Nalini Baruch, winner of the Pacific Woman in Business category at the 2016 National Pacific Business Trust Awards, looked as surprised as anyone on hearing her name announced at the presentation ceremony. As co-owner of LOT EIGHT, the Fijian-born businesswoman describes the emotion she felt taking the stage in front of her Pacific business peers, as a ‘feeling of homecoming’. Nalini reflects on the positive effect winning a PBT Award has had not just for LOT EIGHT but for herself as a Pacific woman in business.
Being recognised at the October 2016 National Pacific Business Trust Awards as winner of the Pacific Woman in Business category swelled Nalini Baruch’s heart.
Fijian-born Nalini realises that no matter how long she has lived in New Zealand, she is still someone from Fiji.
“I’m still a woman of the Pacific and it’s important to not forget that.”
Having moved to New Zealand to complete her schooling in the early 1980s, Nalini attained a law degree and honours degree in political science and public administration from Victoria University before she worked for various large corporations in Wellington.
However being the independent spirit Nalini is, she was not content.
“I’ve always been most comfortable working in an independent environment. I have accepted that about myself over time,” she recalls.
In 1997, Nalini and her husband purchased a piece of land in a development called Martinborough Olive Grove. What started initially as a weekend hobby soon became their entire lives.
“Our plan was always to grow something that one day would develop as an industry, and something that we would be passionate about,” she says.
That something was olives, which developed into LOT EIGHT.
“LOT EIGHT has grown significantly since 2002; and now has its own commercial building, office, packing room and production room.”
In 2017 LOT EIGHT’S cold-pressed Yuzu Olive Oil was a finalist at the 2017 Outstanding New Zealand Producer Awards. This Christmas, it was credited with almost an entire page in the famed Cuisine Magazine, a nod to the excellent quality of its products.
With a grove more than 20 years old, and a brand only three years younger, Nalini says she’s never been more proud than when she accepted her Pacific Woman in Business Award in October 2016.
“I was so surprised,” she says. “I didn’t expect to win since all the nominees in the category were truly significant women in their own businesses.”
“It was also the first time that we had been nominated; and so to be nominated in itself was a great thing.
“I thought even if I didn’t win, that’s still wonderful.”
Nalini says it was heart-warming to be acknowledged by the Pacific business community.
“It’s been quite a nod to me, as someone who’s been taken seriously by the Pacific business community. In a crowded business community, I was spotted.”
“I know to the extent this has helped my business in the last two years, firstly, by creating an awareness we didn’t have at a national level.”
In their region, LOT EIGHT is the oldest commercial brand of olive oil that is still owned and operated by the original owners.
“A lot of people have come and gone, but we’re still here, still committed, still optimistic.”
Proud of her award, she includes a mention of it everywhere, including her email signature, in the company letterhead and even in text signoffs.
“It’s a reminder that I won this award and anyone looking at it sees me as somebody who is recognised by her own community, meaning ‘she’s got Mana – her business is a successful business and her contributions are tangible’.”
Nalini has always lived by her conviction that you should never be held back because of where you originated. This applies to her business, too.
“Where you start life doesn’t always determine where you will finish your journey,” she adds.
She was able to pass the saying on to other graduating students of Massey University, where she was invited to speak as a result of her award.
“One should never be held back just because one comes from the Pacific community and thinks there are limitations to how far they can go.” she advises.
“My words to graduates that day were to ‘Never let where you originated determine who you will one day become’.”
“Life is a journey, so you go on the best and biggest journey you can. There is a mind-set that still exists which will not see the full potential of people of the Pacific. That combined with our own lack of self-belief and self-esteem, will only leave our community shackled. It has always been my desire to break this mould, to help free our thinking and to help us move forward.”
Since working with PBT, LOT EIGHT has been put through its DNA programme, which Nalini and her husband greatly appreciate.
“It helped us to evaluate our business and our direction, giving us the opportunity to see where we should be heading next, what sort of growth to expect and where it will come from.
“The Trust’s programme itself is good and will keep on giving for a while. Its arrival was timely given that we were about to experience a significant growth in our production as a result of our trees reaching their first full commercial fruiting.”
And it all started with a National Pacific Business Trust Award nomination.
As we look to the 2018 National Pacific Business Trust Awards, there will be more high calibre nominees such as LOT EIGHT, with plenty to gain from a nomination, even more so with a win and the recognition that ensures.
“Long may the National Pacific Business Trust Awards continue, may their worth be measured by the success stories they have celebrated and the people they have honoured,” says Nalini.
“If I feel that way, I’m sure other people are bound to feel the same way as well.”