BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
TO become successful as an entrepreneur you must believe in yourself, build trustworthiness with yourself, your people, and your customers, never give up despite the hardship, and always try new ways and means of making money in business and life.
This was medical entrepreneur Dr. Donna Marie Wate when interviewed by SOLOMON WOMEN at last year’s two-day held Pacific Feminist Forum at the Holy Cross Hall in Honiara from 5 to 6 December 2022.
Dr. Donna is the founder and managing director and practicing medical general practitioner at Mere Care Company Limited, a small local business enterprise trading as Mere Care since 2019 in Honiara.
In 2007, she worked as a registered medical general practitioner with the Medical Dental Board of Solomon Islands 2007. After all, she has been a public servant working with the Ministry of Health and Medical services mostly in the Accident and Emergency Department of the National Referral Hospital in Honiara before starting her entrepreneurship journey in 2014.
Dr. Donna described an entrepreneur as someone who takes the plunge into starting a business knowingly or not knowing about the risks, changes, and challenges that might come ahead.
She says she had always been a great believer in herself with bigger dreams and visions to start up her medical business initiative.
“It is not for everyone and certainly not for the faint-hearted. It requires the capacity and skills such as strength, courage, positive thinking, risk-taking, and can do attitude. More the financial and management skills which are crucial,’’ she told SOLOMON WOMEN.
Dr. Donna says that she was also inspired and mentored by a close member of her family who is also a successful business entrepreneur in the country, including other women entrepreneurs and business friends from the Pacific region.
“Acquiring the business knowledge and skills to start a business might not be that easy but as an individual, you can build these skills and capacities as you grow over time,” she said.
When ask how her priorities changed from when she started the medical business, Dr. Donna said they have changed from focusing on herself as the service provider to empowering others to take some responsibilities and leadership.
“Also be more positive, effective, and aligned yourself with partnerships both local and global. Moreover focusing on self-development in aspects of business progress. It is all a work in progress,’’ she said.
Amongst the many challenges she has to overcome at the beginning of her journey are taking on motherhood responsibilities, close relationship challenges, health and well-being of her nuclear and extended family.
“There are a lot of challenges but the top three for me are taking on motherhood responsibilities, close relationship challenges, and health and wellbeing of my nuclear and extended family,’’ Dr. Donna said.
For her what is unique about her business is the fact that it is a local or indigenous women-led social enterprise business focusing on local Women’s health and wellbeing.
“It has operated as a stand-alone General Practice office, mobile community clinic, preventative education, online empowerment, and partnership with other leading women entrepreneurs,’’ she said.
Her advice to someone who is trying to become an entrepreneur is to put God first, start small, where you are with your strengths, and overcome all the weaknesses as you develop.
She said it is also important for anyone who dreams of becoming an entrepreneur to develop an important relationship with people including mentors and coaches who have your best interest at heart.
Dr. Donna recounted that the early years when she initially started her medical business she has gained a lot of financial support from her family and also close business partners through a grant she was awarded for being the runner-up in her Pacific Accelerator Program in 2019.
Her initial marketing strategies used in her early days in business was mostly through word by mouth and online marketing initiatives.
As an entrepreneur, what she enjoyed the most is to be creative, innovative, empowered, and self-sufficient.
“Business success means different things for different people. In terms of business financial success, it is still a work in progress for Mere Care. Success is something we achieve every day and we did some good work that we are proud of in the health and social impact of our people,’’ she said.
The Mere Care Company Limited founder and her partners are now working on restarting some of their mobile operations in Honiara after difficult years faced with the impact of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, she also working on an ongoing partnership project, which focuses on water, hygiene, and women’s economic empowerment.