USP Alumni Network

Name: Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni
County: Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji
Programme: Master of Business Administration (1996)

Why did you choose your field of study? I was trained as a Nursing Administration in NZ and Australia. When I returned to Fiji after 8 years of study, the Nursing Union in Fiji would not allow me to work in the Public Service in Fiji as I would deny a position from one locally trained, even though my qualifications were higher. So as a Nursing Administrator I looked for other employment opportunities, when in 1983 I established the first Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) in Fiji. The rest is history. Today we have 28 HBK Outlets.
Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
I was 56 years old when I was accepted to the USP MBA program. Before this I had started USP management studies and applied for cross credits from my Nursing Administration units from Queensland Technical College. At that time, I was asked by the USP Administration to apply for the MBA program. I jumped at the idea of expanding my management skills.
Meeting professorial and doctorate staff was good for me theoretically and practically. I found the study to cram was not easy as we had 15 or was it 16 subjects to master in 15months. I found the style of learning in groups and presenting in groups was helpful to “catch up speed” and to think on your feet. Coming from a practical orientated profession like Nursing, where I learn by feeling, doing, seeing and thinking all in one like a “wave”. I applied this within a holistic framework and soon caught up with the new learning by theory and statistics by linking the dots and summarizing to make sense of the world around me.
It was mandatory for all students to do an extra subject when I selected development studies. This I found very interesting under Dr. Crosby Walsh. He was very helpful and used the “buddy system” to help me bridge any gaps from Diploma, baccalaureate to Masters level.
In fact the friendships I made during those years of study, I still hold very dear to this day. I found the Professorial staff in the MBA and Development Studies very helpful and encouraging. I could not have asked for more.  In summary, to reflect in a few words, I am glad I graduated with an MBA. This level only motivated me to learn more about human motivation & behavior. In 2003, I went onto to apply to and was accepted by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) as a foreign distant learning student. I graduated in April 2009 with a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA).  
Greatest achievement[s] as a student?
1. As a Manager, mastering learning to see the bigger picture from the problem to the issues and back again, connecting the dots always in order to sustains our humanity. To see what works, what does not and why?? The impact has lead to my interest in Entrepreneurship, Indigenous rights and Diversity of markets.
2. Working well with younger students of my children’s age and I used their strengths to help me manage my weak areas of study.  
Career Highlights since Graduation?
1. I continued to succeed at setting up more new HBKs as Franchises in Fiji and now the Pacific.
2. ANZ Business Woman of the Year – 1983.
3. BP Award for exporting Franchising Service - 1986
4. The National Millennium Committee and the University of the South Pacific Commemorative Volume on contribution in shaping our Nation –2001.
5. WestPac Business Woman of the Year – 2005.   
6. I was elected as the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewe ni Vanua (SDL) Member of Parliament for Lami Open Constituency and could have contributed more at that level, to improve Indigenous and Diverse groups Entrepreneurship in small business.  
7. WestPac/WIB Female Employer of Choice – 2015.
Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you?
1.My Christian mother’s values. She is my role model to work hard, share the workload, play fair, always support “right over wrong and good over evil”, empower and always help those in need.
2. My mother was very innovative, creative, enterprising and loved to sing lullabies. I can still hear her singing those to this day. Bless her loving soul.  
How do you think USP helped you in your career? To answer the questions in my mind why, as a Fijian woman I succeeded in business, which is culturally not a strong point in my Indigenous group. That education is key to economic growth, social development, democratic freedom and political peace.
Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges? In the last 2006 coup I was a Member of Parliament led by PM Laisenia Qarase of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewe-ni-vanua, Multi Party Cabinet. I was a backbencher but could have done more at that level to promote entrepreneurial small business and facilitate more people to help themselves and not depend on the State for their education, health, housing, sports, spiritual and aspiration needs.
So if I was not able to bring about desirable changes at Parliamentary level I implemented that objective at a personal level and  set up more HBK shops that at least employed more people.
I believe there is too much dependency on then State here in Fiji. The State should only be involved in infrastructure and basic legislation for public safety and good.
There is too much regulation in Fiji especially in the Bread Industry with price control. This leads to a dictatorial band of government officers who use the “stick rather than the carrot” and negatively impact “freedom and innovation” the drivers of more small business to grow the GDP.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)? Promoting HBK Franchises in Fiji and the Pacific region. In a Franchise relationship the Franchisee owns the business but leases the Franchisors intellectual and legal properties. The model works as both the Franchisee and the Franchisor equally benefit while taking calculated risks. HBK is strategically designed to do this, as we are market driven.  
HBK is also positioned to float shares in the Public Stock Exchange early next year for Initial Public Offering (IPO). This is to encourage the Provinces into the private sector.
What advice would you give to current and future students of USP? Enjoy your study. Find out what you are passionate about for your truth and centre in that discovery. Always do what you believe is right. Be yourself even when others disagree with your principles. Do no harm to anyone. Make friends and enjoy the simple things in life.
Have some interests. For me these are reading, writing, watching a family movie, listening to my favorite singers, exercise by walking and enjoying my favorite food of fruit and vegetables and sometimes white meat.
Today I still love to potter in the kitchen and make a meal that is nutritionally balanced, looks yummy and tastes yummy.
Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
1. I believe there is a higher purpose for life where man needs, Spiritual Intelligence as “humans are wired to do good over evil and right over wrong” and to love they God and thy neighbor”. But this foundation is being eroded with the global move away from it and towards secularism or separating the Church from the State. You can still separate the Church from the State without removing that centre in you.
2. Always be truthful and kind to yourself first before you can do that to others. Great relationships will follow based on trust. This is earned not bought.
3.  Free and empower people to grow.
Any other information you would like to share.
As I come from the Lau group of Islands I am trying to work out a business model for the maritime rural areas that will create employment, enterprise and profit. I established and HBK shop in Lomaloma, Vanuabalavu, where I come from in 1983. This was trialed out with the Head Baker owning it but did not work. I revived this again in 2010 but had to close it down early this year because price control, of bread and all related products sold by HBK, killed the business. Any profit made was consumed by shipping and transport in Lomaloma. Transport of bakery supplies in Lomaloma from the wharf to our HBK shop, which is about 100 meters away, cost $100:00.
The norm for a business is to buy own transport but with no profit this is not possible. My question is why this transportation monopoly is not under price-control beats me??
I have not given up. This is work-in-progress for the rural maritime business model.
Other
For spiritual intelligence, these are my favorite Bible verses.
Mathew: 25: 14-30. This is about Talents and Accountability.
Luke: 16:10. This is about being Faithful in small things, rewards will follow in big things and integrity meets its match in money matters.
Luke: 19:17. This is about Talents to account for what we do with God’s gifts to us as individuals.


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