part of the Cyclone Pam recovery program so I saw first-hand the resilience challenges facing our local businesses. More recently I was with the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games as their Operation Coordinator for the opening and closing ceremonies. This was a fantastic experience! In 2018, I joined the VCCI as their Business Development Officer, then I became the Acting Training Manager and now I am BLP’s Business Service Manager – which is a role I am very passionate about.”
What is your vision for BLP in Vanuatu?
“It’s my job to support SMEs to access BLP’s Business Advisory Service network. I want to make a difference for Vanuatu’s SMEs. I want to see more entrepreneurs, and especially women entrepreneurs, coming in to the VCCI and signing up for the BLP Subsidy Scheme.”
How does the Business Link Pacific Subsidy Scheme work?
“BLP works on a B2B (business to business) model. Local SMEs are supported by BLP to connect with and access practical and affordable business advisory services (like accounting and financial advice, marketing, recruitment, IT) from local providers, eligible SMEs can access the BLP Subsidy Scheme which can cover up to 50% of the service fee. The subsidy enables business to work with quality business advisors on projects that can transform their business.
Through the VCCI, we operate BLP’s Diagnostic and Referral service that is like a “business health check-up” that identifies business support needs. It’s a quick process that can really help SMEs to unlock their potential and become more profitable. After the “diagnostic is done” BLP refers SMEs to a list of local service providers that they can choose from; once the SME identifies a service provider in the BLP network, I work with them to access BLP Subsidy. Basically this means the SME pays for part of the business service and BLP pays the other part.”
Who can participate in the BLP subsidy program?
“Originally BLP was focusing on supporting Vanuatu’s SMEs in tourism, agriculture, construction and fisheries but now it’s open to other sectors as well. Whether you are a retailer, manufacturer or from another business sector, you can come and see us for support.
We also want to see an increase BLP’s Network of Business Advisory Service Providers signed up to support SMEs, especially in the areas of standards and certification processes, business resilience planning and IT services.
At the moment about 20% of SMEs signed up with BLP in Vanuatu are owned and operated by women. I really want to reach out to Vanuatu’s women entrepreneurs and invite them to come and see me to find out about VCCI and BLP services and start accessing business support.”
What’s your vision for women interested in becoming entrepreneurs?
“I want to see more women involved in small business. Women are a vulnerable group in our society. I’d love our women to see themselves as somebody who can do anything! They can make use of the good skills they already have. Often these skills are hidden within themselves, and women don’t realise their own potential and that they can make something (a business) out of their abilities and experience.
Right now they might be managing their homes and families, but they can be entrepreneurs. One day they can have a big business, they can one day own a big company. The key is women must have the mindset that: ‘I want to be somebody, and I can be that business person.’ ’’
Learn more about Business Link Pacific
If you are a Vanuatu SME and want to access business advisory services, or a Vanuatu based business advisory service provider and want to become part of the BLP business support network, please get in touch with Yvonne Leo Taiki at VCCI at firstname.lastname@example.org or call direct on 779 0124 or via the VCCI on 27543.
Business Link Pacific can also be contacted at email@example.com
Learn more about Business Link Pacific at businesslinkpacific.com