They're young, they're innovative and they've got something to say. They call themselves 'OPPPA' and their mission is pretty clear. As boldly noted on their marquee at the Mangere Saturday Market, they want to "Raise Young Pacific Entrepreneurs".
OPPPA is an organisation created and managed by three young Pacific entrepreneurs; Marie Taueva, Keith Toma and Guenevere Tuiloma. Marie is the Business Development Manager, Keith is the Social Media Guru and Guenevere is the Blogger.
Photos: Featured products were made and created by the OPPPA team. $3 OPPPA badges are to help them fundraise for their marquee at the markets, the Pacific greeting cards were made by MARICIFIC (Marie's business) and the Nonu products are a skincare range created by MATAI NONU (Keith's business).
Together, the OPPPA team's main objectives are;
- To create a space for young Pacific entrepreneurs to share their stories;
- To connect young pacific entrepreneurs with business owners and mentors;
- To provide a platform for young pacific entrepreneurs to sell their products and services.
The founders of OPPPA, Marie, Keith and Guenevere, met through the 'Young Enterprise Scheme' also known as the 'YES Programme' during High School. This is a programme which allows High School students to put their business ideas into practice. Marie completed the YES programme in 2013 and felt that "it helped to build a strong foundation for OPPPA". Keith, agreeing with Marie, believes that the programme "gives you a good taste of the business world".
Despite the benefits of the YES programme however, the founders of OPPPA felt that there was something missing. "After the YES programme, there's just not that much support, especially for Pacific Islanders. We create these products and develop business ideas but then there's nothing that follows it. Once the programme is over we just have to do our own thing", Marie tells me. "It's hard for students. There's no platform to sell products and we don't hear many stories about Pacific business owners."
Marie and Keith, OPPA Stall at the Mangere Market.
As young people, the founders of OPPPA understand that as well as the difficulties that young Pacific Islanders may face in the business world, there is also the difficulty of discussing entrepreneurship as a career to skeptical Pacific Island parents. Keith believes that "it's different. Normally parents are used to encouraging their kids to become doctors or lawyers. I think that there's a lack of education in this area because running a business isn't something that we talk about in our families." This is why initiatives such as OPPPA are so important because its through the efforts of passionate young people like Keith, Marie and Guenevere, that more people have the opportunity to become educated, encouraged and inspired to enter the world of business.
With their passion and commitment to building young Pacific entrepreneurs, OPPPA has played a pivotal role in assisting many young Pacific people kick off their businesses. Just last week, OPPPA helped an amazing 11 year old named Epi. Epi's business is called "Epi's Cupcakes" and she bakes cupcakes to raise money for the homeless. OPPPA provided a mentor for Epi, the superstar baker Vanessa Ah Colt of Made in Mayhem, and also place to sell her cupcakes, the OPPPA stall at the Mangere Market. Epi not only learned how to master her craft under the careful guidance of her mentor Vanessa, but also managed to raise $711.50 for the Salvation Army - go Epi!
Photo by: OPPPA - https://www.facebook.com/opppatunity/?fref=ts
Additionally, in the short time that OPPPA has been established, OPPPA has assisted many young Pacific entrepreneurs such as; Sector from Mangere College, Entrinzic from Marcellin College, LJ's Clothing from Manurewa High School, Pure Blendz from Manurwa High School, O lelei from Henderson High School - to name a few. Although OPPPA provides these young entrepreneurs with many tools, including positive encouragement, they also like to keep it real. OPPPA does not provide funding or free handouts for young entrepreneurs and that's because, "we want students to put the hard work in. You can't expect things to just be given to you, you need to work for it. Business is hard and it's a good lesson to learn early on."
The key to succeeding in the business world, according to Marie is finding a good mentor. A mentor "will guide you along the way and you can learn from their mistakes. And always remember to stay true to yourself". For Keith, "experience is crucial in the business world. Business is all about experience. I've learned a lot more about business this year than what I've ever learned in an exam".
There is no perfect equation for business, as the young entrepreneurs from OPPPA have pointed out, it's all about passion and purpose. As demonstrated in their efforts and the young people that they have encouraged so far, OPPPA is dedicated to "cultivating a space for Pacific people. It's so important". And perhaps the most valuable lesson that OPPPA has taught us is that if a Pacific space doesn't exist, then create one.
Thank you to OPPPA for lending your time, wisdom and passion. We wish you and all the young, aspiring Pacific entrepreneurs the absolute best in your endeavours. Malo le finau, malo le tauivi!
To read the OPPPA blog (by Guenevere) and follow all their social media updates click here: www.opppa.org. You can also visit their stall at the Pakuranga Night Market and the Mangere Market.