Entrepreneur: Annette Sete, fashion designer

The difficulty in finding authentic Papua New Guinea-made gifts for friends and colleagues overseas prompted Annette Sete to create her own fashion jewellery line. Two years on, she tells Business Advantage PNG her Lavagirl brand is looking to expand overseas.

‘I started Lavagirl Jewellery about two years ago to complement my ladies clothing line of the same name, which was part of the product line of gifts targeting visitors to East New Britain,’ says Lavagirl founder, Annette Sete.

Annette Sete

The jewellery range, which uses natural and recycled local products, includes earrings, necklaces, bracelets and bangles, hair pieces/clips, and anklets.

The women’s clothing line has been so successful she is now working on a men’s clothing range.

‘We also make gifts of various kinds and home decor pieces like candle holders, flower vases, basket purses, bilums, scarfs and shawls,’ she tells Business Advantage PNG.

Lavagirl products are marketed and sold though her marketing businesses, TMC and Maku Gifts.

Home business

What started as a home-based business, with Sete doing all the design, creating, marketing and selling, has now expanded.

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‘There are 10 families working with me on a full-time basis: four on making jewellery and gifts, two on sewing, a shop assistant and three on beading and orders.

‘We fine-tune the products, making them fashionable and trendy.’

‘We, of course, guide them with quality and designs. I do all our designs and help out now and then at the workshop if I can get away from admin stuff and sales.

She is also tapping into women who make and sell jewellery at craft markets.

‘We fine-tune the products, making them fashionable and trendy; we package and label them and sell them in shops and online.’

Origins

Sete worked for five years as a journalist, and was then employed for a fuel company for seven years.

‘When I was with the fuel company, there was a lot of travel domestically and internationally,’ she says.

Annette Sete at work designing jewellery for her business. Credit: Skerah

‘I used to struggle to find PNG-made gifts that were authentic and which I could take to friends and business contacts overseas. Simple things like fridge magnets, jewellery and sarongs that didn’t require the lengthy processes for quarantine clearance.

‘Hence the business idea for PNG gifts, clothing pieces with PNG designs and jewellery from natural materials, like seeds, wood, natural fibre, sea shells, coconut shells, animal bones, dogs’ teeth, crocodiles’ teeth and feathers.’

Outlets

Lavagirl jewellery and Maku Gifts are sold through the Gazelle International Hotel and Bilas Hotspot in Kokopo, Wantok Clothing at Vision City Mall in Port Moresby and at the Jacksons International Airport. In Lae, Sete sells through Pasifika/Kenny Collections at the new Brian Bell Centre and she has an agent in Madang.

The Maku gift range is sold through Facebook, while the Lavagirl range is sold through Tictac.

‘Most of the sales were through social media initially.’

‘We are discussing a possibility a couple of retailers in Cairns and Brisbane, and I’d like to see our products on sale in other Pacific countries,’ she says.

Sales

Currently turnover is about K150,000 a year, she says.

‘Most of the sales were through social media initially but with our growing retailer arrangements we’re picking up more sales now in the last eight months through that avenue.

‘Having said that, the cost of running a business such as this and in Rabaul is extremely high,’ she says. ‘High taxes, difficulty in finding the right tools and skills for the business, the continuous power blackouts, which occur every day, and high internet costs are such a hindrance to business growth for us in small businesses.’

Sete learned the design and crafting skills from her grandmother but she says with an increasing demand for her products, she must do further research. ‘It’s a continuous process of learning and teaching myself and my team on designs, tools to use, material to work with, which designs sell better, latest trends and so on.’

Comments

  1. Absolutely fantastic. How can I get in touch with this lady?

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