How Molea steers business to new heights
Almost everyone knows where to find Didao Service Station in Honiara.
But for those who don’t, it is at the seaside, west end of the Fishing village, east Honiara.
Whilst genuine people see the business side of it as a service provider, it is not really that easier said than done as the saying goes.
Frankly speaking many of us, members of the public or even those regular customers who swerved into the refueling deport daily to fill up their vehicle tanks with fuel and gasoline have little or no idea of the success story behind this enterpreunuring business.
It all began with a little lad from Funafou, a tiny artificial island in the lagoons of North Malaita, putting his little ideas into practical application which then grew bigger and bigger over span of time.
Grown up in a dominantly, fishing family whose only main source of income is from fishing and selling catches for cash or barter system in exchange for agricultural produce such as root crops and vegetables for food, Mr Toata Molea who was a young man then began to visualize how he would go about putting his thoughts about development into practical reality.
Today, those very imaginative thoughts have flourished and nourished to fruition and reality, evidently witnessed by Dedao fuel service deport in Honiara.
While Dedao deport had expanded its operations magnificently to its present stage as a growing enterprise, Mr Molea is still progressing putting into play additional bits and pieces of new thoughts and ideas to the enterprise.
That exactly is the reason why you see Didao Service Station making development attainments from time to time.
“Wonder, what really takes such business reaching such height? Well simple, determination and power will to succeed and most importantly trust in God,” Moale emphasized.
“Its hard work, believing in yourself, trust, determination you can name a lot more but that one very important one is to be a God fearing business operator,” Toata told the Sunday Star.
From a single premix pump for mariners in the 90’s into a multi-product pump to a variety of business services takes a tough mind to handle.
More especially when it comes to being a typical Solomon Islander owning and running such big businesses.
The nature is just different when the culture of wantokism system is deeply enrooted inside us, Solomon Islanders he pointed out.
Molea defied the odds to prove that concept wrong and had walked the path, taking the business side of his ambitions higher than expected.
Interestingly, he is not someone of a caliber to operate a business but he has got it done not professionally though.
He actually is a qualified Marine Biologist who had worked his field but decided to sway sideways into business.
This was despite his childhood dream, hoping to become an engineer which he also did not achieve.
After graduating with a BA in Marine Science at the University of South Pacific in 1988, he went straight into doing his undergraduate trainee for masters with ICLAM.
At that time, its main headquarters was in West Guadalcanal. He did his masters undergraduate trainee as a researcher under arrangement between the University of South Pacific, Queensland University and University of Philippines researching into giant clams.
Unfortunately tide turns to the uprising ethnic tension and he was forced to leave then, was sent to do his studies at Queensland University, Australia in 90’s.
Before then he had this business setting already on the ground and that was his initial set-up.
“I already had in mind doing something closely related to my fishing family background and I was trying to figure it out.”
He thought he would help his family, seeing the rising need for fresh fish catches in Honiara and dependency coming to live and work.
“I started with consulting my tribes’ people and we entered into communal business operation but it did not turn into what I expected.
“I quit, and I decided to go smaller into family setting and it was effective,” he said.
And so he initiated the idea with his younger brothers and father to this plan and got their approval on their father’s advice to station in Honiara.
With little he earned he paid for fuel, food ration and the whole earnings from fish catch sells were kept aside.
They kept doing this till 1990 when he applied for loan to obtain an outboard motor engine and fiberglass boat, fishing nets and other fishing gears, he said.
“My father and brothers continued on doing fishing whilst I continued studying for my masters until 1992 when I was referred to be a lecturer at the USP campus here in marine science.
“That was for just a year and half.
“Being the only educated one then I was responsible for the money and eventually we managed to raise $21,000 within those five years.”
It was little money but was big money back then and we managed to take the initiative of registering a company name – Didao.
This was done to fulfill the prerequisites of operating businesses and will enable us to access funds from the bank, he said
“August 10th 1995 was the date Didao was officially registered as a business entity and with the $21,000 we pledged for money from then the Development Bank of Solomon Islands.
