Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

South Auckland mother realises dream of becoming a business owner

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Reporter/Videographer

For Noeleen Tuala, seeing Polynesian business owners growing up was a rarity. With little to compare herself to, the South Auckland mother taught herself the ropes of creating her own business and launched her now growing business, PELE.

PELE is an online store selling Polynesian designed playmats and minkys (blankets) for Poly babies. It was birthed out of a need to provide high quality baby products that embrace Noeleen’s Tongan and Samoan cultures. 

“A few years ago, I couldn’t find any good quality Poly designed blankets or playmats for my grandkids and that was the moment when I knew, this was it,” Noeleen says.

“This is what I had been waiting for, a business which would represent the Polynesians, cater to our babies and was personal to me.”

Noeleen with her aiga. Photo: Provided.

In the beginning of her journey, Noeleen juggled being a mother of 5, a grandmother to 4, a wife, a full time executive assistant, and an entrepreneur on the side.

She describes her early days as ‘exhausting!’

“There were many tears and frustrations and I wanted to give up because I couldn’t see how I could manage it all but my belief in myself and my product kept me pushing,” she says.

“I would work at my 9-5 job, come home and be present with my family then once my youngest was asleep, I would work on PELE ’till early hours of the morning.” 

With long days and sleepless nights being the new norm for Noeleen, her efforts are being compensated by the happiness and satisfaction of her customers with her products.

“Seeing these beautiful pele’s (loved ones) embracing their culture on something I have created is priceless and makes it all worthwhile,” she says.

“I can sit here today and proudly say that all our feedback has been amazing with people mentioning quality in roughly 95% of feedback received.”

 A good quality playmat in Noeleen’s eyes is one that’s thick and supportive for our Poly babies. Her PELE playmats are quilted which allows extra cushioning and they’re also large in size so our babies can continue using it as they grow.   

The PELE minky’s are super soft and they come in a range of colours such as deep caramels, light hibiscus pinks and the customer favourite – black. The minkys are also generous in size and are not limited for use for just newborns.

Another PELE product that’s been described as a game changer for parents are the capsule covers. Launched earlier this month, the capsule covers are already receiving admiration from customers. 

Combining her Tongan Samoan heritage , “with a sprinkle of Irish in the mix”, Noeleen had to incorporate both cultural designs onto her products. 

Her Damian Collection is made up of Samoan designs, and her Harmony Collection is made up of Tongan designs. Both collections are named after streets that hold significance to Noeleen and her husband.

The individual products have been named after Noeleen’s grandkids, Aaliyah, Chance, Ivy and Ryda, and her youngest son Bass. She also added her favourite bible verse Psalm 127:3 onto the labels which reads, ‘Children are a gift from God, they are his reward’.

With no business qualification under her name, Noeleen wants to encourage others to ‘take a leap of faith’.

“We have so many talented Polynesians in our community who have great business ideas. Start writing down what you need to kick start your business and find someone (if needed) who can help produce or offer bulk materials to get you going,” she says.

“In addition to this, reach out to other small businesses for advice and feel free to reach out to me. I am more than happy to help.”

Noeleen is currently still working fulltime as an executive assistant and is operating PELE from the comforts of her home in South Auckland. To keep in touch with more updates on PELE and future drops, visit here.

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