Waimana Va’a, from hobby to business

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Soft-spoken and shy would be the words one would use upon first meeting Stanley Ooms, owner of Waimana Va’a, a company that manufactures fibreglass and composite products from outrigger canoes (va’a) long boats and also do tooling (moulding) for new products as per customer requirements. 

Stanley Ooms, Owner of Waimana Va'a, Fiji Islands.

Stanley Ooms, Owner of Waimana Va’a, Fiji Islands.

This unassuming entrepreneur has impressively built his business steadily in the past 6 years, which in his words was initially just a hobby. A passionate paddler himself, he began Waimana Va’a with a fellow champion paddler in 2010, and later on taking full reins of the company when his business partner moved to Hawai’i from Fiji.
“My friend and I wanted a better product (canoe) and it wasn’t available. People manufacturing at that time were not willing to try some newer methods, so we took it upon ourselves to get a new mould,” Stanley recollects.
A Waimana Va'a canoe on the water.

A Waimana Va’a canoe on the water.

 According to Stanley, Waimana Va’a’s focus has always been to develop high quality canoes using innovative methods to allow paddlers to become more competitive.  In the early years, Waimana Va’a worked with Wilfred Ah min, a respected canoe builder in the industry. Over time the company has captured a significant share in niche markets in the Pacific for their canoes. And because their markets are based outside of Fiji, one of the main challenges they face include shipping limitations and requirements of their products that add a layer of complexity for the company’s processes as well as numerous additional costs for their customers. 
The Waimana Va'a team with John Hayes, renowned master maritime builder.

The Waimana Va’a team with John Hayes, renowned master maritime builder.

In keeping with Waimana Va’a’s commitment to innovation, the company collaborated with renowned maritime builder, John Hayes this year to introduce new manufacturing processes and training for the team so that the company can expand their product range to include OC1, OC2, OC4 and OC6 canoes that utilise the iconic Australian Blade Runner design. It is this open and collaborative mindset that Stanley has as the leader of his team that drives Waimana Va’a forward to greater heights. He was part of PIPSO’s Trade Pasifika delegation that attended the Pacific Business Forum earlier this month in New Caledonia, and his reflections of his experiences there show this particular frame of mind, “Speaking to other business attendees at the forum from day one of arriving into Noumea, made me see the importance of distribution into markets. Having others distribute for you allows for new market share that you may not otherwise have.”
Waimana Va’a is growing and diversifying from not only manufacturing marine products but also to providing marine services to their customers. They are also the proud distributors of the Kialoa, Quickblade and Patagonia brands in Fiji and an official supplier of race uniforms (board shorts, race vests and caps) in Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Wallis and Futuna. Additionally, Waimana Va’a became an AOCRA-accredited* manufacturer of V1 racing canoes in 2014 and now exports their products regionally to Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and Wallis and Futuna from Fiji. You’ll have to agree, not bad at all for something that was born out of a simple hobby, right?


Read about other entrepreneurs in the world who turned their hobbies into real businesses at Entrepreneur magazine.
Interesting fact: Waimana means “Stream of influence” in Maori and Va’a means “canoe” in the Samoan, Hawaiian and Tahitian languages.


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