“Consulted with fuel distributor, Shell Company back then and eventually went into establishment of the first single premix pumps for mariners; opened on 28th April the year after in 1996.
“It went on to opening the Fuel Service Station in 17th December 1997, only with a single lane of pumps for diesel and petrol each.”
Whilst continuing with the family’s dream he was called upon to join the (IMR) International Research of Marine Research as a research assistant still in Solomon Islands.
He joined them in 1994 until the eruption of the ethnic tension. That’s when he went to Australia to complete his studies.
Even then, his absence did not let the business down. He left it with his younger siblings to operate which almost got it to its knees, he said.
In 2004 Molea came back from studies and instead of putting his knowledge practically by way of a career job, he turned it into becoming a businessman.
Something odd but he had no choice then with advice from the management he assigned whilst away that he will be the only capable person to manage the business.
“It was the problem of wantokism; and I would like to stress this clear that it is not bad, but it’s not good for business.
“Not that we ignore our close relatives, it’s only that we have to draw a line between business and traditional obligations to families and relatives,” he said.
Molea admitted it was tough running a business without the right qualification to do so but he had tried to put logical concepts in application which worked out effectively.
He thanked all his partners to the Didao Service Station development and highly acknowledged being a God fearing man is what keeps him going.
“Personally, my biggest hurdle in running a small business like this in Solomon Islands is how to handle affluence without becoming spiritually bankrupted.
“Because the fact of the matter is when one start to see the blessings flowing as God blessed that business, individuals began to forget God and as Mahatma Gandhi once uttered: ‘the moment financial stability is assured, spiritual bankruptcy is also assured’.”
Molea said there is nothing difficult about being committed to goals with set principles and working seriously hard towards achieving better things out of those goals.
“I believe every success by any individual is attributed to that person believing in certain objectives or principles.
“I have one too and is taken from the old black book that states, to FEAR GOD are the beginning of wisdom.”
Till today, Didao Company’s adventuring into other business sectors is looking brighter with assurance from Molea; “bigger things are yet to come”.
He actually plans to turn some business operations close to his profession and his family’s fishing as a source of income in the past.
“It’s a challenge but we are working on it, operating fleet of fishing vessels; If foreigners can do it, why not a local businessman or woman.
“I have nothing more than an ambition with a happy family and passion for religion and football; in whole I love my country patriotically.”
But where and how actually did he breed all these up through his life span since childhood, the challenges from a rural life.
Toata Molea comes from a family of eleven and he was the second.
Since childhood, he used to practice fishing with his dad who was a well-known fisherman back then, very little education yet then.
Time passes and he had his other siblings joining him, but comes a time when the elder ones become a nuisance to the family.
“Because we were such a big family, my father decides to send some of us to other relatives and eventually I was the one chosen to go.
“Life becomes tougher for dad and mum in meeting the needs of us all. And it was in 1972 that I was told to go and stay with one of my uncles, Samson Faisi.
“At the same time, it was appropriate for me to attend primary school at Neuleni. I entered directly in grade 1.
“Noticing am smarter, I was skipped to do class three and again skipping class four into class five but quit then. I quit because I could not cope with the boarding system, getting hungry most times foremost in 1975.”
“I left school for half the year and was forced to go live with an aunty at Tulagi to attend class six, another skip of classes. But those times I left school were some learning curves of my live,” he said.
He said he goes fishing most times and that was when he came and involved in fishing for business in Honiara.
“I sat for exams and it was competitive back then with no community high schools, it was that church run schools including King George and Waimapuru with limited space.
“In 1977 was when I sat for secondary entrance exams and was able to make it to King George Sixth and remained there till 1981.
“By 1982 I got my scholarship to study in Fiji at the University of the South Pacific and eventually graduated in 1988 with BA in Marine Science.”
He said it was really tough those years and I was so lucky getting through very close competitive students.
“It’s hard back then, today it’s easy and I wish to urge students today not to play around with education.
“It’s only once in your life-time that you bypass the education system from primary through secondary and it’s your call to prove yourself.”
Toata Molea is now in his 40’s and happily married to his wife with five children.
By BRADFORD THEONOMI