Ama & Venna
Lashing Business Administrator and Marketing Coach & Lashing Business Owner and Trainer
Name: Ama and Venna
Age at interview: 26 years, 33 years
Occupation: Marketing Coaching and Administration, Business Owner & Lash Trainer
In this video
|0:00:00||Early Years & Parent’s Expectations|
|0:03:43||Moving to Australia|
|0:04:54||First Job in Australia and Challenges|
|0:07:29||Moving Back to New Zealand and Finding a Career|
|0:10:27||Moving Back to Australia and Starting LashFix|
|0:19:04||Opening a Salon and being Pasifika Owners|
|0:23:54||Pasifika Values in Business|
|0:30:37||Experiences of Education as Children and as Parents|
|0:38:07||Running a Business and Seeking Mentoring|
|0:51:14||Challenges and Mindset|
|1:09:22||Future Aspirations for LashFix|
|1:11:41||Role Models and Education Experiences|
|1:15:06||Cultural Expectations and Practices|
|1:19:29||Advice for Pasifika Youth|
- Early Years and Parent’s Expectations
- First Jobs
- Moving to Australia
- First Job in Australia and Challenges
- Moving Back to New Zealand and Finding a Career
- Moving back to Australia and Starting LashFix
- Opening a Salon and being Pasifika Owners
- Pasifika Values in Business
- Experiences of Education as Children and as Parents
- Running a Business and Seeking Mentoring
- Challenges and Mindset
- Role Models
- Transitioning Lashfix
- Future Aspirations for LashFix
- Role Models and Education Experiences
- Cultural Expectations and Practices
- Advice for Pasifika Youth
- Support during primary and high school
- Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Developing Careers
- Experiences of Work
- Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
Early Years and Parent’s Expectations
Thanks. I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m 33 years old. I’m from Ranui, West Auckland. Our parents bought their first house in Ranui and we had lived there our whole childhood. Went to school out West. My parents were…they worked in factories, so they both worked very hard. Mum at one point had about…she always worked two jobs. So I’ve always seen them just on the grind all the time.
Never regretful, we’ve never been hungry or we’ve never been short on money, because they’ve just been…everything that they did was for us. So I’m really grateful that they did that for us. Their dreams for us was to do well in school, and then go to uni, graduate, find a partner, get married, then have kids, but I did the complete opposite! [laughing] I went to school, but I didn’t do well in school.
That’s something I’m not proud of. Now I push my kids. They do extra tutoring. I’m on top of them, and I’m making sure that they’re…what do you call it? They’re doing the things that they need to do, to do well in school because my parents were so busy working that they were just so tired. I feel really bad for them. I made up for that.
When I left school, I went into retail and I was just working in retail, but I made sure that every role that I got, I gave it all my all, and I had dreams to move up the ladder anywhere I worked. That’s where the passion for customer service came in. Then I decided that I wanted to do more, because I felt like in the roles that I had, there was always promises, but nothing ever happened. I was promised different roles, or there was a lot of toxic…It was a toxic work environment. A lot of the time it’s like that in retail, it can be very catty, the sales…everyone that’s doing well, other people on top, like the owners and that’s it basically.
And I even saw my regional managers stressed out and I thought, “Oh, I don’t want that.” I thought I did, but the more I talked to people in management, they just looked really unhappy. So I decided to start my own business. I started LashFix after having two kids. It was just a way to make more money because it was hard. I couldn’t work full-time like I used to. Now I had kids involved, I had to take them to day-care. That was super expensive. So yeah, I just decided I wanted make money from home, because I saw that some people were doing that, so I jumped on that, not thinking that it would turn out the way it has.
Moving to Australia
But yeah, we actually moved to Melbourne back in 2012, myself, my husband and our two kids. We were really struggling in Auckland. I think my husband was making $600 a week. I had just had my, our second son and we were just barely surviving. I think our rate was something like $310 so…by the time we had paid everything, we had nothing left.
We came to Melbourne on holiday, our family was here. My friend, and I saw the way people in Australia were living, and my cousin said to me, “You should move over here. The money’s better, there’s just more opportunity in Melbourne.” I was like, “Oh.” I love New Zealand. I’m a Kiwi through and through, so I never thought that I’d ever leave my home.
And so we left. My Mum…my poor Mum, she was crying as if we died. She was crying on her bed. When she was crying I felt…Now that I’m a parent, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, if my kids leave, I would die!” I can see why Mum was like that.
First Job in Australia and Challenges
Yeah, we moved here, ended up…before I started the business, I was working full time at [bank name] as a bank teller. Again, it’s almost like a toxic work environment. All they were telling us to do was sales, sales, sales, but there was no personal development. There was no, “How are you feeling?” If you’re feeling anxious, or always just on edge because you didn’t make your targets, and I didn’t like that. (00:06:12)
Even though I’m really good at, I’m good at sales. But I just felt I wasn’t in the right environment to thrive. I almost got fired even [laughing]. Ama came over, and I think it was just because I just didn’t like it anymore, it was just so overwhelming that I started making stupid mistakes, like pressing deposits instead of withdrawals. Coming to take out money but I was depositing money!
I did that a couple of times. My manager liked me, and he pulled me aside and he said, “Venna you’ve done this too many times. It’s almost going to get to a point where we’re going to have to performance review you, and you might lose your job.” And I was sitting there going, “I have never been fired before!” [laughing] I was like, “Oh my God.” Like stressing out.
Ama had to help me write a letter. Even though she’s younger than me, she’s just good at doing that sort of stuff. I wrote a letter saying that I felt like I wasn’t supported. When I started there, I got thrown into the role, and I was working at one of the busiest branches in Victoria, so – it was just so much. I’ve never been in banking before; I’m just used to putting clothes on and off the hanger like type of thing.
Then I was dealing with this massive money. If you know Broadmeadows, a lot of them deal with a lot of massive amounts of cash. So that was really overwhelming for me. Then if I wasn’t doing that, I was just bored and just doing the wrong thing [laughing]. He said to me, “I think maybe you should go into insurance. You’re really good at selling. You’ll do really well in insurance.” And I was thinking to myself, “I don’t even want to be here.”
And so that’s why – I was just like, “This is not even in my future. I don’t like this stuff. Like this uniform is hideous. What is this maroon cardigan I have to wear every day? [laughing] Like what am I doing?”
Moving Back to New Zealand and Finding a Career
So I left and I went to New Zealand again. I said to my husband, “I think I’m ready to go back.” It was almost like I had to find myself again, and I did a makeup course. I enrolled to do that, and then again, I actually really sucked at makeup.
I only did because I wanted to get into fashion styling, and a stylist that I’d met while I was in retail said to me, “The fastest way to get into this industry is to become like a makeup artist, and then you can show them that you’ve got other skills where you can dress wardrobes, and stuff like that.” I thought, “Oh yeah sweet, I’m going to do that.”
Then when I did it, I was like, “Man, I didn’t know there was just so much more to just slapping makeup on somebody’s face!” [laughing] You actually have to correct their skin. I was like, “What do you mean people have bad skin?” Just like redness, I made my models grey, when I wasn’t supposed to make them look grey, I couldn’t even do eyeliner, but everyone in my class was killing it. I was just like, “Man!” I felt I was going through a midlife crisis in my 20s. I was about to have a mental breakdown, because I thought, “Oh my gosh, I have two kids. I’m married. I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. I’m not even good at this stuff.” And then thankfully my friend Ashley, she had an eyelash extensions business and she said to me, “Why don’t you take lashes back to Melbourne, and come and do my course.”
