When Tina Mark Kakini came back to Papua New Guinea from earning a Certificate IV in Entrepreneurship at Sunshine Coast University through the Australia Awards Fellowship Program, she gave herself a mission, to share what she learned with other women. As a female business owner, she faced struggles in creating a sustainable enterprise, and she will tell you, “You want to know the key to my success? Take note of the struggle. Learn from it will make you stronger.”
The message that it is not easy to start and operate a business is one she imparts through her female empowerment program. From a bolt of inspiration in March 2015, she has touched the lives of more than 150 women, “A thought flashed in my head with these exact words, ‘Tina are you able to multiply K20.’” With those words, she knew what she had to do. The concept is simple but carries a huge impact, “I met with ten women here in Alotau and gave each of woman K20. I told them, take this K20 multiply it and come back in two weeks to tell me how you did it.”
She holds bi-weekly meetings with the women, giving them advice on how to surmount the challenges they encounter. Once a woman achieves success over several months, Tina tasks her with a new task. “Pass the same K20 to another woman with your story and tell her if I made it you can make it, rise up,” she recalls while speaking to the Vice President of the PNG Australia Alumni Association, of which she is a member. “
The owner of Pearl Clothing in Alotau, Tina, is open about how hard she struggled to reach sustainability. “I call this place my gravel experience,” she says while pointing to an open lot next to a tire repair shop. “I had my shop here. It was out in the open. I would only make K5 or K20 a day. We would spread the second-hand bale bags on the gravel and put the mattress on to sleep. When we experience heavy rains at night and the place was flooding I put my sons on the clothes bales to sleep.” Throughout these difficult times, when she was not able to make regular payments on her loan, she would go to the bank every day. She asked if she could give them some of the money she made and keep a bit for her workers and children.
Loyalty and determination paid off when the Women’s Empower Scheme loan officer told her about the Australia Awards Fellowship. She completed the application process. Leaving her business in the hands of her two faithful employees, Joyce Doilegu, a chronic asthmatic and Movin Topio, a deaf and mute security guard she embarked for Australia. Ever diligent, they kept Pearl Clothing running during Tina’s studies. “I learned about customer retention, adding value, financial management and how to do a SWOT analysis,” she recounts of her studies. Taking the lessons from the classroom to implementation, Tina moved into her new premises in August. She built the structure from the ground up and even made space on the land for her protégées some of whom are third generation 20 Kina Multiplication Challenge participants.