BY CHRIS ALEX
IN the bustling urban setting of Honiara, Solomon Islands, a young and ambitious entrepreneur is making a scene in the emerging honey industry of the country.
Phyllis Kakaluae, 25, has a passion for honey that has triggered her to embark on a remarkable journey as one of the aspiring female entrepreneurs in the business of creating and distributing honey products in Honiara and Auki, Malaita province.
Through her business venture and product label ‘MalauNiHeu Honey’, she not only seeks personal success in making profits but also aims to uplift and empower the rural beekeepers (honey farmers) in Ulawa Island, Makira Province.
“Our honey products are labeled and distributed under the brand ‘MalauNiheu Honey’ which symbolizes the rocky island of Ulawa’ – a beautiful landscape, where our produce comes from it.
“Likewise, the name “MalauNiHeu Honey” pays homage to the rugged and rocky island of Ulawa, a place that holds great significance for me, my husband and the rural community.
“With each bottle, customers can taste the essence of this unique paradise,” she told SOLOMON WOMEN.
As a Honiara-based entrepreneur, Phyllis recalled that her ambition to venture into the honey business began in early 2023, during a holiday visit to her partner’s village in Ulawa Island. Recognizing the immense potential of the honey produced by beekeepers, she saw an opportunity to support their livelihoods while satisfying the high demand for honey in Honiara.
“Whilst on vacation in Ulawa, we (Phyllis and her husband) were approached by rural beekeepers who wanted to sell their honey, so we managed to purchase a few buckets and started selling them in plastic bottles,” she recalled. “
Produced by bees that pollinate the flowers on Ulawa’s bushes, the resulting dark honey presents a profitable opportunity for Phyllis as an entrepreneur to exploit.
For now, Phyllis actively engages fifteen (15) local honey farmers on Ulawa Island, ensuring a steady supply of honey. By collaborating directly with these farmers, she has indeed strengthened the Ulawa Island rural economy and also promotes sustainable agriculture practices as a means of livelihood. Her business model not only benefits the honey farmers but also offers customers a taste of the unique and authentic honey from Ulawa Island.
Starting with simple plastic bottles, Phyllis quickly adapted to domestic market demands by investing her profits into PET honey bottles and professional labeling. Her products now grace the shelves of shops and cafés throughout Honiara, and even in Auki. As she expands her customer base, she plans to establish her private shop outlet, which aims to provide a dedicated space to showcase her honey products and engage with customers on a deeper level.
“After a few weeks, with the little profit made, I managed to purchase PET honey bottles and started packing and labeling them. We currently distribute honey to shops and café around Honiara and in Auki,” Phyllis said.
While her honey business thrives, Phyllis’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation led her to explore new horizons.
She recently ventured into the production of Honey Sugar Scrubs, a homemade organic face and body product that has garnered praise for its effectiveness.
“Just recently, I also ventured into the business of Honey Sugar Scrub, it is a homemade organic face and body product for both men and women. We have trialed this product for over 3 months and it has worked perfectly,” she said.
After months of trials, Phyllis managed to perfect a formula featuring delightful organic flavors: turmeric, coffee, and the enticing turmeric/coffee combination. Her Honey Sugar Scrubs demonstrates her commitment to utilizing honey in diverse and sustainable ways, while also tapping into the growing organic skincare market in the country.
Phyllis’s dedication to her craft and community has not gone unnoticed. This year, her business was selected to assist the government in providing honey for this year’s Pacific Games 2023 (PG2023) in November in Honiara. This prestigious opportunity not only highlights the quality of her products but also serves as a platform to introduce her honey to regional visitors, potentially opening doors to future export possibilities.
“Our small honey business is also encouraged by the fact that we have been selected to assist the Government to provide honey towards the PG2023 in November this year, it is an opportunity to showcase our product to our visiting regional family,” she highlighted.
Despite her success, Phyllis remains grounded and emphasized the importance of humility in entrepreneurship.
Inspired by the struggles of rural bee keepers she encountered in Ulawa Island, Phyllis channels her ambition into creating opportunities for herself and others. She acknowledges that success is a journey and believes that anyone can achieve it with perseverance and a willingness to start small.
Phyllis attributes a significant portion of her success to her partner, who has been her pillar of support and an invaluable source of marketing knowledge. Together, they have navigated the challenges of starting a business, continually learning and adapting to new experiences.
Looking ahead, Phyllis envisions a brighter future for the honey industry in the Solomon Islands. Her long-term plan involves working closely with local farmers to increase the number of hives, ultimately boosting honey production and empowering farmers to generate greater income for their families.
“The long-term plan is to also work with local farmers to boost their number of hives so that they can produce more honey, and by doing that, local farmers can produce more honey and get more income to support their families,” Phyllis said.
Additionally, Phyllis aims to address the high demand for honey in Honiara by expanding supply and, potentially, exploring export opportunities. She firmly believes that with governmental support, investment in local farmers, and the preservation of the honey industry, the Solomon Islands can thrive in this sector.
Phyllis Kakaluae’s remarkable journey exemplifies the power of passion, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs who may not have formal education or extensive resources. Her journey reminds us that success is attainable through hard work, commitment, and belief in oneself. As she continues to forge ahead, she is proving that a small business can make a big impact on rural society.