I was flying back to Melbourne the next week. She was like, “Just come and do my course. It’s $1,500.” No, she was like, “Come and do my course.” And I was like, “Sweet.” Then she called me and she’s like, “Oh, so the course is $1,500.” I was like, “Where I’m I going to get this money from???” I was like, “Yep, okay, cool. Yeah, I’ll do it.” I hung up the phone, and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?”
Then I begged my Mum and I said to her, “Mum, please, I want to do eyelash extensions.” She was like, “You just did a makeup course, what! What do you mean?” And I was like, “Please, honestly, I promise, I promise that Ashley has done really well in her business. She always talks to me about how much money she’s making and how it’s changed her life. And so I said, “This will be good for me.”
Poor Mum, she actually had to get money out of her credit card. This was cash advance. That’s when I knew, “Oh shoot, I better do well because now she’s going to be paying back this”…when you get money out of your credit card, you don’t just pay that money back. It’s more, like the interest.
Moving back to Australia and Starting LashFix
I did that, did the course and came back home and I just practiced. I was just practicing like crazy. I also sucked at it as well. I was just like, “Man, it’s just…and even before that, I’d tried to start a clothing business. I signed up to these classes at […], turned up to maybe two classes and after that I was like, “No, this is not for me.” I tried so many things and that was a really funny time, now that I think about it.
I bought so many patterns, materials. You know when you think of an idea and then you start going crazy, and then when you sit there, and you’re like, “Actually this is really hard.” That’s probably why Mum was looking at me like, “Dude last week we went and got patterns, and you wanted to do sewing. You were asking me to teach you to sew, now you’re talking about lash extensions.”
There was always something. I always wanted to do something. Oh man, if she had not done that for me, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yeah, I came back here with my kit, lashed my cousins, I practiced on my cousins. I was taking six to eight hours just to put three lashes on each eye. They’re so loyal, and I thought while looking at them like, “Oh Cuz, yeah it looks nice.” But I was like, “Thank you”, thinking, “Oh my gosh, is this going to pop off? Is this going to be a thing for me?”
But I literally had no choice. I had the kids at home, and I didn’t want to go back to work anymore. I did want to work, but it was just too overwhelming. I just felt like it was just a constant rush every morning, and then every day I just felt like I was just repeating that thing. I didn’t want to go down that road of being almost depressed, like you’re stuck.
I thought, “You know what? I need to push. I need to really push and make it.” I advertised on Gumtree for clients. I got so many no-shows. My first client that came, I was so nervous. My palms were sweating. I was drenched doing her lashes and I probably wet her whole forehead and she never came back. People always look at us and think, “Wow, we did the training and then it just took off just like that.” But they don’t know the anxiety and the stuff that was going on behind my posts. That’s what happened.
A lot of the times people would say that they’re booking in, and they’re coming and then they wouldn’t turn up and I’m just like, “Oh my gosh.” Some people booked in; they were in Auckland. I’m thinking, “Hello.” I’m like, “What the heck??”. Yeah, I just eventually got better at lashes, because I just keep practicing, and I keep talking to the people that I needed to talk to.
I was reaching out to Ashley all the time, asking her for tips and what can I do? Whenever I went back to Auckland, I was never there just to have fun, I was always on a mission everywhere that I went. There was always a reason why I’d go somewhere. When I went to Auckland, I was always going to her and watching her in her salon lash her clients, and so that I can bring it back and practice and do that.
I have a cousin Mac, who is also passionate about business, and he taught me a lot of things too. Any problems that I had, I would talk to him, and he would help me. I think that’s a very important thing, when you’re in business to have your circle, have your people that you can reach out to when you’re stuck, because that’s the only way you’re going to grow because you can’t do it alone.
My parents, bless them, they sold their house in Ranui. This is when I knew that LashFix was going to be a thing. I didn’t even have a lot of clients. I wasn’t even making a lot of money yet, but I was dreaming so big. I just knew that I am so good at selling and customer service. I knew what I had to offer would eventually become a thing.
Again, went over it and I begged my parents like, “Can you please come to Auckland? I don’t have anyone to look after the kids while I’m lashing.
Oh, sorry, “Please come back to Melbourne.” I think also going back, seeing my parents older and still working the same hours that they worked when I was still at school, it was actually really heartbreaking for me. I said to them, “If you come, you don’t have to worry about going to work, or worrying about bills because me and my husband, we’ll do that for you guys. If you guys come over, we will help you.” Because they’ve done so much for us.
I think putting that sort of pressure on myself, pushes me as well to do well. The days that I want to give up, I’m like, “Well, I can’t. There’s bills that I brought on myself. I need to pay them.” Yeah, we ended up moving into the house that we’re in now. We have a salon attached to our house. When mum was here, she was – we were really fortunate to get a good deposit for my parents to buy this house, but because mum and that moved over and they weren’t working, no bank was going to give them a mortgage, approve a loan.
So my husband, he ended up – he was doing a lot of overtime. The loan was approved under my husband’s name, not mine because I wasn’t really registered, my business. When we did that, I was thinking to myself, “Okay, my husband actually can’t work these hours every day, this is not his pay.” That’s what made me go, “Oh my gosh, okay, I need to step up and I need to help him pay this mortgage.”
Just having that in my mind…yeah, that made me push. And so I got fully booked in my salon I think in 20…?
-16. Then we were here for two years, and word just got out that we do lashes, and we do lashes well. There’s a lot of people out there that do big volume lashes, well, we specialised in natural. Because I looked around, I was doing my research and I saw, “Okay, well, there’s no-one out there doing what I want to do.” And so that’s what we pushed and that’s how we stood out. Then after that, I decided to hire a staff member. She came in to help me out, and then we were just back-to-back with bookings. We were so booked out.
And well it’s funny, my husband says to me now that when he goes places, they’re like, “Oh, you’re LashFix’s husband?” He’s just like, “What?” It wasn’t until last year, and he was like, “Oh my gosh, you guys – people actually know who you are.” I was like, “Oh duh, what do you think we’ve been doing?”
All these years, but yeah…sorry, excuse me. Yeah, we were booked back-to-back, and then again, I almost got…when I set a challenge, and we reach it, I feel like I get bored and I need to make myself uncomfortable again.
Opening a Salon and being Pasifika Owners
So we decided to open a salon in Port Melbourne, and that was a whole new ball game.
Yeah, we did that. We did really well in Port Melbourne. I was so nervous before we moved there, because there was no-one out there that looked like us. When we opened our doors, people were looking inside our windows, staring at us as if we were some sort of…there was a show going on inside. It was so crazy. They would walk in as well.
I think there was one afternoon, we were pretty much finished for the day, and we were all in the back room, just chatting and a customer walked in, and we heard the door and we’re like, “Oh.” We started walking down, and then she’s like…what did she say?
She was like, “Oh, why is no-one in here?” Or something like, “Oh -“. Trying to say she’s going to call the owner and tell on us. [overtalking] And we were like, “Call me.”
Yeah, it was those vibes. We got that all the time. We would be lashing, and someone would say to me, “Oh, this place is so nice! Who owns it?” Then I’d be like, “Oh, I own it. Myself and my sister.” They’d be like, “Oh. Oh really?” That’s the response we got all the time. And that really started to…that self-doubt and anxiety really started to-
What about the lady that just stood at the door, she didn’t want to come in.
Oh gosh, yes.
