Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Supporting local business leading up to the festive season

Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director | Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

With Christmas around the corner, you might be finding it hard deciding what to get loved ones this year. Local small businesses in the community are crying out for support.

Soana Aholelei caught up with two small business owners in Auckland with ideas for the festive season.

If you’re looking for ideas on what to buy friends and family for Christmas, look no further.

Selabrations is proudly owned and operated by Tongan Sela Jane Hopgood.

“We sell and curate bespoke gift boxes for all occasions,” says Sela.

“My point of difference is that it’s not a gift box that you’ll find items from the supermarket; all the items I source are from small businesses here in New Zealand as well as a couple of items from Pacific businesses in Australia.”

Based in Panmure, Auckland, Sela set up her bespoke gifting business last year.

“It actually started last Christmas. I was doing gift boxes for my husband’s colleagues, and I enjoyed it.”

“Actually, this is something I’ve been doing for years, like going back to high school.”

“It got me thinking, ‘This is probably something I’ve been unintentionally doing that could actually intentionally lead into a small business,’ which is what we have here today,” says Sela.

auckland small business owner sela jane hopgood of selabrations
Soana Aholelei with Selabrations founder Sela Jane Hopgood. Photo: Tagata Pasifika

A journalist by day, Sela needed a creative outlet.

“I wanted something where I can work with colour and different items and present them in a way that reflects me as a person. So that was one of the big drives as to why I started the small businesses,” says Sela.

With Christmas around the corner, she has a huge variety of gift boxes to choose from.

“I like playing with colour themes but also making each gift box that kind of heightens your sensors. So there will be something for your taste buds, something might make a sound or an item that smells amazing, as well as items you can touch and see.”

“So yeah, you can definitely get an experience opening my gift boxes,” Sela says with a smile.

For something tasty, down in Onehunga is the Sweet & Me cafe.

The cafe’s owned and run by Fijian Bertrand Jang — Bert to his friends — who’s excited for the approaching festive season.

auckland small business sweet and me
The team at Sweet & Me. Photo: Tagata Pasifika

“So we’ve got the two classics, the pineapple pie and the pineapple pie cake — that’s one of the top sellers we are having this Christmas.”

“Then we’ve got the banana cake, where people can assemble their cakes on Christmas day or New Year’s Day, however long they’d like to wait,” says the Fijian chef.

Sweet & Me has been operating under Covid restrictions and are just grateful to be open, whatever the level.

“The first day we were just catching up on people. They didn’t really come in for desserts; they just wanted to come in to see our faces and chat to us.

“That’s the culture we have here at Sweet & Me. We don’t stop at selling cakes and coffee. We’re more involved in our community and the lives of our customers,” laughs Bert.

And for Bert, having his team back together means the world to him.

“What I do love is my girls, my team. Every day I love coming to work, and they are just really supportive,” says Bert.

The latest Covid lockdown has been hard, but it hasn’t slowed down Bert and Sela’s businesses. They support the community through their passion.

“We need to put our food and our culture on the map, especially here in Aotearoa. Auckland, it’s a melting pot of Pacific islands, and we can only grow further if we support each other,” says Bert.

Sela agrees: “The most important message that I want to get out there is how critical it is to support small businesses, especially heading into the festive season.”

“So if you can spend a moment to get one present from a small business, that will truly help just that family, that you’re supporting as well as supporting the wider country.”

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