Success Stories 2 Nov 2018
The New Zealand Tonga Business Council in partnership with the Auckland Council, hosted the Tonga National Day celebration to not only acknowledge the island nation’s history and heritage but to also recognise Tongan trailblazers in the business community. The event featured two of the 2017 NZTBC Business Award winners: Eithne Curran, Founder of Eithne Curran beauty range and Saia Latu, CEO and Managing Director of TROW Group.
Saia, who scooped up the 2017 ‘Business Executive’ award started TROW Group back in 2015 with a vision to give back and make a difference. His younger self is a stark contrast to the self-made man he is known as today.
Born in Tonga to a family of nine kids, Saia’s family migrated to New Zealand when he was eight years old and recalls the struggles his family endured.
“I left school when I was 14, I jokingly tell people that I left because I was too ‘brainy’, but the reality was, my parents simply couldn’t afford to keep me school.”
As soon as he left school, Saia went straight to work to help take care of his big family.
“My first job was pushing trolleys at the Auckland domestic airport, and I remember when I’d see people coming in and out of the terminals the first thing I’d notice were their shoes. I couldn’t afford shoes back then and had to wear my cousin’s.”
“So when I’m asked what success is, I say success is like owning a brand new pair of shoes.”
While Saia spent his young years working, he would also network and create relationships which would pay off when he got older.
“I fought hard for every opportunity I was given because there are millions out there like me,” he recalls.
“The journey to get to where I am today has been rewarding but it wasn’t easy, working from 14 years old, then spending 15 years in the machinery hire/civil infrastructure industry.”
Using all the knowledge and contacts he made while in the industry, Saia formed TROW Group. The company works to salvage, reuse or recycle material from building sites to be used in schools, community centres and churches.
Today, TROW Group manages million-dollar projects across the Auckland and Waikato region.
Knowing first-hand how windows of opportunities can open doors, Saia ensures that TROW Group is committed to its social responsibility – providing career pathways and mentorship for young Pacific and Māori looking to get into trades.
Saia admits that when he started becoming a businessman, his goals revolved around materialistic things.
“I lost my way a bit, I wanted the Ferrari, Lamborghini, a house in Mission Bay with the white picket fence,” he says.
“But it wasn’t until a series of personal tragedies came my way, it changed how I looked at life.
“Now all I want to do is give back.”
In conjunction with contracts from the Auckland Council, TROW Group have been able to provide furniture and materials to schools, communities and churches in Tonga.
TROW Group have formed an SME in Tonga to assist in the distribution and storage of these items. The ultimate goal is to replicate this model in other Pacific Islands, which Saia is excited about.
When asked what advice he can give to aspiring Pacific business leaders, he says it’s all about focus and your surroundings.
“Never take your eye off the ball and learn to surround yourself with people who share the same vision and drive as you.”
“Create a team that you can trust. Their support and loyalty will help you because ultimately you can’t do everything.
“At the end of the day, how well your business performs is up to how committed you are to it.”