Business starting to bloom after Grow Pacific

For nearly 20 years, Liz Morris has been providing people with exotic, beautiful blooms from her ornamental plant nursery Tifui Nursery, just out of Nadi in Fiji.

Liz’s business Aro Enterprises Ltd (she trades under Tifui Nursery) specialises in growing quality orchid and anthurium cutflowers, and the importing and sale of other unique ornamental plant varieties.

A small team of seven, including Liz and her husband Lori (pictured), grow the beautiful blooms in four greenhouses located on five acres of land, and the plants and flowers are then sold at the gate – mainly to florists, wedding planners and keen gardeners.

In November 2015, Liz was one of 20 participants who took part in the Grow Pacific online marketing workshop in Natadola Bay, Fiji, led by Growth HQ’s James Kemp and facilitated by Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) and Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO).

Pacific businesses need unique resources and skills to compete in a world where the pace of change and innovation is accelerating.

The Grow Pacific workshops are designed to provide online training, services and support to Pacific Island businesses and organisations, helping them to sell their products, services and stories to the world.

James has over a decade of digital experience in the United Kingdom, United States of America and New Zealand.

He has worked with NZ’s largest ecommerce sites, media companies, creatives, local businesses and start-ups to drive revenue and digital innovation and his team specialises in helping people turn ideas and opportunities into a digital and commercial reality.

At the Grow Pacific workshop in Fiji, participants learnt the value of social media, an up-to-date website, and online marketing strategies and how these things could help their business grow, to attract a wider and potentially global market.

Tifui Nursery has undergone a lot of changes since the Grow Pacific workshop last year, from designing a new marketing strategy to introducing a new product lines; the business is more visible online through a second Facebook page, as well as online advertising.

Sales have increased approximately 10-20 percent during the past 12 months, Liz says.

“Since the workshop I have proceeded with my plans to diversify my business from purely a live plant nursery into garden decor products,” Liz says.

“I have set up a second Facebook page Tifui Garden Décor.

“I engaged Greenhouse Studio (another Grow Pacific participants) to set it up and manage it.

“I think we are both in a learning curve with regards to online retail marketing and selling in Fiji – it is not easy.”

For the owner of Tifui Nursery, Grow Pacific has been an effective tool for learning more about e-commerce.

The workshop came hot on the heels of an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Jakarta, she explains.

“It has given me a far greater insight into the importance of social media and having on line selling/e-commerce presence.”

Liz ensures she takes full advantage of the services Grow Pacific offers, such as a group Facebook page and online advice.

“I take note of the various Facebook posts, particularly where the information is relevant to me and my business.

“I have also been in contact with James on many occasions … should I proceed to selling products online I will need to seek the right advice, and I hope James is available for that.”

Liz admits she still has a long way to go when it comes to marketing her business online.

Some of her challenges include converting Facebook “likes” into sales; encouraging customers to make enquiries which proceed to a sale; and general marketing issues – such as how often should you follow up on an enquiry.

“Ceramic pots are probably not the best first product to try online selling, however the marketing of the product via social media has been vital to get the message out, and I am taking things one step at a time.”

Before she establishes a website to conduct online sales, Liz feels she needs to understand more about the marketing/converting to sale process and says a more advanced Grow Pacific workshop would be very helpful.

Over 100 SMEs have taken part in Grow Pacific training since it started 2015 – workshops have been staged in Auckland, Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands with more training in the pipeline for other Pacific islands.

The project has evolved to include a pilot online workshop in the region.

Twelve women involved in business from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were given the opportunity to complete 10-weeks of e-commerce training in online classes, conducted by James.

This particular training is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is the first type of training to be delivered across a number of countries in Pacific without anyone having to hop on a plane to attend it.

It has been made possible by IT connectivity and it will be the future mode on how training and capacity building will take place in the Pacific.

Grow Pacific has started the process of closing the digital divide between the Pacific and the rest of the world.

It is helping Pacific businesses share their story and their unique products with global audiences.

PCF and its partners are hopeful Grow Pacific will continue to grow, so more Pacific nations have access to training either online, or via workshops.