Janet Lotawa created Rise Beyond the Reef to connect women and rural communities to sustainable income and greater resilience.
Catering to the growing demand for Pacific-made, artisan home and fashion products, the co-founder and Executive Director leverages the entire e-commerce ecosystem to reach markets throughout Fiji and beyond its borders.
The organization started exporting in 2017, four years after its founding. Today, Janet and her husband employ 20 people and support 500 artisans.
With the help of tools Shopify, DHL Export, paid Facebook and Instagram ads, and many other digital tools, Rise Beyond the Reef reaches customers in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
Although digital trade allows Janet to engage with a globe full of potential customers, she has also experienced challenges moving goods from rural Fiji to international markets. For Rise Beyond the Reef, modernizing the export processes and postal infrastructure is an important priority.
“The process to ship things outside of Fiji is a dinosaur,” Janet emphasized. “There is a lot of basic stuff that is outdated and just needs to be improved.”
Building the infrastructure to manage modernization efforts such as digital trade facilitation and simplifying procedures could help small businesses like Rise Beyond the Reef save costs and better navigate and benefit from digital trade.
“The biggest hindrance to exports is the payments. Most Pacific businesses have no way to accept payments,” Janet shared. “We need to be able to access these technologies.”
Many small businesses see access to technologies of their choice as a crucial part of their export journey. By ensuring technology choice, entrepreneurs can leverage digital tools best suited to their needs.
Janet is optimistic about Fiji’s future in digital trade. “The Pacific is super conveniently located. It is a huge opportunity for investments and business,” she explained. “But we need access to the same e-commerce platforms that folks in the global north have.”
“The economy in Fiji is pegged to the United States. . . We’d like to see rules that make it easier to do business there.”