BY CHRIS ALEX
MAKING ends meet is a daily struggle for many underprivileged single mothers. Not many can survive such harsh realities despite hard work and sheer determination.
But in the Solomon Islands, some continue to strive to set a benchmark for themselves in society and also create hope and opportunities for others.
SOLOMON WOMEN recount the struggles of Elizabeth Sally Lovi, 38, a single mother from Aola village, Guadalcanal province, who suffered from the tragic loss of her husband and son but took everything in her stride to survive all the difficulties and make a secure life for herself and others who are employed by her small fabric designing and tailoring business which she formally registered as ‘Elizabeth Design’ at Ranadi in east Honiara.
Elizabeth recently shared her personal ‘journey’ as a single mother, fashion designer, and entrepreneur in an interview with SOLOMON WOMEN.
We hope that her story will bring more motivation to young struggling single mothers in the country.
Elizabeth’s Taste in Fashion
“In my early childhood and teenage, I had a particular interest in various fashion designs and clothing. I usually had a taste of always wanting to wear a gab-style dress, I feel confident, smart, glamorous, and comfortable about it.
Background in Education
“I did my secondary education at Selwyn College in the late 90s, unfortunately, I was expelled at form 4, therefore, I was unable to complete my secondary level of education but later in 2013, I applied for a diploma in Accounting at the Solomon Islands National University (SINU), I was accepted for a two-year program and graduated in 2015.
“In 2019, I attain a scholarship via Australian Pacific Technical College to study Fashion and Designer in Vanuatu for six months.
Faced with Early Teenage Pregnancy
“After I got expelled and fail to complete secondary education at Selwyn College, I went back home. At home, I just felt ashamed of what I have done because I am just too young to get into this kind of problem.
“It was even getting worse after I found out I was pregnant and at this point, I thought to myself it shouldn’t be like this because it was too earlier for me to become a mother, but it was too late, after all, I already made the choice, and the only thing left in my mind is, how I can survive this alone.
“One day I went to my aunt’s home to ask her if she can help to tutor me on how to sew, my aunty had a sewing machine at home and every day her job is tailoring clothes, I learn a lot from her as I began to develop the passion of sewing clothes with the help of aunty who use to sew at home.
“My intention to practice more on how to sew is because I have no other choice but to build more confidence in it, and that was the only opportunity left for me to get prepared for what is coming ahead of me and for sure I was pregnant just after I left Selwyn College.
“Life getting worse as I get along and every day I have to sew to get at least little money that should be worth saving ready for my child to be born.
“A few months later I had my son and without a father to support both of us, I have to do it myself regardless of whatever cost. After all, it was my son that motivated me to carry on no matter what, through him that I began to see hope for a better future. So all I wish was to do something better for him, and that was my priority goal, a better life for my son in the future.
“Alone with my son, I feel the pain and loneliness, sometimes I even cry, I tried to hide those tears somehow the pain won’t leave, I almost give up at this point, but it was my son that gives me comfort, and through him that I have the faith and courage to move on to the next life.
“Since I have no partner to support me in one way or another, it was through my hard work, self-determination, and dedication that I started my small tailoring and fashion designing business.
“It was later in 2013 that I began to look for a job, I later found a friend who told me about the Chinese tailor shop in china town (JANGO Fashion shop), and I managed to scoop the opportunity and worked there for two years.
“After I left the JANGO shop a friend of mine we usually worked together at JANGO told me about SINU application forms were available at that time, it’s unbelievable for a form 3 leaver to be accepted in SINU at a diploma level.
“After I graduated with my diploma in Accounting in 2015, I attain a scholarship via Australian Pacific Technical College to study Fashion and Designing in Fiji for six months. That was in 2019.
Thereafter, I came back home and started my small business with my son. Starting with zero balance is the fore and the most crucial part, it’s very challenging as I have to do things on my own, and as a single mother, I taste the bitterness of not having someone to stand beside me to support me as a husband.
“I started my business in 2019 at home for a few years with the help of Honourable MP Lanelle Tanagada who bought me the first machine to sew. I am so thankful for Honourable Lanelle, since then I started to nurture the business with little income from my accounting and fashion designing knowledge and skills.
“Later in 2020, I managed to secure a room space near the Guadalcanal Electrical Shop at Bishop Brothers Ranadi area carrying the label ‘ELIZABETH DESIGN’ I continued to raise the business with my son, and I employed about five girls to work in the shop.
“It was my dream that came true when I managed to reach this so far, I just felt happy for my son who is the powerful motivator behind the scene, and it was because my son’s dreams come true.
“We are responsible for making a variety of garments designs including dress designs, school uniforms, shirt designs, kids kinds of stuff, skirt designs, etc., and also other tailoring services.
Death of Partner and Son
“I enjoyed what is in hand, and I enjoyed running the business with my 13-year-old son beside me every day until this year (2022) something so strange happen to me, and that cost my life which I will never forget. I just dated a guy whom I trusted to support me and my son with the small business unfortunately he died early this year. It was five months after my boyfriend died and my son also died.
“I just don’t know what to do about bearing the painful thing, it was so painful to lose someone like him (my son), and it just two of us throughout the past twelve years and honestly giving up was the next step.
“He is the most powerful motivator who usually stands beside me all through, he is my comforter and my future so losing him is not that very easy. I used to recall when he was still alive he uses came to me and said, “Mama! I have some bigger plans for this small business.” I lost my thirteen-year-old boy just after we overcome a very tough journey together.
“However, I just pray for comfort and more courage to move on after that great loss.
“We see most people today are hungry for a better life, however, to become better giving up so easily won’t help you, if it won’t happen don’t give up try another round, there is a lot of opportunity out there, and don’t forget to learn to respect and be friendly to your business and everyone around you,” she told SOLOMON WOMEN.
Customer Service Feedback
Over the years, since the establishment of Elizabeth Fashion, its owner and manageress, Elizabeth Sally Lovi has received a great deal of appreciation from local customers in Honiara, they have praised her sense of character and approach to dealing with customers on the daily basis.
A local customer, a Mrs Wate Seni described Elizabeth as an entrepreneur with great qualities and character.
“I admire Elizabeth so much!! As an entrepreneur myself, I can tell her beauty blends well with her inner beauty, she’s a young woman with bigger dreams, especially around what she loves doing.
“One can tell her qualities & her politeness to her customers shines perfectly beautiful.
“I’m her proud customer and yes, I recommend any individual or company to get connected with her, and surely Elizabeth and her team will take care of all your tailoring needs,” Wate Seni said.
Employee Benefits and Comments
As a manageress, Elizabeth has also gained an overwhelming appreciation from her staff based on her simplicity and caring attitude both professionally and personally.
Elizabeth Design’s employee Margret from Shortland Islands told Solomon Women that working under the supervision of Elizabeth Sally Lovi she felt like she was at her home.
“Since I graduated with a certificate in life skills at the Don Bosco Technical Institute and worked here, I felt more at home, more comfortable, more in control, and more supported than I ever have before.
“This employer genuinely cares for my growth, both professionally and personally.
“I love it!” she leaves no one behind,” she said.