WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - VIRGINIA TO'ALEPAI
President - World Wide Safety Org
I was born and raised in Matautu, but I also had family from Saleimoa. My Dad came to the States to check out the land of opportunities that we heard so many stories about. A couple of months later, my Dad came back to Samoa and my siblings and I were sent to America.
Fast forward many years, I worked and networked in the construction industry like never before. I loved the arena and my ex-husband and I opened our own business. Unfortunately, our marriage did not last, so I left everything we built together to establish my own empire for my daughters and I. I left him with $12 to my name & my girls and I had to move back to my parents’ house because I didn’t have the means to make it on our own. I was determined to make it happen.
I stepped out in faith and invested in my future by attending meetings, events and other gatherings with leaders in the industry. When I connected with the right people, things changed. World Wide Safety was birthed in 2013 and continues to grow daily. We are located in several states with our headquarters in Nevada. I have an amazing team behind and alongside me, and we’re bringing safety awareness to men and women around the globe.
You own and operate World Wide Safety, can you tell us what this job entails?
World Wide Safety focuses on safety inspections for our clients which include residential and commercial properties. We train & educate our team and others in the industry to remain proactive to safety at all times.
You're one of the most successful million-dollar Samoan business women in the U.S. - what advice would you give to women going into business and why do you think you've been able to be so successful?
First and foremost, I want to give glory to my Heavenly Father. Without him, none of this would be possible. I love my family and friends, but during my humble beginnings, they weren’t all on board and that’s okay; this was my vision, not theirs and that’s totally fine. They’re my family and I'll never love them any less for just being truthful about everything going on.
As far as advice to the next entrepreneur, I would encourage them to keep it simple:
- have a vision
- pursue the vision you were given, no matter what
- and most importantly, work hard!
So many people think success is just an overnight process or some magical thing that happens out of nowhere, but it doesn’t. You’re going to get ‘no’s and you’re going to face challenges from people you know and unfortunately, people you don’t know, but you have to believe in yourself and have faith in God to move forward.
If I cared about what people said, I wouldn’t be where I am now. We didn’t always have the life we have now, and I never take this for granted. Lastly, pay it forward! My heart and soul revolves around giving back to the community and helping as best as I can because I was once there, without any assistance. Never forget where you started and don’t lose track of why you started.
Personally, I grind like crazy to provide my girls and parents the best of the best. Now I'm on the other side of the table with so much to give back and I truly believe it is my honour and privilege to do so. So many people have big dreams, but they have little belief in themselves or the vision given to them and that’s not okay. You have to believe in yourself no matter what anyone says and no matter what happens!
What were the pathways that led you to where you are now?
My life has definitely been full of ups and downs, just like everyone else. However, I believe a huge reason for my success has been the perseverance and grit I've gained from all the hardships and challenges encountered. No-one is going to give you success; you have to fight through every fire and dodge every bullet to make it happen. It’s going to happen, but you have to believe it and work towards it. Don’t fall victim to the tragedies that occur; build from them. Use your trials as spring boards to catapult you and your vision to the next level. Your journey is going to be worth it, but you have to be willing to sacrifice now in order to celebrate later. Remember, success doesn’t care about the validity of any of your excuses, so persevere through it all!
Don’t hoard your story. When you become successful, always share your story to empower others and help them learn from your mistakes. Utilize the battle wounds you received to prevent the next entrepreneur from getting roughed up out there.
What are some of the biggest challenges and lessons you've learned as a Pasifika Woman running their own business?
Honestly, this is a daily challenge. As my team and I are growing, I'm noticing things that never stood out and I'm grateful to have the team I do. As a mother running a million-dollar company, I have a hard time balancing my time and schedule out to everyone. It’s my passion to see others succeed and win, but sometimes, it hurts our company or the progress we’re targeting.
As a Samoan, my first instinct is taking care of our team because we’re a family, and I try my best to meet everyone’s needs, but sometimes, I fail because I stretch myself so thinly. I love my team and our clients and I find myself attaching to them too much, too quickly sometimes because of the way we were raised and the culture we’ve embraced. I don’t think I'll ever find the balance needed, but it is a fun challenge that I take on everyday because I know my intentions and motives are pure. I want the best for my team and clients, just like I want the best for my own children, but sometimes, the discipline that follows isn’t always the easiest to portray.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration and why?
My daughters: Lupe, Rylee, Shequieta & O’chayen are my biggest inspiration. I love working hard now, so they never have to struggle. I understand I cannot make all their events or be there for field trips as much as I would like, but the sacrifice will be worthwhile. I hope they know that this empire is built for them and will outlast me for generations to come. I empower and expect my girls to stand on their own two feet, so they never rely on anyone else in the future. The grind is tough and I know I miss a lot of the activities they have going on, but I know deep down inside that it is all worth it. Paying for an amazing future now is more valuable to me than squandering our time and money to play now with mediocre futures. My daughters deserve the best of the best and so long as I'm breathing, they will all experience it!