Inspiration

Power Pack | Loving Islands founder Litia Kirwin

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Loving Islands is a social enterprise focused on supporting the use of organic farming as a means of sustainable income generation for remote communities within the Pacific. Our mission is being achieved through the manufacture and sale of organic fair trade products (coming soon!), and not-for-profit involvement in organic farming community projects within the Pacific.

Litia Kirwin founded Loving Islands in July 2015 as an organic food blog during the final year of a Masters of Commerce at the University of Sydney. As an Australian I’Taukei Fijian (native), Litia is passionate about raising standards of living across remote Pacific communities whilst maintaining the environmental integrity the islands are known for.

The first line of organic fair trade Loving Islands food products are currently in development and will made available in June 2016. 100% of Loving Islands’ product inputs are sourced from remote island communities to support the use of organic farming as a means of sustainable income generation.

 

What prompted you to start the business?

A number of things, as it definitely didn’t happened overnight!  At the beginning it was mostly dissatisfaction working in corporate, which led to me undertaking a Masters degree, which in-turn allowed me to explore various opportunities. Ultimately though it would be the many experiences of visiting my mother’s remote village in Fiji that drew me towards the creation of a social enterprise to raise the standards of living within these communities.

 

What have been the biggest challenges you faced?

Remote island community development! For the past 12-months it has truly been a labour of love. The lack of basic infrastructure and services, such as roads, energy, and in particular telecommunications, are critical barriers to community empowerment. This is exacerbated by the gap in administration skills required to engage with developed markets.

 

What did you do to overcome those challenges?

Patience would definitely be number one here! A deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and lifestyles also helps. You also need to be able to find your team – identify the individuals within the community that are in a position to lead the projects and find the people that are capable and willing to help of develop the necessary skills and/or resources.

 

What are the 3 key pieces of advice you would give other women?

I still consider my business in its prenatal infancy – so much so that I still often refer to it as ‘my project’. With that in mind I’ll tailor my advice to other women in their 20’s contemplating branching out into a ‘project’ of their own.

 

  • If in doubt when starting out break it down to skills and resources.

When I started out I knew I wanted to do something but didn’t know what so I broke it down to skills and resources – what could I do and what did I have access to? From there I added my interests/passions, connected the dots and either started learning the skills I didn’t have or found/paid someone that did. I found that once you have the skills the resources become much easier to find, make and/or create!

 

  • Know the why (and why not) of your business.

Everyone talks about defining the ‘why’ behind your business and it’s true, you need to know. It also needs to be enough to get you through the challenges. If it’s not, then take what you’ve learnt and move on. The projects I was working on before Loving Islands (yes there were 2!) got to points where I asked myself ‘why’ and the answer wasn’t strong enough to keep me going. So I let them go and moved on. I now deal with situations far more challenging than I ever have before but the ‘why’ always gets me through. A lot of the time it is simply – ‘because there’s nothing else I would rather be doing’ – yes it’s true, that mythical Holy Grail of the working world – I have found what I love doing!

 

  • There will never be ‘enough’ money.

This advice was from my father. Understand that growth and development take time and that there will always be something to spend money on! Do what you can with what you have, prioritize expenses and make your money work as hard as it can for you (E.g. get those frequent flyer points for every dollar spent!).

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