She was just like, open the door. She’s like, “What do you guys do?” And was kind of too scared to step in and we were like, “You can come in. We’re more than happy to serve you. What are you looking for?” She’s like, “No, it’s okay. Just tell me what you do.” We were like, “Nothing. We don’t do anything; can you get out??” [laughing]
Yeah, it’s so different when you go into a space where they’ve never seen you, seen people like us. Even when we’re walking on the streets, we don’t see anyone like us. Then when we do, we just stare like, “Hey! Are we connected somehow?”
“Are we cousins??”
Here, living in Tarneit where we live, we go around just as normal. We see it, we smile, whatever. But in Port Melbourne, it was so different. It was just like, we stood out like a sore thumb. But that’s what made me want to push more. I loved that when our Island sisters came in, they felt it was their salon too. We would just like welcome them-
Yeah, it was just that type of environment that we wanted to create because…I think even before LashFix was even a thing, I wasn’t even making more than $150 a week. I said, “I will open a salon where Island woman will walk in and feel proud and be like” – because I’ve walked into salons and they’ve looked me up and down, like “Are you lost? Are you okay?” I knew how that made me feel. So I did not want that to be the feeling when they walked into our salon. We still have dreams to open more salons, it was just unfortunate that COVID hit. And we had to close, our lease was ending, so we decided to close it. It was almost like, “Let’s close it. And let’s look at what we did for the last two years. Let’s review that and let’s come back stronger.”
So even though at that time, it was really sad for us. It was also a blessing because we’ve learned so much and when you’re in a position where you only see the bad things happening or the stress, you can’t see past it. And I think COVID really helped us to sit down, slow down and actually be like, “Okay, I didn’t actually like working those hours. Let’s not do that again. Let’s teach other women how to work and not work those hours as well, so that they don’t go through that as well.”
Because I thought you have to just be on the grind and that’s the way you make money, but it’s, you have…it’s not, you can actually work where you are happy with what you’re doing. Because I feel like it’s a better outcome. You work better when you’re not under stress or overworked and overwhelmed and all that stuff.
When you work for yourself, not for under expectations of anyone else.
Pasifika Values in Business
Yeah. So yeah, even though I still think about our clients in Port Melbourne because we actually ended up creating beautiful relationships with our clients. I think even this Saturday, one of our clients that live on the same road, on Bay Street, she’s invited us for high tea. And so yeah, that’s where we’re going on Saturday. And I can’t wait, because she was a client that was actually not very happy with our service when she first came in. [laughing]
And because we, us as Pasifika people we know how to talk to and find out why they’re upset and fix the problem instead of us just flicking her off and not wanting to come back, we were just like, “We’re sorry that we did this, how can we make it better?” And we did that. And now she’s probably one of our closest friends now. And she’s a lot older than us. It’s crazy, it’s crazy what happens when you…what’s the word? When you’re open-minded, when you’re not running things…like your emotions, if you, because, well, I was actually really angry, but Ama lucky that she’s there, she can look at the situation and…
I think for me I have a different experience of customer service. You’re more sales driven where mine is more…logical, I think is the word [laughing].
Because there’s a lot of times I think it’s different too, because Venna she has to deal with the actual client where me I’m only just booking them in and I have that first kind of initial contact.
And then after that, I don’t have to deal with them again. So for me, it’s easier to have a overview of what’s actually happening rather than Venna who’s in it. And she has to deal with them one-on-one. So when that thing happened [background noise], it was easy for me to differentiate what was emotion and what was actual fact. And I think that’s actually one of the biggest things that’s probably helped us in Port Melbourne as well is that, because beauty already is a catty industry. We were able to combine that and then just our Pacific hospitality, and I think that’s what really helped us shine as well. Yeah. I think that’s where Venna was going with the story. [laughing]…
Yeah, I just said what helped us was that a lot of the clients in Port Melbourne, because they’re all used to going to salons they’re all used to a certain salon etiquette, where when they came into LashFix because we had, one of our pushing factors was our urban Pacific hospitality. When they came into our salon, they were shocked that it wasn’t what they were used to and that sort of thing. What Venna was saying about our client where we’re going to her house on Saturday, and then there was other a few times where I dropped off our client because it was-
Raining. I think she was in her 60s.
Yeah. It was bad rain, raining. It’s like would let your Mum walk down the street in that rain? And I was like, no. And she was like, “That’s okay”, we’re a business, what kind of business do you know that would drop you, their customer home.
Venna’s like “My sister will take you.” and she’s like, “No, no, no.” And I was like, “I’m already outside, tell her to come out. I’ve got the car running, she doesn’t have to be in the rain.” Then she was like, “Oh, okay.” [laughing]
Yeah. So we did that kind…that sort of stuff was normal to us as Pasifika people. And they were just like, “What the heck? Why would you do that?” But it’s like, why would we let you walk in the rain? If somebody is free?
Or we would just being like, we’ll we’re going to somehow make somebody free so that they can go and do that. I think we did a lot of these things not, it wasn’t an intention. It wasn’t-
It was natural.
…this was the plan to get people to like us. This is just what we, as Pasifika people do naturally. And that’s what we brought into our business. And even to things like if we were all busy and somebody walked in, I made sure in – before the girls started, I said, “We have to all look up, acknowledge the person. Someone needs to go and, to the reception desk and deal with that. That person can’t be standing there for longer than a minute. Someone needs to look up acknowledge them at least say, ‘I’ll be with you in a minute.’” Because there’s so many times when you walk into a place and people are just on the phone and are fully ignoring you. That’s fine, I can see that you’re busy, but if you just look up, you can even just look at me like, “I’ll be there soon.”
That makes you feel oh yeah, you’re seen. And it’s just so awkward when people were just rude and not doing that. So we never, ever, ever wanted that to happen in our salon. And it was really good. Even the girls that are with us and they learnt all those things, they went off and did that in their own businesses. And now they’re thriving and doing really well. And that makes me happy that we are not only making a difference in our lives, we’re making a difference in other people’s lives. And I think that’s what we want to do as a business. So when we closed Port Melbourne, we decided to go into products and lash training and mentoring. And so yeah, us as the business, we want to make a difference in our students’ lives and in their personal and in their business, so that’s what we’re currently doing and we’re really enjoying it, yeah.
Experiences of Education as Children and as Parents
What was it like for you guys in NZ, in your schooling? I don’t know if you finished or if you ended up dropping out earlier or whatnot. But can you just talk to…just talk about a little bit about it and Ama you can talk about your schooling too. What was it like for you both in schooling? Did you have the support of your parents? Because we recognise as well that our parents didn’t always understand the education system too. That’s a big struggle for them.
That’s funny because I was actually talking to Ama today when I walked in, I was like, “Okay, so La Trobe University want to do this.” I said, “I didn’t pass anything at school! And I didn’t go to uni, this is awkward!” But I think, thinking about that, I think that it all had to do with my mindset. I grew up just hiding behind my cousin that was a year older than me. So when things were hard, I didn’t ask. So that’s why I didn’t learn, or that’s why I didn’t do well at school. I just felt like, “Oh, I’m just dumb. I’m just going to sit here,” or, “I’m bored, I don’t like this. I’m not going to ask for different work or,” – I didn’t know how to…I didn’t know there was other things that you could do at school.
