In Vanuatu we share an enthusiasm for colourful dresses and matching island style outfits and due to this our handmade clothing market is alive and vibrant. For so many tailors, this demand creates employment and meaningful work that enables them to pay for school fees and support their families. This is entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency at its core. Also importantly, it keeps money flowing within our local economy.
Josephine and Feby are two tailors in the Phoenix Women in Business program being implemented by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) on behalf of the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council. This project is supported by funds from the Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund and technical support from UN Women.
“While I have unique hand painting skills and I can sew, it’s the new business skills that have really transformed what I do” says Feby. Feby continues on to explain what she has learnt about the importance of pricing and has shared concerns that she now knows that many women under-price their sewing work – forgetting to include the fixed costs like business license fee, electricity, transport and so on. This means at the end of the day they are doing a lot of work for little or no return, which is disheartening.
Understanding how to improve on marketing and have a unique selling proposition has also been one of the learnings for Josephine who specialises in tough wearing uniform skirts for women and is known for her quality work. She plans to use her grant funds through the program to purchase specialist upholstery machines so that she can make couch covers and upholster furniture as this is her unique expertise. Understanding that there are many types of tailoring business and finding a niche or unique area of expertise will help to strengthen her business.
As well as focusing on business skills, the program has a strong leadership element. The women are supported to strengthen their existing leadership skills and use these to assist others in their communities. The combination of focusing on business skills and leadership will help to strengthen the women’s financial resilience and through their leadership actions, this passes on to their communities also.
“We want to be able to offer employment and skills and support to others” adds Josephine. This determination keeps the women going and has them supporting each other to reach their business goals. The program includes women from many industry sectors including Construction, Food & Beverage, Cosmetics and more. They recently showcased their products at the weekend Farmers Market at the Port Vila waterfront to a very warm reception.
If you are interested in learning more about how to manage your business costing or financials, in July VCCI will be focusing it’s free training for business license holders on financial skills. You can enrol for these on vcci.vu/events or by calling 27543.
If you would like to contact Josephine or Feby you can do so through their facebook business pages: