When life gives you lemons… pivot your business model

September 10, 2020

A couple of months ago, we shared the Teddy Roosevelt quote “do what you can, with what you have, where you are”.  We think Nemika’s story of adaptation in the face of the impacts of COVID-19, is such a great illustration of this.


Nemika Brunton is based in Alotau, Papua New Guinea.  We met her during the YuMi Tourism Partners Pilot program.  The program addressed starting small, testing and learning, and how to adapt and respond to market needs.  These lessons have certainly helped Nemika shift her business focus in response to COVID-19.

Tourism is a key industry for the town and many of the local businesses were tourism based.  So, the impact of COVID-19 hit the town hard.  Many locals – including Nemika – have adapted quickly to totally new businesses and customers.

“When COVID hit, I was working with my partner in his tourism business – coordinating and admin.  When cruise ships and tourists stopped coming, we were hit financially.

I am lucky enough to have the blessing of the internet at home, so I went online to see what I can do to make money and support my family.  That’s when I found jam making.  I thought – this used to be a tradition with my family, I used to make it with my grandparents and my mum – maybe I could do this.

pomelo jam

Yanua Kitchen Pomelo Jam for sale in Alotau

I started by making four jars.  I went to the markets and got whatever was in season – Pomelos were in season, so I started with that.  I gave some to my family and they said it was really good and suggested that I should sell it.  So, I put four jars up on Facebook and they sold quickly!  The person who bought them also shared the jams with other Facebook groups and demand started to grow.”

Since then, Nemika has built her brand Yanua Kitchen (Yanua meaning home or village in her Suau language), she has started to source Pomelos directly from nearby farmers, and trialled making starfruit jam and peanut butter.  It’s been important to Nemika to source locally-grown and in season produce and she’s done everything out of her home so far: making the jam from her kitchen, googling how to do everything from sterilising jars, to packaging and branding.  She’s even been taking the seeds from the Pomelo, growing them into seedlings and giving them away with every jar of jam she sells.


prime minister Marape- Yanua

PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, checking out Yanua Kitchen jam

Demand has grown beyond Alotau, to Port Moresby and other parts of the country with cafes and shops wanting to stock it.  Next thing Nemika knew, the PNG SME magazine contacted her wanting 300 jars for the PNG SME business breakfast in Port Moresby, with the Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape!

“I will definitely continue making jams after COVID. I love doing it and demand keeps growing.”

The next steps for Yanua Kitchen is to get equipment, a commercial kitchen facility, and source a continual supply of jars.  Ultimately, Nemika would love to be able to employee others in her business as well.

For us, Nemika embodies a great example of the entrepreneurial mindset:

  • She pivoted quickly in the face of changes to the market
  • She started small – with what she had, where she was
  • She has been testing, learning and iterating with her brand and products
  • She’s responsibly seeking investment only after she has proved market demand

And for that, Nemika, we hope your success is sweet… like jam.

Spread the love

International Development: 3 Solutions for a New Approach to Capacity Building

TDi associate Kate Wilson examines the flaws in traditional international development strategies, and offers a new approach to capacity building with three powerful solutions.

International Women’s Day 2023: Driving Economic Empowerment for PNG Women through Digital Accessibility and Innovation

Learn how a comprehensive Inner Development coaching program with digital accessibility helped overcome unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in PNG and drive economic empowerment, especially during the pandemic.

Acknowledging Country: A new way to connect mindfully with an important practice

We recently engaged YARN Australia for a series of team workshops on storytelling, focussed on creating relationships and intentional connections between First Nations Australians and settlers. We invite you into our world as we share a practice from these workshops, and gratefully acknowledge the land we call home.

Kylie-Lee Bradford: Forging New Paths for First Nations Business

We recently welcomed Kylie to the TDi team. Kylie brings a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship as well as rich heritage and story from her Kakadu roots. Kylie is passionate about opening up opportunities for First Nations business to support and give back to...

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Finance

by Isaac Jeffries, Senior Consultant     I recently had coffee with a university student, who is passionate about social impact but unsure about how to get a job in the industry. She’s studying maths and economics, and surprised me with this pearler of a...

Why we’ve switched to Bank Australia

  by Anthea Smits, CEO     There's been excitement around TDi this month – we are now officially a customer with Bank Australia! Why the change? When I first started to think about impact investing many years ago, a dear friend and mentor challenged me to...

9 Mindsets of my Favourite Difference Makers

TDi Senior Consultant Isaac Jeffries shares the philosophies and habits that are the hallmarks of his favourite difference-makers.

This is a concrete list of practices and mindsets for working in community, and maintaining connection to people without burning out or burning others.

Bilum: The Power of Story to Drive Inclusive Economic Growth

by Annie Smits, TDi CEO   In May this year we attended the first official public screening of The Bilum Story, hosted by the AUS-PNG Network at The Lowy Institute in Sydney. Before the screening, I introduced the film to a crowded room, by bringing to the fore a...

Why We Need More Coaches and Fewer ‘Experts’ in International Development

 By Kate Wilson, TDi Associate   An intuitive mindset coach and mentor, Kate's insight and expertise is so valuable to our team – we hope it will be for you too. This post was originally published on Kate's website, Resources Reimagined and explores the vital...

Reconciliation Week 2022: Wrestling with our role in the Indigenous Business Sector

Anna Moegerlein, Deputy CEO, TDi In light of National Reconciliation Week, TDi’s Deputy CEO Anna shares some of the unfolding story around our work in the Indigenous Business sector: What are the challenges we are wrestling with as an organisation, what are our...