One thing I love about this new Business Series is that we get to feature our own Pasifika gamechangers in the community – who are women! This month, we have the beautiful Lillian Arp, Founder and CEO of Manaui Media Limited which develops digital products to help to teach and preserve the cultures of Oceania.
Lillian shares top 5 practical tips to starting your own business – she says, “Failure is your friend, your enemy is the pity party”.
Tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m Samoan, born in Samoa but raised in Hawaii, Saipan and New Zealand. I’m the eldest of four, but I look like the youngest. Although both my parents got educated and ‘degree’d right out of high school, I’m still working, slowly, towards my first degree because I’m on that 20-year graduation plan. My area of study (this time) is linguistics and mathematics, which I hope to use in future research on computational linguistics and machine learning. I have a real love for my Samoan culture and have spent a lot of time learning about our history and protocol. Our people have a rich and complicated story, reflected in the Samoa of my own family history. I’m descendant of kings and slaves, natives and colonialists, resistors and oppressors. This passion for culture – and people – is what drives my business. Our mission is the same as Elijah’s of the Old Testament – to ‘turn the heart of the children to their fathers’, to inspire generations to truly value their ancestry and the cultural treasures of their heritage.
What does a typical day look like in your role and any career highlights?
I’m a night owl, so I wake up….ohhhh some time after the sun rises. I start my day with scripture and prayer, then a pathetic attempt to exercise. (Stretches on the bed count.) My business is very much in start-up mode, so I juggle a variety of roles and several little projects. For example, what’s got my brain buzzing today? I have an article to write for our digital publication, I’m taking the prototype of one of our apps for user testing, I’ve got a couple of networking events to prepare for, I’m setting up admin docs so someone on my team can manage an area of our workload, and I’m organizing the promo material for my side hustle. Just the usual.
Career highlights? My team is still excited to have been a part of the Mahuki Innovation Hub in 2017. I love that we still communicate regularly with the invaluable mentors we met through that experience. In April, we (soft) launched our digital publication, Manaui: The People of Oceania, and now we’re letting that grow slowly while we focus on building a language learning tool. We’re getting there!
As a Pasifika woman in business, what are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?
As a Pasifika woman in business, I don’t know that my challenges are any different from other entrepreneurs. If anything, I’m more privileged than many new business owners because I grew up in my family’s business and learned so much from its successes and failures. I also have this ridiculous sense of optimism that can often blind me to what other people consider ‘challenges’.
In what ways does your Pacific heritage influence you in your role, your career and business?
Our business is all about Pacific heritage, so I’m always thinking about how we can be better tellers of our stories, how we can be part of uplifting and promoting Pacific people, how receptive our Pacific audiences will be to our brand, etc. It influences everything.
If there was one quality that our Pasifika people possess that is under-utilized in the business world, what would it be and how can they capitalize on it?
You know how so many of us are superstitious? How just about all of us knows a for reals ghost story? To me that suggests that we’re a people of faith, and faith is a powerful thing. If we put our faith in the right place – i.e. in God and ourselves, not the village demons our older cousins like to scare us with – nothing is beyond our ability to achieve. We need to believe that we have a purpose in this world, that our businesses can make lives better, that what we’re doing is good… and beautiful. That’s when we become unstoppable.
Top 5 tips you would you like to share to our Pasifika people who are considering starting their own business