Meet the business woman behind Papua New Guinea’s first co-working space

Welcome,

Vani Nades is the first Papua New Guinean to open a co-working hub for small-to-medium entrepreneurs in Port Moresby. Adeshola Ore chats with Nades about being an entrepreneur in PNG, and her plans for the future.

Emstret Space (E-Space) is the first co-working space for SMEs in PNG. Credit: Emstret Space

A desire to create positive social change prompted Vani Nades to become an entrepreneur in 2014. The mother of two is the founder and CEO of local internet service provider Emstret Holdings Limited.

Now, through her internet company, she has launched PNG’s first co-working hub, Emstret Space, based in Port Moresby.

The idea was developed after Nades visited Silicon Valley as part of the Global Entrepreneur Summit in 2016 and was inspired by the sea of tech start-ups.

Supportive space

Emstret Space launched in late March as a co-working space that helps small and medium enterprises (SMEs) expand nationally and internationally.

Emstret’s Vani Nades won the SP Brewery’s Entrepreneurs’ Award at the 12th Westpac Outstanding Women (WOW) Awards.

‘(Now) there is a place where they can go to get all support they need to grow their business,’ Nades tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘I wanted to be able to get into the business as well so I could be able to help other SMEs, so I could provide reliable and cheaper internet so they could work on their business.’

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The hub offers daily and monthly passes, long-term subscription of internet and office work stations alongside meeting rooms and spaces for training and conferences; the prices vary between K75 and K1500.

The space also has an in-house lawyer, accountant, and hosts networking events and mentoring opportunities. Nades’s vision is to expand the co-working space branch of her business across PNG in 2020.

Origins of Emstret Holdings

After dropping out of high school in year ten, Nades began working at the Institute of Business Studies (IBS), now IBS University. Later she went on to study in Australia at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus. In addition to graduating with a Bachelor of Accounting, she was the 2018 winner of the Southern Cross University Entrepreneurial Award.

Nades and entrepreneurs at Emstret Space.

Emstret began as Nades’s solo consultancy business five years ago. Since then, it has grown to have almost 20 staff, with three solely working at the recently opened co-working space.

‘Doing business as a startup was challenging as well. Internet was expensive; unreliability of services and trying to switch from one provider to another was just frustrating,’ says Nades.

‘I wanted to be able to get into the business as well so I could be able to help other SMEs, so I could provide reliable and cheaper internet so they could work on their business.’

Nades says the key to her business success is having multiple revenue streams—the company also owns Little CEO Pizza, a pizza delivery company.

‘As an entrepreneur, you need to have funds to continue to sustain your business. We have to diversify so when we run into trouble at other businesses, we can pay our bills,’ explains Nades.

‘Doing business in PNG is very challenging so I always have my back up plans to make sure that I can put other things in the business, and also to make sure we can continue our passion to go and give back to kids in the village.’

Charitable projects

Growing up in villages in Central Province with no running water or electricity led Nades to develop a desire for giving back to the community. She believes that business development should be blended with social responsibility.

Emstret Holdings focuses on rural connectivity, with Nades setting up a foundation called Voices of Villages. The NGO focuses on clean water projects, sanitation, medical and health services and solar energy.

It also provides school equipment for children, combining her background and passion for education with her current role as CEO.

‘I run a business but at the same time I enjoy doing my community work,’ said  Nades. ‘I think it is important.

‘I spent 20 years of my life working in a community space where we had to go and reach out to people who are really in need. Serving the community has been in my heart. It’s because of my upbringing, it’s always been there.’

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