So that’s why I talk to my kids a lot about, “Okay, if you guys don’t want to go to school” –because my son said to me, “Mum, did you go to university?” And I was like, “No.” And he was like [gasping], “What?” I was like, “No, I didn’t.” And he was like, “Why?” And I said, “Ummm…” I was like, “Well, this is awkward.” Because I always tell them to do well, and they’re always going back, “Oh so, you probably did well too.” My son would say, “Mum I’m the third smartest in the class.” And I was like, “That’s so good son, how come you’re not the first?” And he’s like, “Oh, um, oh okay.” And I said, “Just try and if that’s your hardest, if that’s the best you can do, then I’m happy with that. If you’re the third, it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re…” And he’ll be like, “Oh, were you the first Mum? I was like, “Don’t ask me those questions! [laughing] Don’t get cheeky, okay?”
But I think because my parents worked so much, they were just tired. And so that’s why I make sure that I’m not going to…because my parents, they did what they had to do for us to get through and do well. And so now it’s my turn. I’m not going to work like that. I felt like I started to go down, I felt like I was going to be just like my parents working, working, working, tired. So now I’m able to…now that I’ve stepped out of the salon, now we’re doing mentoring and coaching and teaching other women how to work, like a work life, have a better work-life balance. And so now I have so much time, I can take my kids to tutoring, I can have these conversations with them, and it’s not rushed.
So I think, for young people, they really need to know that it’s okay that they don’t know everything and it’s okay to feel like, stuck, that they just need to – for us, I’m so glad that we’re doing this, because now if anyone wanted to reach out to us, they can, just having more role models. So I’m really glad that this is happening because back then we didn’t really have this stuff. We were just compared to our peers in our classroom or compared to other siblings or cousins. And, but there was no, “Okay, if you can’t do that, then what are you good at?” Pulling the strengths. So I didn’t know what I was good at, because I never had anyone talking to me at a young age. And so for example, my daughter, CJ, she really struggled with her reading for a long time. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. What’s happened?’ And her brother that’s younger than her is a way better reader than her. But instead of me saying to her, “Why are you like that?” I’m now finding out what she’s actually good at. And she’s really good at coding and math and so –
Yeah. She’s very creative. So I’m always thinking about things that I can do for her to thrive in what she’s good at. And so my son Mason, he’s book smart, but he’s not street smart. He’s so – he’s lazy, but I’m not saying – he’s just smart so he knows he can, he knows he can do well. Whereas CJ is really hard working and she knows…
Like she will spend hours on an edit and to find things to make it better. And I’m like, “What the heck?”
I couldn’t even do that. Whenever I make stuff for Lashfix, I’m like, “CJ, wanna have a look at this?” I want her approval, I’m like, “CJ, what do you think of this?” She’s like, “Oh, I think the colours could be better.” And I’m like, “What do you know? You are only 10! What do you know? I’m the marketing person!”
Yes, they’re just…I think that’s it. That’s the key is just having people that, in me, I’m always thinking, who can I get that is good at this thing? So I’m glad that Ama’s good at the stuff that CJ loves. And for Mason, I can – I’m thinking about who I can get him involved with so that he can do well. But yeah, I think that’s it. I think it’s just being okay with not being good at what they say that we need to be good with. Our parents were just told, “Get an education and then get a good job,” and that’s it. But I’ve met a lot of professional people and they’re not happy with what they’re doing. And they’ve actually reached out. Some of them at top level sports or in their career, and they’re not actually happy with what they’re doing, and they want to start a business.
So that, to me, I feel proud that even though for a long time, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I didn’t come away from school with anything.’ But I learned so much through work experience in my all my mistakes, all the stuff that…all my failures. That’s where I’ve learned the most, and I know that a lot of us Pasifika are really talented with sports, but it’d be good to have mentors that will push them to have a plan B or what else are you good at? Are you good at art? Are you good at – maybe you can become a tattoo artist? Or just different things. Not the traditional, Islanders are good at sports and the pālagis and Asians are good at their academics. It’s good to see more-
Running a Business and Seeking Mentoring
I love that you’re talking about all your failures, I think that’s awesome because it makes you relatable, and it also just shows your resilience throughout this whole journey. Because obviously you’re really amazing at the operation part, but this thing that often comes up in terms of our Pasifika people when they engage in businesses is no idea about business. What did you do to help yourself in those areas that you knew that you probably didn’t have much of that even in finance or accounting or, cause you’ve got Ama who’s the marketing expert, but other areas of your business, did you do anything in particular?
Yeah. So what’s helped us through is actually getting a business coach and business mentors around us. Our first time doing that, every time we’ve gone into coaching or mentoring, it wasn’t like we were looking for it, it just happened. So we went to a dinner and, for my cousin, and then her friend came along and she actually has a business where she coaches, she does personal development and business coaching. And she actually said to us like, “Oh, I heard you guys are opening a salon. That’s amazing, how are you guys going?” And then I was just like, “I’m SO stressed!” I just didn’t know what to do, and we had organised this launch and she was like, “Okay, cool. So what’s happening in the launch?” And I was like, “We’ve got food, we’ve got entertainment. And we’re just going to, I don’t know, drink?”
And then she was like, “No!” Then I was like, “What?” And then she was like, “No. This is not what we’re doing.” So she actually made us think differently, as business owners. You have to become this new person. She was like, “Everything you do, there has to be a reason why you’re doing it.” It’s intentions behind everything. So that’s was really good for us to show up as professional Pasifika women, not just like-
A piss-up. [laughing]
Yeah. Well, not just like an unorganised mess. There was structure, there was time, we had a time sheet that, and I was like, “What the heck is a time sheet?”
And we had draft time sheets too, that we had to approve.
And we we’re like, “Oh.”
Yeah. So that was really cool for us. And that actually made us…the night ran smoothly. Even though I was still anxious in my mind, but in the minds of the people that turned up, that it looked amazing. And I thought, wow, this is how we want to run our business. Whatever’s happening behind, they don’t need to see that. But it’s almost like you’re in a movie, you have to…
Play different parts, yeah.
There’s roles, yeah, there’s roles that you need to play. And so she did that, so she said to us, let’s meet, it was the Sunday. She was like, “Lets meet on Monday. Let’s talk about what you need to do.” And she helped us to have a press release. And I was like, “What the heck is a press release?” Just doing all those things that we had no idea about.
And then she was like, “Okay, well for your first time, we’ll give you…we’re going to give you a discount for the meeting on Monday.” And in my head, I was going, “I didn’t know we have to charge our sisters! Like what is going on?! Come on!” She charged us 300 bucks, and in that time I was like, “I’ve never paid anyone for this type of -.” We always, like I was saying to Ama before, it’s really hard for some people, like for us in the beginning to pay for something that you don’t physically touch, so paying for information was really weird – like $300 weird! [laughing] And then I was thinking “If we keep meeting you is that $300?” Our meeting was only an hour. And so I had the shock my life. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” And then, but it was so worth it – that night just went so well. And then she…because it went so well, we all, we were just like, “Oh my gosh, we need her. We actually need her to help us run the salon.”
So she’d started doing coaching with us and teaching us the Kanban wall, which we have behind us, all the stuff that we need to do, in prioritising and who’s going to do what, she taught us that, and that was something that we’ve never done before. And yeah, our sessions were pretty much almost $300 every time we saw her, and we ended up going for a break. We did a few months with her and then we were like, “Oh, it’s getting a bit hectic.”
