The achievements of women in business were celebrated at the inaugural Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA) awards dinner on Saturday night.
Naomi Tozaka of Nautilus Books and Gifts at the NPF Plaza in Honiara was declared the winner of the major award – Woman in Business for the formal economy.
“For almost 20 years, Naomi has run one of Honiara’s premiere retail outlets that showcases the tremendous art and craft produced across Solomon Islands,” acting Australian Deputy Head of Mission, and one the judges, Dr Jasmine Cernovs said.
“We are all aware of the talent of Solomon Islands’ carvers, artists and craftspeople and with Naomi’s business skills their products are on display to a larger market,” Dr Cernovs said.
“The judges were impressed by Naomi’s determination to stock high quality products and to develop a business model that supports producers, many of whom are from remote parts of the country,” Dr Cernovs said.
Naomi said that selling arts and crafts requires a different business model to other forms of retail.
“Art and crafts targets a different market to normal retail, therefore it is not an easy business to run. Some days I do well in terms of having customers and other days I do not have customers at all – however that does not discourage me,” Ms Tozaka said.
“Most of my customers are tourists. The products I sell have their own stories. I have to convince my customers what they are before they purchase them,” she said.
As an active member of SIWIBA for seven years, Ms Tozaka credits her win to learning from other successful women in business and lots of hard work.
“Naomi’s achievements serve as an inspiration to all Solomon Islands women that you can achieve your business dreams with dedication, commitment and passion,” Dr Cernovs said.
The Australian Government was a major sponsor of the event, continuing its long-standing partnership with SIWIBA.
“Our partnership includes support for the SIWIBA Business Development Centre, where women can access learning materials, resources and training to assist set up new businesses and improve management of existing businesses,” Dr Cernovs said.
“While our support for the SIWIBA Mere’s Markets give women in the informal sector an opportunity to create their own small business.”.
“Investing in women in business is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. When women actively participate in the economy, everyone prospers,” Dr Cernovs said.
A highlight of Ms Tozaka’s business career was attending the 2016 Artisan Resources Tradeshow in New York, USA where she successfully secured new markets for Solomon Islands handicraft products.
“In my recent trip to New York, I was able to display some of our local artefacts especially local necklaces and I sold them quite quickly. People love them,” she said.