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.
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.
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.