For centuries, Pacific people have been using coconut oil for everything from cooking to hair and beauty purposes. Over the past few years, health and beauty fanatics have finally caught onto the secrets of our beautiful coconut, and today, siblings Rosie and Heamasi are combining their love for Tonga, natural beauty products and business to create Island Rose Dream. We hope you’re inspired by their ambition and drive to create better lives for themselves and for people in Tonga, their island home. (Story by Talanoa Intern, Ilisapesi Muliaina)
Tell us a bit about yourself, the work you do, and how you came to follow the career path?
Malo e lelei, I’m Rosie Akauola and am the founder of Island Rose Dream. Although I was born in Tonga, I’ve lived in Melbourne for most of my life. After completing a business degree and travelling to different parts of Europe and America, I decided to start brainstorming ideas for potential business opportunities for the future, and from there the idea of Island Rose Dream was created.
Island Rose Dream sells natural coconut body oils and coconut sugar scrub products that are made from the fresh coconuts of Tonga. Tongan coconut oils hydrate the skin longer compared to commercial products, due to its natural organic state. It soothes and eases many skin conditions such as dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Along with that, it has so many other benefits, as most of our fellow people from the Pacific know.
I’ve always been a fan of Lolo Tonga and have been using it since a young age, as it was the only moisturizer that could treat my dry skin. It’s multipurpose and can be used for absolutely anything! I found it worked best to moisturize dry skin, protect my hair from damage (not forgetting easing frizzy hair), for massaging muscle pain and could even be used as sunscreen.
I had always wondered why Tongan oils were not marketed globally like Pure Fiji and Monoi Tahiti, so from there I wanted to give this business idea a go.
After thorough product research I started off by importing these coconut oils from Tonga. With the help of a reliable team member we gathered a few ladies in Tonga who were looking for work opportunities and directly purchased pure coconut oil from them. All the coconuts used were and are GMO free and are made through traditional methods, with infusions of traditional Tongan flowers by women and families living in the village of Lapaha. My plan was to import oil from Tonga and then label and package them in Melbourne.
It’s really important to choose a great team to work with, so while waiting for the coconut oils to arrive in Australia, I handpicked my Dream Team in Melbourne which consists of graphic designers, videographers, website designers, models, and promoters.
On my 27th birthday in May 2014, I launched the Island Rose Dream website and from there everything began to kick off. Having access to my website meant customers worldwide could easily jump online and purchase coconut oil products and have them delivered directly to them.
Customers in the US and UK gave us a lot of positive feedback, saying they were so happy they no longer had to fly all the way to the islands to buy Lolo Tonga – they now can easily purchase off the Island Rose Dream website.
I’m Heamasi Vaka Akauola, and currently employed by a mining company as a Health and Safety Advisor in Western Australia.
When I’m not working in the mines, I co-manage Island Rose Dream, a small natural body product line that my sister Rosie founded.
To get our products out there, we market over the Internet and talk to people in person. We love to attend events (anywhere from small to big social events) and weekend markets to sell and talk about our products.
I really enjoy experimenting and creating our products, and other natural organic body products, and hope run a shop in the future.
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
The high demand for coconut oil definitely outweighs the supply, and we are always trying to find ways to keep up with orders.
During our first year we struggled to meet demand and every month we would sell out, which would lead to a few unhappy customers. They’d have to wait for the next shipment of oil to come in, which would sometimes take up to more than a month. We’ve been able to overcome that obstacle by heavily increasing the number of oil we keep in storage.
Being a guy and trying to break into a female dominated industry is difficult; especially having friends and family who aren’t accustomed to seeing a 6 ft 3, 140kg guy with dreadlocks making natural organic coconut soap scented with winter gardenia at his home. At times it’s opened doors for people to tease and make fun of me, but I’ve come to love it as it’s not malicious and isn’t directed to demean my character – it’s just a bit of harmless joking!
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
The customers and supporters of Island Rose Dream drive me to keep going. I’ve had so much positive feedback, and even had several mothers emailing me about the wonders this product has done for her kids who have severe eczema – the oils relieved their symptoms. A few parents would use the oils on their children after bathing their babies, and also customers with bad cases of psoriasis say that the oils have dramatically soothed the itchiness of their skin.
Not only are the oils beneficial for skin and hair – they’re also great for local Tongans who work behind the scenes in creating these amazing oils. We offer employment for local Tongans and their income from Island Rose Dream have paid for their kids’ tuition and for their day-to-day needs.
Whenever I do something, I put my all into it. I’m passionate about experimenting and trying new things. When I’m looking for inspiration or to expand my knowledge, I follow industry relevant blogs and newsletters, and join community groups to learn and network with like-minded people.
What advice do you have for young pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
Don’t be afraid to try! If you have a talent, use it! If you can sing, go on singing competitions such as Australian Idol or be like Justin Beiber who promoted himself on YouTube. If you can bake, start baking cup cakes and sell them in market stalls or online. If you can sew, start a mini fashion show to showcase your designs. Always start with small steps and be patient, don’t expect big things to happen overnight. Never give up on your dream!
The only thing in life you will regret, are things you didn’t do. Chase the dream and live life to the fullest.
We’d like to thank Rosie and Heamasi from Island Rose Dream for sharing their story with us. To view their beautiful range, or to make a purchase, you can find them online via their website.