Learning in life never ceases if you have the heart to achieve your dream.
Such is the journey of Meilan Meredith from her early childhood days until owning Business Systems Limited, which celebrated its 40th birthday this year.
Mrs. Meredith attributes the success of her business to the fundamental values of a family. This is the stronghold of her career and her aspirations to become successful in life.
Mrs. Meredith was brought up by her nanny in Savai’i from the ages of 8 to 12 years. It is from this experience that broadened her knowledge as a young girl to explore what life has in store for her.
“So I guess, it was the life that I experienced growing up as a young girl that made me want to learn and explore more about work and how to make use of my life because I was not good with academic work. I saw myself more as an outdoor person,” she said.
“When my nanny died, her sister took me in and looked after me because my parents were busy with the business and work.”
“I guess this upbringing as a young girl molded me to become the woman I am today, strong and fearless among my competitors in the business world.”
She said her mum, Amy Leung Wai Steffany, taught her how to manage both family and business and this she did very well with her seven children.
“I used to have a huge van and I always take my children inside the van and my friends would laugh at me when I take my children. That’s usually my routine, I wake up, and get my children ready for school, and I take them to school and then I come to the shop,” Meilan said.
“My mum used to run their family business, because she was the eldest of my grandfather’s children, so everything about their business depended on her.”
“She was part Chinese and my dad was part palagi. My dad used to run a ferry service between Upolu and Pago and that’s how they met.”
“I learnt from my mum, her business skills. I went to St. Mary’s College and then to Pesega and I finished school at Form 5 and my dad told me to work at the plantation. So I had to walk back and forth to Aleisa every day.”
Mrs. Meredith comes from a family of ten siblings, six girls and four boys.
“When I did not complete my education, my dad told me to go and work at the family farm with him, so I used to go pick cocoa, pawpaw and banana and then I would sell it. I love selling what we got from our farm,” she said.
“I guess that is also how I wanted to continue doing this because I get to earn something from what I sold.”
“It was my father who would tell me to go to the farm and when I am done from the farm, most days I would help mum at the shop and she would allow me to do banking for her and work around the business.”
She said when her siblings went overseas for further studies, she decided to spend her time helping her mum and dad with their business and their farm.
Mrs. Meredith never stopped at this, she was an explorer, trying out and always wanting to learn more about what she sets herself out to do.
“Because there were a lot of girls in my family, a man who was part of the Apia Bottling Company came to our house and asked my dad if one of us wanted to work as an office girl at the company, so I went.”
“And when I had to go and do banking for this company, when I saw the big safe they had, I started to wonder how they can make such money, so I challenged myself and told myself that if they can do it, so can I.”
“Sometimes, I would go to the factory at the back too and learn how to operate the machines and how to mix drinks, but my role was to do office work.”
“I used to also work at one of my aunt’s place; we used to call her mama Jane. “
It was such charisma that drove her to establish her business - B.S.L.
“I rented a small room from my in-law’s family building to start my business. I started only with a table and all my stationery supplies were never bought with huge credit. It was the revenue I got from what I sold that I was able to extend and expand my business.”
Her humble beginnings was the steering wheel in whatever decisions she made in life, especially with her mum’s teachings about family.
“Apart from learning on the job at the shop, I was also taught about how to live life at home, simple things that mum always tells us to do.”
“I always hear my mum say that the girls have to clean the house, so when I went to work at the Apia Bottling Company, I cleaned the toilet one time out of my own will although that was not part of my job description, but it’s because I was taught to live that kind of life when I was growing up in my parent’s house.”
It is only right to say that being a businesswoman runs in her family’s veins.
Mrs. Meredith’s maternal family, the Leung Wai family, once graced Apia with their successful business.
“My brothers they had a business here in Samoa too, my twin sister runs a mall here as well,” she said.
And today her children are involved with their family business. But she said her children’s choices were always important.
“All my children, we try our very best to put them to better schools. We would encourage them to study hard and keep pursuing their dreams. We have a son and he is pursuing his Masters in Architecture in New Zealand.”
“In terms of family business involvement, we allow them to make their own choices, but we allow them to involve themselves in the business. One of our son runs our printing company and my two other children are involved with our business here.”
And from the corner of a small shop supplying stationery to Samoa’s education sector, to a mega house supplying office materials and equipment, B.S.L. has surely grown from the vision of a lady who sewed her dreams as a young girl.
Mrs. Meredith said she still retained her customers despite relocating.
She adds her eldest son, Jonathan, who once represented Manu Samoa in the Rugby World Cup and now plays cub games in Samoa, was brought up inside her small shop.
Teachings and values she inherited from her mum and dad is being passed down to her children and grandchildren.
She added that B.S.L. exists to ensure Samoans purchase quality products at affordable prices.
Mrs. Meredith wishes all Samoans a prosperous New Year.