When Luke Dulaki, 53, left his island home of Vanua Balavu in Lau over thirty years ago, he did so in search of greener pastures in Suva. He found instead a gold mine.
Luke is the co-owner of ADL farm in Sawani and mini-market located on the corner of Rewa and Alexander street in Suva, opposite the Jai Narayan College.
?When I came to Suva in 1978, I worked for a company contracted by the Suva City Council to clean the market. Every day I would haul rubbish and at the same time observe the vendors and I was very interested in starting my own stall. I would save about $5 or $10 every week. The pay was quite low around $40 a week so I had to make a lot of sacrifices,? Luke said.
Seventeen years and several odd jobs later, Luke finally decided he was ready to open his own business. He applied for a stall at the Suva Municipal Market in 1995 and operated there until 2006 when he and his business partner Taniela Tikovulagi opened the market at Alexander street where they currently operate from.
?I would buy my supply of root crops and vegetables from farmers coming down from Sawani, Lomaivuna and other farming communities in Naitasiri. They sold their crops early and returned and we had to sit the whole day and throughout the week to sell these. So I made up my mind that one day I will have my own farm too.?
In 2009, Luke secured a 10acre land for lease in Sawani using his life savings. This farm now fully supplies the 24 hours ADL mini-market which has now been extended to selling yaqona from Levuka, a small shop and a billiard centre.
?The land has been a blessing for me. Being brought up in the village, I?m used to farming. My two main crops right now are cassava and coconuts but I also plant all sorts of vegetables for my market. I have three acres of cassava ready for harvest right now.?
In 2011, Luke approached the Fiji Development Bank for a loan to provide the much needed capital injection to his business. Since then, FDB has consistently assisted Luke whenever needed with his fourth loan currently active with the bank.
?FDB has been very helpful with the few loans I have had with them. This has assisted me with the business as the business itself has given me more than I dreamt of. We have managed to purchase a double storey house, a vehicle and we don?t even pay rentals for the market as we now own the property.?
?Even now they continue to go the extra mile by providing other marketing avenues for me by inviting me to sell my produce at the FDB Market Day. I?m glad to be in business with a bank that looks after its clients.?
From his humble beginnings, Luke now pays for a caretaker farmer to look after the farm whilst he and his business partner attend to the market and supervise the whole operation. Their vision is to continue to grow their business and employ more people while they manage the business.
They are investing into the planting of coconut trees which they feel will be the main income earner for them in the next few years.
?Bu juice is now a big market for us and that is where we are looking to in the future. We have intensified the planting of coconut trees for this purpose as also a long term investment for our business. Demand for bu locally continues to increase given its scientifically proven values and besides it is a truly refreshing and healthy drink alternative.?
At FDB, we look after our clients in? a way that keeps them coming back as the services we provide is more than just the financial assistance. We ensure that all their business needs and aspirations are met making us a choice financier for grass roots businesses.
Luke continues to work very closely with FDB and will be part of the FDB Market Day initiative that will be held at the bank?s head office in Suva on Saturday 17 May from 6am to 1pm.