Finances were going a bit low, because you know, business obviously goes up and down and that’s all I was thinking about. But the problem was when we stopped the coaching, that’s when everything went downhill. And so we were like, “Okay, well we need to just find the money.” We just like – this is no option. When you get to a stage, you have to find those people that can help you. And the people that can help you for free, won’t always be able to give you the right answers. But people like her, because she’s getting paid for it, she’s committed this time and her business to help us. She’s actually going to get the results; help you get those results. So that’s the biggest thing that has helped us is business coaching and mentoring. And so then we needed help. She got busy in her business and in her role. So we were still talking and stuff like that. But then another opportunity came where a business coach from Auckland flew over to Melbourne, we went to her seminar. And then again, the stuff that he was talking about, that’s what we needed in our business, me and Ama, we always in the car on the way home talking about, what’s going good, what needs improvement. And so, all our struggles and stuff, he said that he could help. So we jumped on board his training and we didn’t even have the money for that.
Oh yeah. And that one was triple…
That one was $8,000 or something. For five weeks, or eight weeks?
Six, eight weeks. And then there was the three-day conference. [laughing]
Oh my gosh. Yeah. When you’re running a business, you need help from people that have been there before and because he’s successful and he has been through similar struggles, and he’s gotten himself out of it. We went and did that. We went and did a three-day business summit thing, retreat. And that was $5,000 or something. At that time, I was, “Oh my gosh, we just keep throwing money at stuff, money that we don’t have. Are we getting the results?” But we were, it’s just your mindset. I was just thinking that I’ll just going to pay money towards something and they’re going to give us this magic pill, but it doesn’t actually work like that. When we started, one day, my mind just, like my brain just switched and I just flipped everything. All the negatives, I was just, “No, I’m not thinking like that anymore.” And the power of doing that has transformed our business. Well…
Even just the story that we told ourselves as well, the way that you’ve explained LashFix today, and your journey is completely different to how you would have described it four months ago. The way that Venna has really pulled out, her experience is so different to how she would have said it. At the beginning of the year, it’s crazy, Venna’s been able to say things like lessons and highlights where before it would have been, “Shit the fan.” And then we were just like, like the way that your mindset is now is completely different and you can see it in the way that we’re operating just as coaches as well.
Because instead of looking for people to blame, shifting the blame on to…stuff happens. You will have days where something’s happened because of someone else or whatever, but at the end of the day, you need to just think, “Okay, what’s the problem? How can we learn from that?” And then just let it go, move on because there’s no point because that’s what I was doing. I was just dwelling in the things that happened in the past and trying to bring it with us when we should just really just let it all go. And thinking about that too, I think old, young Venna came with me throughout this whole journey, the hiding behind, the anxious, that I’m not good enough. And that’s where all of these issues came up. So when I just decided to just let go of her, I feel so much more lighter. I feel like I can run my business properly now because I’m not in that mindset anymore. I’m not in that…
Yeah. It’s not a fixed mindset anymore. I’ve got a growth mindset when I’m only seeing growth and opportunities. And even when things are not going right, I still see an opportunity in that. And it also comes down to how we were raised as well. I think just seeing mum and dad, even though we didn’t struggle, but there was always that talk of when something happens in your family and then all the family members have to come together and put in money. That feeling of, “Oh, so-and-so died, or so-and-so is getting married. We have to have a meeting.” It was always so negative. And then, when we go to the wedding, I’m going, “What the hell? Why are we all just stressed that we have to put money towards this wedding? Why are we laughing and clapping? It’s just so bizarre to me, I’m like what the…?”
I think that’s where we get it from and that’s why we’re so afraid to step out and start businesses because in our families, our money is just not our money. If something happens, we always have to or else they’re going to look at us, “Oh my gosh, look at that family, they’re so fie pālagi, look at their kids, they don’t even help their parents.” And I think that’s why we are like this. It’s a big risk for us to go off whereas pālagis and Asians can go off and start things and not worry about the other commitments. We have too many commitments! We got church commitments, we got family commitments! And then when the family and your churches have black stuff, we still have to put it in, but that’s not our family.
That’s why we’re like this. And I think it’s good for us to really talk about money and just switch it, flip it. And instead of saying, “I can’t afford that”, we’ve encouraged people to find ways to make more money, increase your income and not cut all the things that you actually enjoy, because then you’re just going to hate living. You’re just going to hate what you do. You’re just going to look at it, “Oh my gosh, every day I just get up for what?” So business coaching and mentoring has been the best thing that we could ever do in our business. And I think even if you can’t find the money, even just talking to the person that’s offering the service, they can come up with some sort of payment plan.
Just being open hey. I think that’s another thing that we’ve found as well, just moving into the coaching space is that our people are just really scared of asking for options. Where in reality, everyone’s actually open to…If we can see that you really want it, then we’re more likely to open those doors.
We’ll help you find ways to do that because we’ve done it. We would never ask someone to do something that we’ve never done before. So our courses that we’re offering, we’ve paid that, and we know the feeling behind that, we know what it feels like to hand over that money. And every time we’ve done that we’ve come away-
With some complete different skill set.
Yeah. So I think in anything even business, or just personal, your life, or career, you need a business mentor. You need someone that’s going to helps you to grow.
Challenges and Mindset
So you know that point in your life where you realise the mindset, what was the absolute turning point where you knew? Or what was it that triggered you to go, “It’s all about the mindset and nothing else.” So at what point in your journey did you realise that you’ve got to shift from your old mindset to a new one?
I think for me, it was now that coronavirus hit. When I’m lashing, that’s what I’m good at. Every day there was always money coming in and now there was absolutely nothing. And I was thinking, “Well, if I sit around and do nothing, my family don’t get anything.” That’s where I was. And I really had to think, “What’s happening? Why can I not put myself out there?” And I just knew it’s just all the stuff that I believed about myself, that I thought that people thought about me when it’s all just rubbish. And that’s when I just decided. I think I went on a break from social media for a month because they were saying, post on there, but I felt like what I was posting it was just “look at me, look at me.” But that’s not the type of person that I am.
I’m an introvert, I’m very shy. I could be talking to you now, but if I see you, I might be shy. But if you start talking to me and then I will start talking to you, I’m just not naturally a person that will walk into a room and go and shake everybody’s hand. I do want to be like that one day, I’m working on that. And I just knew that it was just me that I’ve just been holding myself back this whole time. And I started researching people and successful people and what they’re doing. And they’re just so confident and they actually went out and just listening to the things that they did. I was like, “I would never.” And then I was, “Well, that’s why I’m not there.” Because I was in my mind, “I would never, I would never.”
And so I just turned that into, “Now, I have to, I have to or else I’m going to lose the house.” My poor husband, he’s working, he’s getting money weekly. And I think that’s another thing too, not being able to contribute to my household. And I didn’t want him to think that I’m just sitting at home, playing on my laptop, posting these motivational things, but there’s no money. [laughing] I think that’s where I made that decision. And I just thought, “I’m so used to making money. And now that it’s all being stripped away from us, the lockdown and we’re not allowed to do lashes.” Obviously, I’m not going to do lashes illegally, because, I mean, I have nothing against people that do it. Because you need to make that money, but for me as a professional, I can’t. That’s not what I’m about.
And I want to teach people that. We might have a third, fourth lockdown, but we have to stay on top. Our mindset needs to be strong so that we can keep going through this. Because if we’re just blaming people, we’re literally going to kill ourselves. We’re going to spiral into a deep hole and we’re going to stay there and it’s not good, especially for mothers. It’s not good for your kids to see you like that. And I think that’s why I really love my parents because they never gave up. Even though they would say stuff, my mother would just say, she’d sit at the table and go [sighing] She would start breathing like that. [sighing] “The power bill.” And I’m just like, “Oh my gosh”, I hated that stuff, I was just like, “What do want me to do about it, Mum?” You know, like just say that, you know, but I don’t want to live like that anymore.
