Success Stories 29 May 2020
Tuala Tagaloa Tusani is the current chairman of NZ Samoa Trade and Investment Commission. Although Tuala's day-to-day business includes running a company that imports and exports frozen produce in the Pacific region, Tuala says his true purpose is serving his family and the community. We spoke to Tuala for our Samoan Language Week special who opened up our Q and A with his favourite Samoan proverb that he strives to live by: “E lelei le va’a e gau o folau nai loo le va’a e pala i lalo o le fau.” "Better the canoe that breaks while sailing than the canoe rotting under the fau tree."
Talofa Tuala, thank you for your time. How have you been coping with the pandemic and lockdown?
Like most people, I’ve been utilising digital technology to conduct my business and work but also the lockdown has allowed me to be able to spend more time with family because usually I’m always on the road or on the plane, so this has been a good break for a lot of us who are in the business sector or in any sector really.
As we celebrate Samoan Language this week and Samoan Independence Day the following week, why do you think it is important for all Samoans to maintain their language and culture?
First thing that’s key is identity, because knowing your culture, understanding your history and knowing where you’re from gives you a really good purpose and I think the better you know yourself, then you will understand and serve your purpose more. Knowing your culture makes you a good citizen, a great citizen.
In terms of language, for us Samoans it is more than just the spoken word, it’s a way for us to connect, it’s how we show respect to our ancestors or elders. Within our language we have a system of how we address our elders, our children and families. There’s also the behaviour that comes with the language and it all comes down to the idea of fa’aaloalo (respect).
In your opinion, what makes the Samoan culture unique?
I think what makes us unique is our family-oriented ways and what I mean by that is our family always comes first before the individual, and I guess that’s how we maintained our culture. That’s why family names are so important, we don’t have to explain where we’re from, once you say your family name it gives an indication of our village and district. That’s why names mean a lot to us. As well as our unwavering Christian values and faith.
And as mentioned before, in Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) fa’aaloalo (respect) is second to none.
Turning to your role as the Chair of NZSTIC, what exciting developments or projects can we expect from the council?
I’d like to touch on three things: One, COVID-19 has really shone a light on how important it is to utilise digital technology to communicate and sell our products via social media. So that’s one development that we want to explore more this year.
The second thing, I’m excited to announce that there’s going to be a Samoan warehouse retail store opening in Otahuhu very shortly, an initiative of the Samoan government that we are proud to support.
The third thing is that we are working on creating better pathways for investors who want to come into Samoa and do business and connecting them with the government. Overall, that’s where NZSTIC’s current focus is at.
For a tiny island Samoa has so many wonderful and talented people that gets worldwide recognition, you name any country and you’ll find at least one Samoan that’s doing something amazing there.
While COVID-19 has put a lot of us in lockdown, social media has shown us that there are Samoans doing well out there and I encourage everyone to take hope that regardless where we are in the world, we punch well above our weight.
That’s something that motivates me, and I hope that it’s something that motivates others.
What can we do to support Samoan businesses during this time?
I encourage everyone to buy Samoan goods, wherever they are in the world, but here in New Zealand we have a lot of Samoan products especially our taro, breadfruit and other food. We also have a lot of services run by Samoans, so if you know of any Samoans that has a business or service out there, I encourage you to support them.
Second thing is please refer your friends to go visit or check out Samoan businesses especially if they’ve never come across these businesses before.
Samoans make up almost 50% of Pacific peoples in New Zealand, that’s a huge buying power if you think about it. Imagine that buying power purchasing our Samoan goods! It’ll make a huge difference.
Not many people know this but other than being a businessman, you are an advocate for mental-health, and you are always out and about in the community – both here in New Zealand and in Samoa. Where does your love to serve the community stem from?
To cut the long story short, I grew up in a family in Samoa where we had no power or running water, but I was surrounded by love and it’s something I always think about. When I came to New Zealand, I kind of drifted away from that and ended up getting expelled from school, I survived a suicide attempt and ended up in a wheelchair for three months. I also got deported as I was an overstayer but even though I had these experiences what matters is that I got through them and survived.
I got back into school and getting to where I’m at today is something I’ll always cherish.
At the same time, I want to use my second chance to help others because I know what it feels like to have nothing and I know what it feels like to grow up with little. If I can help, I’ll give it all that I got.
That’s why I’m always back and forth to Samoa and New Zealand, giving back is my true purpose!
I strive to give back to the community as it’s just my way of saying thank you to my family who helped me a lot.