Gustavia Lui certainly had big shoes to fill when she ventured into the footwear industry. The entrepreneur, whose company Staavias specialises in high heels and sandals from sizes 10 to 14, is from South Auckland’s Manurewa. Born and raised in New Zealand, the 28-year-old of Samoan and Tuvaluan descent attended James Cook High School where she dropped out before the end of Year 11.
Lui comes from an extended family of doctors, CEOs, teachers, nurses, and IT specialists, but no fashionistas. She always wanted to become a lawyer.
“I have a strong personality and I'm pretty good at talking, that's what people tell me, so I thought it would be a great job for me. However that all changed when the idea of business entered my head,” Lui said.
It was a total change from the role of case manager she did all of her adult life. However, her role with WINZ made her realise what life could be like if she didn’t strive to succeed and chase her dreams.
Lui did a small part-time evening business course while working full time and did a three day shoemaking course in New York.
“I like to learn on the job, it's faster for me, and in some ways cheaper than education. I have a young family to support so formal education was out of the picture for me.”
Lui basically runs every aspect of the business from finances, sales and marketing to customer service, website and designing.
She said people skills, relationship building skills and money management skills are most necessary for her work. The job has taught her basic coding, marketing, and how to put together a website.
“But above all, my job has taught me the importance of having faith in God, patience and perseverance as well as believing in myself.
“Any skill can be learned, I believe attitude is more important than anything because if you have a great, positive attitude, you will be open and willing to learn the skills needed to run a successful business. These skills are usually way out of your comfort zone.”
She attributes her success at such a young age to her faith in God, just doing it, and having a great support network. Her husband and their boys are her biggest supporters, and her parents, close circle of friends and church family are always supporting and praying for Lui and her business.
“I'm always thinking of ways to improve and increase. I have a mad passion to succeed. I have huge goals – some would say they are a bit unrealistic – that's just how I am. I set ridiculous goals and then strive to achieve them and I surprise myself every time.
Her goal is to literally disrupt the footwear industry and the way things are done.
“There seems to be a traditional way of doing things and not many people are willing to go off course, whereas I love to push boundaries and take risks a little.”
She wants to extend her size range and look into a men's range.
“In the future I would love to look at designing luggage as I travel a lot, I swear I have a different bag every time. For now, my sole focus is plus sizes with wide widths.
“Yes the bags under my eyes are a result of no sleep. When you want to succeed, yes sleep is important and should not be neglected but sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. I have to fit all my different hats into 24 hours.”