And I think that really affects my marriage as well. When I’m like, “Babe, we have to pay this, we have to do that.” It’s heavy, it’s ugly, it’s not nice to always talk about problems. So that’s why I was just like, “You know what?” Now, when I look at my bills, even if I can’t afford it, I’m like, “Oh, that’s all good. I’ll just call them.” I’ll just say, “Hey, not this week – not ever!” No, I’m just kidding. Just having that conversation because there are people out there that want to help us. So even just saying, “I’m self-employed, I don’t have any money, but money’s coming. Can you please give me some time?” And then if that time comes to call them back in the end, they’re not going to come and put us in prison for not paying a $196 gas bill.
It’s because we think the worst and then we get scared and then we don’t want to deal with it. And that’s what I’ve learned from my own behaviour, that’s what I did. If I couldn’t afford something, bills were coming out of my ears, I was just, I’ll hide. And the next minute it just becomes worse, overdue charges get put on top. And then I just hide that again. And then, it’s just a mess. But if you actually just pick up the phone, be honest, because people out there, successful people still do that. They have money problems too. You might look at someone and think, “Oh, they’re so rich.” But you don’t even know how much they’re – how much debt. I’ve talked to people that have worked in, I don’t know what you guys call it, I think in New Zealand it’s called repo, where they come and repossess your cars. Me as an Islander, I thought, “Oh,” I go her, “Oh man. So do you repo? Do you go to a lot of Islander houses?” And they’re like, “No, they don’t, they go to a lot of businesses. They repo, they’re repo-ing Mercedes, they’re repo-ing expensive stuff.” And so we always think that we’re struggling, but people up there [are] also, and it’s because of their mindset as well. They’re not dealing with their issues. They’re just trying to hide it, but there’s actually people that they can call. So I love…
I think that’s so cool Venna. Even just in your comment about – I feel like you’ve got a really strong, innovative spirit. But what I think is particularly strong in the way you speak is your ability to just kind of…you’re so solutions driven, and that I think is really important rather than sitting and dwelling on the problem. You’re like, “Okay. Well, this is the problem and this is what we’re going to do to fix it.” So I love that because I think that’s really good advice for our people – rather than to dwell on the issues and get upset about it. It’s like, “Okay. Well, let’s just switch out of that and look for the solution to fix it.” That’s amazing. I feel like even listening to you throughout this whole thing, every time you come across a challenge or something, you’re like, “Okay, right. This is what I’m going to do now even if it doesn’t work.” And I think that’s part of the reason why entrepreneurs are the way they are is because there’s really high risk factor. But then also they’re not risk averse. So you know that there’s going to be some sort of payoff, but generally, you’re happy to take the risk. And I only say that because I’m not risk averse at all and I want to get better, but your story’s really inspiring me.
When you guys were growing up, can you think of anybody in particular in your lives that, where you really aspired to? Or was there anyone that you would watch? And it could be anyone, anyone, from when you were really young, are the key people in your life that you go yes that person was instrumental in shaping the way that I think or the way that I live my life today. Is there one?
Yeah. My cousin Mac, he was very inspirational, and I was scared of him. And he challenged me all the time. Now that I think about it, I was like, “Oh now I know what he was doing.” When we go to church, after church, he will say to me and his sister, “What did you learn today?” And so they used to make me anxious every Sunday because I forget that he asked that question. So when we’re sitting in the car and he asked, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what did you ask me?” I’m like, “Why didn’t I think of my answer before I jumped in the car?” He did that at a young age. He read Bible stories to us. At that time, I didn’t really see it as anything, but he really drilled church and God into our lives at a young age. And I think that’s why, even when I’m not walking in the faith or the way I should be, I always come back because I know that that’s the truth.
And I know because he planted that seed, even though my parents did, that was religion. They taught us just go to church on Sunday, blah, blah, blah. He taught us more, why, why you need to make sure that you go to him with your problems and having a personal relationship with God, not just like a go to church and do the things. And then tick it off because it doesn’t really, it’s just a routine. And also, even though I didn’t do well at school, he never said, “Why didn’t you pass? Or why didn’t you?” There was always, “Oh, so how’s school going.” And I’d just lie. And I was, “Oh yeah, it’s okay.” And he’d be, “So, what are you going to do after school?”
And I said to him, “Oh, I don’t know.” Because I was already working in retail part-time and I said, “Oh, I think I’ll just work there full-time.” And he said, “Oh cool. So what do you want to do after that? Are you going to try and be the manager? Are you going to try and…?” And I’d be like, “Is there always a question? Is there always something? -“
Do you know how to mind your business!
But it was never in a pushy way. It was just like he always challenged us to think. He went to uni and he graduated with a law degree and he didn’t even want to do law. It was because his dad, us Pacific [people] – they want us to do certain things and then you just feel like you just got to go do that. But lucky for him, he’s smart. So he could do that.
Whereas I couldn’t just go to law school [laughing] and even, and then he went into business, he’s always been really encouraging at any stage that we’ve been at. And I think that’s why I am the way that I am when I talk to people and they say, “Oh, I just work at a factory.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s okay. And so what do you want to do after that?” It’s like, “It’s good that you’re doing something. It doesn’t matter where you’re working, but if you have a dream to move out of there, that’s cool. What are the steps? I hope that I can help.”
And when I started my business here in Tarneit, a lot of girls were coming with Hi-Vis jackets, and these girls were young, because in New Zealand, girls don’t really work in factories. Girls usually go to call centres, retail. And I was like, “Oh, why is it…?” And then I realised, because a lot of the Kiwis don’t get HECS. So they can’t go to uni or they can’t do any TAFE because there’s just no money. They can’t afford it. And because a lot of the factory work here, they get good money. And then when I talked to them, they say, “Oh yeah, the money’s good.” But they’re not happy. It’s just repetitive work. And they just feel like they’re not…and then they say to me, “Oh, I can never do what you do. I’d love to do what you do.” But it’s just that mindset again, they’ve not been encouraged or have the right people around them to dream big because I just think anyone can make it. I mean, I didn’t even go to uni. I didn’t pass anything at school, but what some people make in a week, we can make in a transaction. I’m not saying that in a cocky way, but it’s crazy. And it’s all because I believed in myself and I think that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Who am I? I don’t have anything behind me. When I go to school and they say, “Your parent’s education” and I’m like, I don’t have education. I don’t have anything to write. Back then when I used to fill out those forms, I used to feel embarrassed or “Oh far out,” but now, I’m just like, “Man, this doesn’t matter.” You could be selling socks and it doesn’t matter and you can be making millions. If you’ve got people buying it, it doesn’t matter what you do, whatever you sell.
And I think that’s amazing Venna and I apologise if the project has come across that way, because one of the reasons in the brief for us to find participants, wasn’t just so we were looking for academically smart people. We know that our Pasifika people are naturally entrepreneurs. And so, we want to appeal to them too. So your story was always going to be really important in featuring in this because it’s about kind of getting them. Because we know that some of them have amazing products, but just don’t have the knowledge to execute or to deliver. And I love that you’re sharing that because I want your story to inspire our people that don’t necessarily go on to finish school but can still find a way to thrive. Yeah. I just thought I’d add that in because I don’t want you to feel…and I can tell now that you’re like, “Oh, it is what it is, I totally own my success now.” The other thing too is I think is that shame of not being booksmart, hey.
