Jackson falls back on tapa business

Vahilele Tapa Owner Vilisi Jackson designs a tapa for a client in Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

When Vilisi Jackson was laid off from Fiji Airways a year ago, she did not give up.

She believed this was an opportunity God had provided for her to work on a small family business she had started with her husband, Charlie, five years ago.

Today, the former national carrier flight attendant is the sole proprietor of Vahilele Tapa, a Tapa Printing business located in Lautoka.

“Losing my career was never easy but it made me realise that there was more to just being a cabin crew,” the soft spoken Vatulele woman said.

“It has always been a dream to market the world-class unique tapa done by the women of my village online.

“I am blessed to have been able to relish this dream not just to market but to be printing tapa orders myself.”

Her business, Vahilele Tapa, was registered in 2016 but did not receive much focus because of her tiring work and extensive travels.

She said her husband, also a former cabin crew member, worked out ways to sustain the business.

When COVID-19 hit last year, Ms Jackson shifted her focus to her tapa printing business.

“I am always thankful that this business has allowed me to earn for my family and assist my loved ones on Vatulele as well.

“We work together in ensuring the best product is produced for clients who order locally and from abroad.

“That is always my goal, to produce the best Vatulele tapa for my clients.”

The global pandemic has taken its toll on many Fijians and those on the maritime islands have also fallen victims to it.

To ensure all her tapa products are produced on time, Ms Jackson travels to Korolevu, Sigatoka every week where she drops off cartons of groceries for fellow villagers in exchange for raw tapa materials.

She said she was glad to have been able to continue assisting family members who had been worst-hit by the pandemic because of the closure of the tourism industry.

“You see I am not the only one gaining from my business.

“I have also been doing barter system with loved ones in Vatulele by providing them with groceries and food in exchange for raw tapa materials I need for an order.

“I’m glad this has happened and I will continue to support fellow villagers who have been hit hard by the pandemic.”

The mother-of-two said she grew up around tapa making and adjusting to the business was not a problem at all.

The only setback right now was getting raw materials as travel restrictions continue to hinder her ability to access these raw materials easily.

Last week she completed working on a 60 ft tapa order from a Tongan national abroad.

She said most of her clients were Fijians and Pacific islanders overseas.

“So when I tell them my price, they know exactly that it covers labour costs and everything needed for that order.

“I have seen a drop in local orders when the second wave hit but I am thankful that overseas orders continue to come through.”

Ms Jackson said the business required a lot of commitment, however, she was thankful she was able to earn for her family and provide for her loved ones on Vatulele during this health crisis.

She added social media continued to play a critical role in the growth of her business.

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