Makeki Online: Watching the mustard seed grow

By Sharlene Tanuvasa ,

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More often than not, mainstream media fills your mind with reports of conflict, war, crime, hate and injustice. It’s enough to want to pack your bags and skedaddle to the bush where the only war you’ll probably encounter is wildlife versus other wildlife.  

 So, when a seemingly ordinary story spurts forth the extraordinary, you sit up and pay attention; amazed that good deeds still exist and that inspirational human acts seek to give hope to those who struggle to understand where humanity is leading.  It is a refreshing vibe and quenches the thirst in an otherwise dry soul sucking read of current events.

 It’s inclusion in media replenishes one’s being in much the same way that Samoa’s capital Apia revitalises the soul too. A city that thrives under the radiant beams of the sun, traffic fills the streets and citizens make their way to work, school or to run personal errands. 

Nestled amongst all the busyness, held carefully in the hands of people, are phones. Buzzing, beeping, ringing phones. An almost blatant reminder of current times showing that even when you’re walking somewhere, multi-tasking is essential to keeping up to date with the world’s events.

On closer inspection, these phones are often logged into the internet and if you peek a little closer still, it’s a big possibility that many are connected to the social networking site Facebook. Used for maintaining contact with friends and family (or secretly stalking your crush) Facebook also enables users to check out the latest pages for information pertaining to your stipulated needs. 

Finding its niche amidst all the clutter with a following of 10,783 users (and counting) is one particular page. And just like Apia herself, it has become the hub for buying, selling, trading and so much more. 

Makeki Online is the proud creation of founding member Mose ‘Nitrous’Mose, 23, (Puipa’a). The main spokesman for this public group, Mose, a computing lecturer at the National University of Samoa, was in Fiji studying towards a Bachelor of Science, when he came across a buy/sell/trade page called ‘Buy & Sell in Fiji’. 

With the wheels already turning in his head, Mose had the conception that if a page such as this was working in Fiji, why not have one set up to work in Samoa? So, he prayed. And prayed again and in the month of January 2014, Makeki Online sprung to life.

The notion of Makeki Online is simple enough. Users join the group under the pending approval of administration staff. Once they become members they are free to post images of items that they would like to buy, sell or trade. Vehicles, household goods, appliances, crafts, food, electronic devices, rental properties, whatever you can think of to possibly place up, they have it. 

Under the guidelines set in place, members can post (guideline 2.2) “… everything from the whereabouts of items/services, job vacancies, etc…” A pinned post at the forefront of the page has a low down of all the rules. They are straight forward, no nonsense and allow breathing space for fair trading to continue and (for the sake of legalities) are accompanied by a link to the Business Act 1998, Samoa.

Soooo… Bob’s your uncle and TA DAAAAAA…here’s a page promoting trade.

Woooahhhh… steady on there horsey!  Where’s the awe inspiring part mentioned in the beginning of this piece? What’s the big deal? What is so special about this page??

Put simply, the X-factor component is: Mose ‘Nitrous’ Mose, Thomas Seuao, 24 (To’omatagi) and Kent Onesemo, 24 (Vaivase Uta).

Let’s rewind this story a little. 

When Makeki Online was started with Mose in January 2014, the whole thought process was to “provide a platform for our locals to get rid of unused/unwanted/secondary items and (for locals) to make some cash out of it”. 

No advertising was done to recruit members except for the initial posting of details on Mose’s own personal Facebook page and friends and family spreading the message. After a month of operation, numbers started to increase steadily and the group had increased to 300 so he recruited the services of Thomas Seuao. 

Seuao, a graduate of the University of the South Pacific and like Mose, holding a Bachelor of Science, specialising in I.T. was chosen for his expertise as it was the logical choice for two like-minded brains to hash out the system. 

Together they worked on accepting members and maintaining the site.  

The gradual incline increased and this was mainly due to word of mouth from existing members. Members have the ability to add other members, taking into account that final approval lies with the admin team, so when the numbers escalated to 1,000 Kent Onesemo joined and between the three of them, the admin team was established and in full operation.

During the first twelve months, the three friends (their friendship going as far back to their years as students at Samoa College) had no guidelines in place. Explains Mose “There were no rules/guidelines as the ones you see today on Makeki Online. We used that entire year to analyse how it all went about. 

It was only after, that the rules were drawn up based on the experience and analysis over that period. This included the various incidents regarding buying and selling.” 

There isn’t any hanky panky on this show and admin are aware of problems such as spam and fraud. Pornographic material and irrelevant or unsolicited messages were among the few starting hiccups which led to the beginning of meticulous filtering. 

Each week, hours are spent screening possible members to ensure that they are not an endangerment to the integrity of the group. Other issues arising came in the form of fraud/criminal activity and minor disputes.  

Mose elaborates “The major issues are the cases where people have lied about their posts. In similar cases, sellers taking too long to respond or reply to potential buyers. This has stirred up quite a lot of issues for us. People just demanding to have so and so removed because of such issues. But it is never the case, we always have to follow up and find out why such matters arise. 

“What we decide on, is only after hearing both sides of the story. We’ve reminded the members several times that they must check the items before purchasing; it’s also in our Rules/Guidelines.

There have been a few cases in which the buyer was not happy with the condition of the item from the seller and that they were misled with what was posted by the seller and the condition it was in. 

“We have not had a situation where  legal authorities were needed however on our admin team is a law enforcement officer (Kent Onesemo, Forensic Officer with the Samoan Police), in which where such situations do arise...his advice is needed.