But it’s not even about that. It’s just about finding ways that our people can really be successful. And it’s true too that you could be selling socks, but still make triple the amount that the person down the road is making. So yeah. Well, that’s really good. Thanks for that.
From your transition to Port Melbourne and now doing what you guys are doing, recognising that COVID really kind of put a spanner in your works. How did you find moving out of the salon and then now working from home? What was it that made you go, “Right. So we can’t do the salon anymore.” Was there anything in particular that went right, so now we are going to start mentoring or now we got to start online training. Or was it something that you’ve been thinking about for a while and then COVID forced you to do or not?
Yeah. Well, something that we’re thinking about, because that last mentoring coaching that we did, that was all around us teaching people how to open their own businesses and make money that way. But again, I was like, “Oh no, I can’t charge. Who’s going to pay me? I don’t know much.” It was just myself, just thinking all the negative things like no one’s going to want to…yeah, cool. We open a salon, and what. What if I can’t help them? That was the mindset that I had. We went into products and for me personally, I don’t like it. I thought this was cool until the packing of stuff. I just actually don’t enjoy it. That’s something that I just don’t enjoy. Then I was sitting at home thinking, “Oh, well, if we’re not going to sell products then what the hell? We’re not going to make any money. I can’t lash. We can’t do lash training, we actually can’t do hands-on things.”
Then I just thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve actually learned a lot of things, and I’ve been through a lot. I’m going to sell my brain.” That’s literally what I thought, because I’ve never thought of myself as someone smart enough for someone to want to learn from. But I just stopped that negative talk. And I was like, “Damn, I’ve got a lot of stuff happening in my brain, and this is money.” And that’s how I just came…because I live down the road. I came to Ama, and I was like, “I’m going to just push out this course. I’m going to do the lash business and mentoring.” And she was like, “Oh yeah, that’s cool.” I didn’t even have a program ready. I already knew, but there was no proper program, and I was like, “It’s going to be five weeks. It’s going to be a thousand dollars.” And then like I booked almost 10 girls, in two weeks, and it’s at a thousand dollars each.
And I was like, “Oh my gosh. And this is how I can teach others.” It’s just unlocking your mind, that’s it. And that’s the thing, I went and did this coaching and mentoring thinking that, “Okay, if I do that, I’m going to be stronger. I’ll be better.” But no, I wasn’t. I flew all the way to Wellington to go do – upskill and do another course. It was good. When I came back, I was pumped for two weeks and then the same self-doubt, all that negative talk started coming up again. And so, you can’t just keep putting money in all these different places to try and make yourself feel better. Then I even went to the gym. I thought if I just lose some weight, I might feel better, but it doesn’t matter what you do on the outside, as long as you’ve worked on your mind and you just clear all that rubbish, that’s when you’ll move to the next level. And that’s what I did.
Future Aspirations for LashFix
So, what’s next for like LashFix? Do you think you’ll go ever back to your salon, or will you still continue? What’s next for LashFix 2.0? [laughing]
A lot, I think. We have plans to, we’re thinking about opening a salon again, but we’re thinking of opening salons, more than just one. But we won’t be in it. We will be in there to run it, and then we’ll move out. And we’ve just got some ideas of how it can work this time, and how maybe our manager becomes a part owner so that everyone that works there will never want to leave because they’re making such good money. They’re in an environment where they just keep-
Yes. And they just keep learning-
– from us. And even if they do move on, we’ll still have a good relationship-
At least they move on with something valuable, and not moving on because it’s toxic. They’re moving on because they’ve got something better.
Yeah. So, we want to do that. And also just dominate in the business and coaching space. What was I thinking before? I was thinking, I want to be like the Pasifika Steve Jobs. Because I read his book and I was like, “I’m so like him.” He wasn’t very liked, I’m not like him in that sense. But just the way he thinks, he’s always pushing boundaries. When he came out with his first iPhone, people were like, “No, one’s going to pay a thousand dollars for a phone.” And now look, if we buy anything less than a thousand, you’re going to be blurry in your Instagram. [laughing] You know what I mean? He set that standard and now it’s just too hard for any businesses to compete against him. So, that’s where I want to be. That’s my mind. I want to be…I always thought, “Oh we’re brown, we’ll never be on top,” but that’s where I’m like, “No. We will be.”
Role Models and Education Experiences
I forgot to come back to you Ama, with your, who’s your influential person?
Mine was the same. Mine was also Mac, our cousin. He’s just the epitome of success in our family. He was the comparison, so everyone…Because he was like, what? He’s the oldest as well, our second oldest first cousin. So everyone after him just paled in comparison. [laughing] But for me, because Venna’s schooling life was a lot different to mine, and because he was the epitome of success, I always was just like, “Okay, whatever Mac’s doing, I’m going to try do.” And I even had dreams of going to law school and everything as well. I went to uni, I was in first-year law, and I was like, “Wow, I really hate this.” [laughing] I was like, “Wow, I keep falling asleep.”
Oh yeah, she passed school. She did really well in school.
Yeah. I actually did really well in school, which is probably good because if we both weren’t good at the books side, it probably wouldn’t be a great partnership. [laughing] But when I went to uni, I really was just trying to just impress my parents or Mac [laughing]. But yeah, I just found it so hard to stay motivated in law. Then when Venna started LashFix, I was like, “Oh, I could help by learning more about business and marketing.” And that’s how my passion for marketing started, because I was like second year uni and I was doing really well in English. I’m actually okay at writing.
You’re really good at writing.
That’s where my son gets it from. They both get their talents from her, I think. [laughing]
Yeah. I don’t know. I just did really good at English, and so I was able to finish English. But when I finished that, I was like, “What am I going to do with an arts degree?” And I didn’t really want to…not that there’s anything wrong with people who have arts degrees, but I was embarrassed. I was like, “What am I going to do? I don’t want to be a teacher,” and everyone else that I knew who did arts just went straight into teaching. So, yeah. I just kinda was looking at what Venna was doing, and she was really thriving. And well, to put it like, we’ve just always been really big on our parents hey. So I was like, “Okay. Mum and dad moved to Melbourne. I’m still here. What am I doing?” And then I just really honed in on the marketing side. I found that every lesson that I went to, something could be applicable straightaway and that’s what I really liked about it. And yeah, that’s my schooling, career, plus who I found influential as well. Then whenever Venna came back for her meetings with Mac, I was always excited because I was learning new things, was able to see where the business was going.
Cultural Expectations and Practices
You know how we have in our cultures, there’s all those obligations, family obligations, church obligations, how do you guys balance your business requirements with family expectations? Do you have challenges of family members wanting to…how do I say it, not use you, but do you guys have these challenges? Because often when I talk to other Poly [Polynesian] business owners, they always say that their challenge is saying no to family or giving too much of their business financials to family. Do you guys struggle with that at all? And if you don’t, what are some of the things that you guys do to manage that?
Yes, I did struggle with that at first. Only because, again, my mindset wasn’t strong. I didn’t know how to say no. I just didn’t know how to tell them the price. And sometimes I’m really happy that we actually have a really good family, my family don’t want stuff for free, we’re more like fighting over paying. But there was a point where, because it was my fault, I never told them from the beginning like, “Oh, Cuz, I have to charge you this.” Then if they wanted to…or friends, because my friends become my family too. So, even my friends and family, if they wanted to book in at my busiest time, like six or something on a Thursday, I’m like, well, I’ve been doing their lashes for free now. Now it’s bloody awkward. I can’t tell them that they have to pay. But if you set those boundaries in the beginning, then you won’t have to have this awkward conversation.
