A head for business

A head for business

posted: 1:10 pm - 19th December 2016

Lueni Jasmine Havea is a 17 year old from Palmerston North who has become her school's first Tongan Head Girl. She is also passionate about business, and hopes one day to head to Harvard University to study.

Lueni is the daughter of Dr Palatasa Havea, a high profile member of the Tongan community. She is active in her church community and mentors Year 1 – 6 Tongan students in literacy. She was recently awarded the honour of becoming her school’s Head Girl at a prize giving ceremony and will take over the role in the new year, leading a team of senior prefects.

The selection process was rigorous and involved written application, interviews with senior school staff as well as giving a presentation on leadership to her year level group. Lueni put a spin on her speech: “I had a friend throw me an apple as I went on stage, and I used it as a metaphor to explain my vision for leadership. Everyone enters this school as a small seed, and it is the responsibility of the school, the teachers and the leaders to nourish those seeds until they are ready to flourish and become successful to bear fruit.”

Showcasing Pacific products

As well as being the school’s first Tongan Head Girl, she is also taking steps to launch a career in business. She formed part of a team attending the Ministry-supported Manawatu Science and Technology Fair earlier this year, scooping the top technology prize. The Fair gives students from across the region the chance to showcase their science and technology skills through high-quality project work.

“The Fair’s theme this year was Pasifika” says Lueni, “So we wanted to focus on a Pacific product that has become really popular, much like Fiji Water has. We also wanted something that was small, easy to make and profitable – and that consisted of resources that are plentiful in the Pacific islands (such as coconut oil), and thus supported sustainable initiatives in the Pacific. So the product we opted for was a coconut oil based lip balm.”

“We went through a process of product development, testing out different formulas and looking at costings and profit margins, before establishing our final product. Each member of the team brought a different skill set to the project: Georgia in chemistry, Steph in design and branding and my strength is in the business and numbers side of things.

Giving back through business

“We were so pleased to win the top technology prize – there was tough competition and winning during a Pasifika themed Fair meant the award was even more special.”

In the future, Lueni hopes to own and manage her own business – a business that gives back. “I don’t want it to be solely about money making – I want to set up something creative that is holistic and supports people.”

She has a message for young Pacific women thinking about starting a career in business: “Don’t get caught up in cultural assumptions or societal expectations. Find what you want to do and do it.”