So what we normally do is advise the sellers to be honest with their items and advise the buyers to ensure that before a transaction is made...to ensure the item is in the condition it was posted on and if there are any changes to the item other than what was listed to take screenshots of the posts as evidence. 

“Makeki does not hold responsibility to any dodgy deals as we are just a platform for people who wish to sell buy or enquire anything. There are rules and guidelines in which we stress the members to have a read through to ensure that they have a smooth and enjoyable as well as a satisfied Makeki Online experience”.

 With each administrator assisting, the running of Makeki Online lives a smooth existence, but this is due to the diligence of the 3 members. None of the team is paid. All hours are voluntarily submitted. There are no financial benefits gained by any of the 3 men and all work is done on their own time before and after their full time paid jobs or during lunch breaks. 

When Mose first posed the proposition to work on the page to his 2 friends, he told them that there would be no remuneration and that the service was simply in place to help others in the community. Both Seuao and Onesemo agreed and their collective dedication is an underlying factor as to why this is such a successful page. 

Onesemo stated “It’s the satisfaction that we are helping people” which was reinforced by Seuao’s comments “…it’s the purpose behind Makeki Online”. Offers have been made to purchase the rights to the administration from certified buyers, but none of this is of any interest to them. To the cynical ear these words may appear empty but they are backed up by the actions of not only the admin team but their members also.

In October 2015, the admin team put out a post with the idea of donating any goods to a local charity and the response was instantaneous. 

Bags of clothing and goodies started showing up at the designated location and the generosity of the help of their members went beyond what the 3 men had ever hoped for. That Christmas, a large donation of filled trash bags of goods was donated to the Samoan Victims Support Group from members of Makeki Online and blessed victims as well as the admin team. These generous works do not end there. Mose, Seuao and Onesemo have been blessed to witness other miracles also. “God has been awesome ever since we started. 

Many people have been able to sell their personal belongings; we’ve had numerous messages from members thanking us for creating Makeki Online. We’ve also seen a lot of information that has been found on Makeki Online, from phone numbers to directions to the nearest shop, food recipes, lost items, car parts, local services, looking for jobs and many more. But perhaps one of our all-time favourites, are the few blood donor posts that have gone up on Makeki Online.

The response from people was overwhelming. Within a couple of hours we would receive a thank you message claiming that they have found a blood donor.  We cannot express how happy and humbled we are, yes, there are all these wonderful car sales, land sales, and devices, but to hear that a life has been saved through a simple Facebook post is just something else. 

“This is why we continue to give God the Glory for everything that goes on Makeki Online. We also thank Him for everything, good and not so good that goes on. God has just been awesome with Makeki Online and there are many testimonies that we know of. Some behind the scene stories that are not heard of. Praise God.”

And it’s not just the administrators who are happy. A recent question was posed to members of Makeki Online asking for thoughts on how well run they thought the page was and what differentiated it from other pages and the results were overwhelmingly unanimous. 

The general consensus being that Makeki Online is a well-kept, hands on operation that caters to all needs. From sales to information, to prompt replies and keeping all members in check, through to the overall benefit of having an avenue to trade for the average local who cannot afford the luxury of paid advertising.

 This is a big draw card to the appeal of Makeki Online as it is set up, not with the intention of big businesses but rather for the odd sale of something that a member may want to get rid of. It is literally run like a one off market sale with bargains galore and services offered to all.

 Jerome Ierome; a member states:” I think the big selling point is that it’s Samoan and it’s based in Samoa”. 

Samantha Leota adds to this: “The admin(s) are hands on with page management - ensuring policies are adhered to. Everyone’s been very helpful - anything from buying/selling to directions to places, recommendations to eateries etc.” 

And finally Georgina Lui says:” It is free and it is easy. You don’t have to go to a newspaper or dedicated market site to pay to advertise what you have to sell. It’s also a great way to find cheap deals when you are looking to buy something.”

With so much customer satisfaction, where too from here for the Makeki Online team?

Mose says that development is under way for other paths.  They have patented their logo (still to be unveiled) and are continuously researching. 

“The only expansion that we find fitting at the moment is a website. We already have it planned but we are not rushing into it because ultimately, Facebook is the most utilized social media there is.”  In the meantime, the admin team continue to provide their services to the community, monitoring the trends of Facebook and updating as need be to better the experience for their members. They are of no illusion to the success of the page and attribute the success to God and to their faithful members. 

“Without the members, there would be no Makeki Online” and so they strive that little bit more each day to maintain the high standard in place. Mose, Seuao and Onesemo are by no means ‘trained’ business men. They have never taken a business class and the closest they have ever had to this was Year 10 economics in high school. They are 3 Bachelor of Science graduates who have unknowingly capitalised on their knowledge and provided a much needed service available for the average Samoan. 

They offer no frills, just simple well researched strategies on how to run a page with the least amount of drama to the members who frequent it. And while our newsfeeds are infested with politicians claiming counter suing of other politicians for billions of dollars and two coconuts or indigenous nations terrorised, maimed and killed for gold, these young humble gentleman are doing what they can to improve the livelihood of Samoans.

 It is a moving story and gives hope to the masses that with just that little mustard seed of faith, one can achieve anything. Mose humbly closes this with a sentiment resonated within the team. It is a scripture from the Holy Bible that has served them well thus far. 

“We stand by Philippians 4:13 and believe it with all our hearts that; ‘we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us’”. 

 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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