Like when you’re coming out the first time, you have to come out strong and already like you’re successful. You need to post like you’ve already made it, because when you’re posting like that, then you give your family or your friends the impression that, “Oh, they’re just starting, so they need models or experience.” But that’s actually the worst thing to do because then it becomes awkward for both of you. Even for me with my family and my friends, when they want to pay me, I’m like, “No, don’t, don’t.” But I teach my students not to do that, because I already know what it feels like, and any businesses that I deal with, I’m like, “You have to charge. You have to charge.” Because now that we’re doing…well, we’re not really doing lashes, I actually don’t mind doing my family’s lashes for free. Now they’re trying to say, “I need to pay you.” And I’m like, “No. Forget about it. I’m all good.”
But when you first start, yes, you need to put those boundaries in first so that you won’t have that awkward conversation. If you got it in then they’ll know, “Oh, I can’t even afford to go there. That’s awkward. I’ll just wait until I can afford it.”
No. And I think that’s really good because like I said, the people that I’ve spoken to, it’s the same thing. And it’s across any business, if they’re in catering or if they’re doing the tours like, “Oh, this sea food boil was $300, but they only paid 50 bucks.” So, it’s stuff like that. But I think it’s really good Venna, that you teach your students from the get-go to pay for their value because it’s your time.
Yeah. Can I share my experience too, of how I felt when I…again, it all starts with you, and it ends with you. If you let your family and your friends do that, it’s your fault.
You teach people how to treat you.
Yeah. You teach people how to treat you. I think, because us Islanders as well, we’re very giving, so when it comes to making money, it’s foreign to us, because we’re always working hard and we’re always giving, we’re always serving. Then when it’s time for us to make money and stuff like that, it’s really hard. It’s really hard for us to accept that as well.
Advice for Pasifika Youth
The last thing I was just going to ask you is, just for anyone that’s brand new to lashing, what are the three top tips that you recommend based off your experience that you’d recommend to anyone that wants to come into lashing? What are the three top things that you suggest? It can be anything to do with business or even the lashing technique or – anything?
I’ll just share one, and you can share two.
No way. [laughing]
I feel like I’ve talked a lot! Well, I’ve said throughout the whole thing is mindset. If you don’t have your mind right, if you haven’t cleared all the rubbish in your mind, the negative self-talk. We can always post memes and say that we are strong and whatever, that’s cute. Yeah, post those memes, whatever. But if you’re actually not feeling it inside, it’s not going to help you. You need to actually face, write down the things that you actually believe about yourself, and then just cross it all out. Burn it, because it’s not real. It’s not a thing. That’s what I would say, is mindset and getting, actually paying for that help, also because you have to have someone that you can talk to about your problems and they can help you, give you the tools and the exercises, because I can just tell someone, “Your mindset, your mindset,” and they’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s cool.” But they don’t know how. How do I do that?
So, yeah. That’s my biggest thing. Before you even start a business, even in your career. Even with my kids now. I’ve got a ten-year-old, nine-year-old, a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and I’m working on their mindset already. I tell them every day, “You’re strong. You’re beautiful. You can do anything.” And it’s cool. I’m raising very confident kids. Sometimes I’m like, “They’re too confident.” [laughing] They’re confident, but confidence gets you places. Us Islanders, we always get told, “Be humble, sit down!” But it’s like, “No, don’t do that.” Because then we go into our professional spaces, we go into the real world and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, we’re too much.” And you see other people that are too much and they’re going places. So, it’s just unlearning the things that we were taught, or just flipping it, switching it. Yes, you can be loud, but not too loud, like party loud. Because we’re loud in our parties, but we’re not loud in our workplaces. You know what I mean? We’re loud in all the wrong areas. We’re loud on the sports field, but we’re not loud in our workplace when we want a pay rise.
So, just learning how to do that, learning how to…and even our parents, like my dad was like, he got offered a pay rise one time and he said, “No, thanks.” And it’s like…but I think a lot of the times, the reason why we’re like that, because you were taught somewhere. Someone told you that. Someone has made you believe that we need to be humble and just take what we’re given, whereas no, I feel like us Pasifika, we should always be the head, not the tail, because we have so much to offer. We’re so talented and I’m sick and tired of seeing other people taking our culture and making money off it. And that’s why I’ve said, we’re here to take what is ours back, and I want to teach the kids that.
Coconut shells are being sold in websites and they’re not even the Islander, they’re not even from any country that has coconut trees. And I’m like, “What? Come on. Where are our people? Let’s take what is ours.” Even going back to Samoa, we see people opening businesses that are not us. And it’s just like, “Why?” That’s why we want to be the people that will help do that. So, yeah. That’s my biggest thing. Then if you have your mindset right, then you’ll be able to go and do those scary things. But yeah, that’s mine.
I don’t have lashing tips, but I think if I was to give a tip, I think like what Venna said is to work on your mindset first. Because whenever I work with my marketing clients, the way that I market is you market with your why, and you market as yourself. Because the two biggest objections are, people feel like they’re not confident. They’re too scared to push forward. Or they feel like they’re copying other people. But you can’t copy a story that is yours. So, before you can get into the marketing side of your business, you really have to work on your mindset. So mindset, looking at who you are and what your values are for your business, and then getting really clear on who you’re talking to. So, I talk about this heaps on my Instagram, as well as who is your target market, and what problem do you solve? Because if you know the answers to these questions, then you’re going to be able to soar.
The biggest thing for me is that you’re talking to one person, and you’re talking to them direct, and you’re able to solve their problem in all aspects. That is so much better than trying to talk to everyone and just getting a like. I think the biggest thing with social media right now is we have these metrics where it’s likes, follows, comments. But how do we convert these into dollar signs in our bank account? No one cares that we have 10K followers. I don’t care if we have a swipe up option, if you can’t actually convert that into your account, and that’s been something that we’ve been really strong-
Flexing for the gram, that’s what they call it.
Yeah. [laughing] We’ve been really trying to push that out. Don’t worry about what you look like, worry about what your actual business does, what problem does it solve and who are you talking to, so that you’re attracting the right people who will be able to pay these high price points, who will be able to push your brand out to the people who need to see it. You can be the head, and not the tail. I think those are my two tips.
Support during primary and high school
- Peers and friends as a source of support at school
- Support from parents during schooling (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Support from teachers and schools
- Transition from school to post-school education (Part 1 & Part 2)
Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Experiences of university
- University journeys: Interruptions and finding one’s direction
- Diverse pathways towards university
- Experiences of TAFE
- Short courses and on-the-job training
- Early aspirations and current occupation
- Talking about future aspirations with family members
- Networks of family and friends
- Be proactive and seize unexpected opportunities
- Creating opportunities: Volunteering
Experiences of Work
- Benefits of being a Pacific Islander at work
- Engaging with Pacific community members through work (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Navigating family and career
- Future aspirations
Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
- ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
- Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
- Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
- Ashirah – University student
- Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
- Chris – Field Officer (HR)
- Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
- Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
- David – App company CEO
- Elisabeth – Teacher
- Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
- Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
- Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
- Leki – Physiotherapist
- Luisa – Registered Nurse
- Malelega – Legal Assistant
- Marita – Writer
- Rose – Workplace Consultant
- Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
- Semisi – Lawyer
- Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
- Teisa – Medical Doctor
- Tevita – IT Professional
- Thom – Make-up Artist
- Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer