We love the overflow of talent that’s pouring out of the Pacific, particularly in the fashion industry. Heleva is no exception, and after speaking with the founder, Jennifer Jenkinson, we couldn’t wait to showcase a business that prides itself in it’s unique polynesian designs, especially since all of their products are manufactured in Jennifer’s island island home, Fiji. Driven by her family and friends, and her love for Fiji, we bring you Jennifer’s story for your daily dose of Talanoa inspiration.
Tell us a bit about yourself, the work that you do, and how you came to follow that career path?
For more than six years, I was employed by the Royal Australian Navy. During this time of service I sailed to new countries, learnt tactical information and made new life time mates, but felt so far away from close family and old school mates.
Finally, I decided to join the civilian world and start a career that would see me have the best of both worlds – travelling while being with loved ones.
With an end goal of promoting Fiji made swimwear, sarongs and up-cycle denim for an international market, I started an Australian online website – helava.com.au with Jenko swimwear. Helava in Rotuman means beautiful, and Jenko was my nickname in the Navy. Through my designs, I wanted to incorporate a motif that would be the mark of Jenko products.
With the help of a friend from Fiji, I was introduced to a website designer, Fiji National University students and lecturers which then opened the doors to more exciting people. It was through everyone involved I saw my thoughts and vision, stemmed from my passion of scuba diving, sailing and swimming, come alive.
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
Fiji time and the fact Fiji doesn’t have a range of Lycra selection for swimwear. Plus, trusting who you are going into business with because this whole experience is so bittersweet.
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
Without a doubt my parents, close family and friends. The rest is self-motivation – the dream of creating a Fiji made swimwear brand for international promotion. We’re planning on tackling the Australian market first!
What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
My advice for young Pacific people starting a business is to save up before launching into business, do your research and follow your passion. Also, I love the saying, “A setback is a setup for a comeback.”
Photo credit: Fotofusion Photography