By PETER ESILA
“I ALWAYS wanted to be a flight attendant, when I was in UPNG I told my brother that I was going to leave school and he told me ‘yu mas longlong ya,” Dolarose Trawen laughed.
Now, Trawen is the director of Raggiana Raiments and 3ABCD Tailoring.
Raggiana Raiments is a wholesale and retail business of PNG design fabrics and clothing while 3ABCD Tailoring provides tailoring and embroidery services.
Delegates from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) economies had a chance to buy some of her products at a pop-up shop at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Port Moresby recently.
As a 2011 anthropology graduate, she is not wearing a brown hat but is sewing clothes from home at Pitpit Street, North Waigani, a couple hundred metres away from the convention centre.
“I got a small sewing room just next to the house so I always encourage my customers to go and find me there because it is expensive to rent outside.
“I prefer to stay at home and do my work.”
At the ICC, a Chinese gift to PNG, during the days when Apec cluster of meetings were convened, delegates from the 21 economies looked uniform across the atrium and outside the building with their formal wear, but in the evenings, during dinner, Toana wear was the favoured attire.
The Toana pop-up shop was set up inside ICC making it more convenient for the delegates to shop.
“In SOM2 (Second Senior Officials Meeting), I was asked by the Apec SME team to trial out the pop up shop and yes, I was happy to do so because I have fabrics in PNG designs as well as clothing, especially ladies blouses, dresses and men’s shirts. I think that’s where I fit well.
“I don’t sell my products only but I also get stock from other designers. What they do is they fill out consignment forms with us and we sell their products inside. It’s good because we have varieties of designs and products which the international delegates can come in and shop.
“In SOM1, I set up a booth like the other SMEs at Gateway Hotel,” Trawen said.
“There was not so much for me. I think I only sold three shirts.
“But exhibiting at a big event means a lot to me, just to showcase my products. And when the Apec SME team told me to do the Toana pop-up, I was happy to trial it out.
“And now at SOM3, I had customers who came in and bought my shirts in SOM1 who came back to me and bought few more shirts which is a really good thing for me.
“I am really happy to see my products going to other countries and putting PNG on the map,”
The designs all feature PNG marks like the lakatoi in the National Capital District and the dukduk of East New Britain.
“A lot of the designs are Sepik designs because I am from East Sepik,” she said.
“I do have about three masks and I also have one from my place, it is called the minji designs or Minji meri kolos, inspired by the Yangoru bilum,”
The Yangoru bilum is called the minji.
“I just finished some of my designs and hopefully I should have them out by November.”
She enjoys being her own boss all along.
The mother-of-two said during her four years at university, she always wanted to be self-employed.
“You know going to university and getting a degree was just to make your parents proud. Make them happy and that is it, but that is not what I wanted, I wanted to work for myself.”
Straight after school, she worked with the Electoral Commission for two years and that was when she married Brendan Trawen in 2013, son of late Electoral Commissioner Sir Andrew Trawen.
She worked as an assistant training officer.
“I wanted to go into business so I was thinking about what I should do. And then my mother in-law always wanted to start a tailoring business so that was where the idea came from.
“First I was saying that was not something that I wanted to do but she said that she would support me.
“While in the business I realised that sourcing fabrics was difficult, so I decided to supply fabrics in PNG designs.
“As a tailor, we had to go and buy from Tango department store in Port Moresby. Tango was like the main supplier of fabrics.
“So their prices are sometimes high and we come and we try to put up our mark-up and sometimes I feel that it is really too expensive for our customers.
“That was how I decided that maybe I should supply fabrics.”
She was also on a six-week Australian Award Scholarship in April last year under which she took a certificate course in entrepreneurship and innovation at University of Sunshine Coast.
“It was a scholarship for women entrepreneurs that I applied and was lucky to be selected for with other 23 women in business. It was the first time this course was offered by the Australia Awards so I was among the first batch to attend it.”
She was also a winner another business competition, the WeCreate Challenge Competition.
PNG We Create Challenge was a competition for women in business or those planning to start a business.
“It’s about bringing your new business idea forward, writing a business model, doing research on your market and pitching in front of a panel of judges.
“There were more than 100 applications and I made it to the top 25 with the business idea of being a fabric supplier in PNG designs.
“From the 25 I made it to the top 14, to top seven and to the last round as of the top three winners.
“There was no prize given, we only got certificates but it was through the competition that I met a loan firm which asked me if I needed a loan to bring in my first lot of fabrics.
“And that’s when I got loan to pay 70 per cent of my first lot PNG design fabrics.
“When I was in the competition, I had to do research and learn more about the tailoring business.
“I realised that there were about 700-plus tailoring businesses registered by Investment Promotion Authority, so I said that maybe they may be my target customers. That is how I ventured into supplying fabrics.
“It is very challenging being a mother with kids at home but I am very happy that I have got a very good husband and in-laws who are very supportive and always at the back of me so that drives me and motivates me to move forward and achieve much.
“Life has not been easy for me. My father was unemployed but I believed in myself that if I had a dream, I believe that I can do it.
“And anybody can do it if you believe in yourself that you can do it. Just believe in yourself and never give up. Always remember that the sky is the limit.”
By PETER ESILA