Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi, Managing and Creative Director, The Greenhouse Studio

Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi
Managing and Creative Director, The Greenhouse Studio
Location: Suva, Fiji
Year founded: 2011

Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi is the founder of The Greenhouse Studio – a multi-disciplinary creative communications studio based in Suva, Fiji. A recent awardee of the Global Ambassadors Program, Maria is passionate about supporting other Pacific businesses through effective brand and communications.

When did you start your business?

The Greenhouse Studio was officially registered in 2011, and after a year of operating as a solopreneur, I was offered a job in the company I was previously employed as Creative Web Director, to become its General Manager, Creative. Being pregnant at that time and attracted by the opportunity to experience leading a team of almost twenty, I made the move and signed a contract for two years. Fast forward two years in 2014, I made a decision to go back to doing my own thing, to becoming my own boss, to dancing to the beat of my own drum, and I have not looked back ever since.

Describe your business.

The Greenhouse Studio is a multi-disciplinary creative communications studio that specialises in branding, corporate events, print and digital communications. We are passionate about helping organisations, companies, businesses, groups and individuals in building their identities and reaching out to the right customers, clients, partners and stakeholders using effective mediums of communication and delivering precisely-crafted messages. Everyone has a story to tell and it is our job to make that story compelling and memorable so that it engages and captivates the people who need to hear it.

Who are your customers?

Our diverse clientele is made up of primarily international development agencies and non-profit organisations, commercial businesses, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as consultants.

What inspired you start your own business?

At that point in my life, I had a calling. My entrepreneurial spirit was stronger than ever and I visualised living a life of my own design. I wanted to have a creative studio that is small, mobile, flexible, and organic in its ways and growth. A studio borne out of the desire to have a results only work environment (ROWE) style of working where personal and work lives are in a natural state of ‘flow’. A socially-conscious business that adheres to the principles of the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. A place where our mantra consists of inspiring change in communities and people. The Greenhouse Studio was reborn in March 2014 where I was solopreneur. Within six months, I hired my first employee. Today, The Greenhouse Studio has six full-time staff.

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

As a highly creative individual, I tend to make decisions intuitively. I navigate the world by seeing through my heart which has really propelled me forward to where I am today. My dreams and my vision gave me courage to jump when others will not. However, the biggest challenges for creatives like myself is learning the art of being disciplined and being technically-savvy in all operational and financial matters of the business. It was a real challenge to shift my thinking, to learn to love areas of no interest to me. I have learned to become a positive realist. A defining moment in my business journey was when my husband kept reminding me to complete a cashflow forecast for the studio and I was getting very irritated. But I remembered reading about The Stockdale Paradox. Named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was in the US military and was held captive during the Vietnam War. Stockdale said the optimists died first because they could not handle the reality of their situation. He on the other hand, faced and accepted the reality of everything, yet he also firmly believed that he would survive and see his wife again. And he did. I said to myself that I was going to be a positive realist like Stockdale, after which I faced the numbers and other brutal facts so I could then find solutions, and thrive.

Were there any key people or organisations who provided you with assistance?

My mother was a small business owner and I believe I grew up learning about running a business while watching her doing so. Her and my father have always been great sources of inspiration in my life. Richard, my soulmate and other half, has always been the most supportive husband and life partner. He has continuously and tirelessly provided insightful advice, great encouragement and the best support in a million different ways that has been so instrumental to the company’s growth.

I would like to mention my team here as well, The Greenhouse Studio is blessed with the most supportive and fantastic team. Very hardworking and loyal, they are key drivers to our growth and success. It is very difficult to find the right people so hold on to them when you find them.

The Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), the Women Entrepreneurs Business Council (WEBC), the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) and the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) are key organisations who provide excellent assistance to SMEs in Fiji, and in the case of PIPSO and PCF, the Pacific. I am a member of WEBC, PIPSO is now one of our clients and The Greenhouse Studio was part of PCF’s Grow Pacific programme.

WEBC is under the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) and they coordinate with PIPSO as well for various free or inexpensive trainings, workshops and other functions. PIPSO also organises the bi-annual Pacific Women in Business Conference. I find these four organisations to be dynamic and truly demonstrates their enthusiasm and determination to help many people in business or those aspiring to start a business.

What advice do you give to women wanting to set up a business in the Pacific?

Start a business with a passionate intent to make this world a better place. Studies show that those who do business with a higher purpose end up becoming extremely successful compared to those that were created with the sole purpose of making money.

When you start a business, you are going to need guts, grit and great support. Do not be ashamed to ask for help and to learn everything you can about starting and running a business with all available opportunities around you. Surround yourself with the right people – those that are motivational, honest and genuinely interested to see you succeed. And lastly, if there is a problem – treat it as a challenge. Do not give up, there will always be a solution. And do not be afraid to fail, get yourself out there and learn!

What advice do you give to women about running a business?  

For us women finding the right balance to run a business, manage our households, take care of our children, be involved in our village, and be kind to ourselves, can be the most challenging and most daunting thing. We have to face a brutal fact – yes we are not superwomen! And our most precious and limited resource is time. I have had to learn this the hard way and in fact I am still getting better at it. While you are being kind to others, saying yes to everything and taking care of everyone, please do not forget to also be kind to yourself. Be very strategic about how you spend your time and who you spend your time with. Learn how to integrate your business with your life so that you are able to spend quality time with your family, your health and wellness, yourself, your closest friends, your community and your business.

Some book suggestions:

What have been some of the highlights of your career?

I am so very fortunate, honoured and humbled to have been awarded a place to become a mentee at the Global Ambassadors Program, which took place from October 3-7 in Sydney, Australia. While there, I joined nine other women entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, business owners and nonprofit leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region for a week of one-on-one mentoring and trainings that will help us advance our organisations and contribute to economic growth and success in our respective countries. The Global Ambassadors Program is a partnership between Vital Voices and Bank of America.

In 2014, I was also given a tremendous opportunity to become part of the Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar. This 12-day leadership development program for mid-career female business and social entrepreneurs from Asia, the Pacific Islands and the United States based at the East-West Center in Honolulu aims to assist women who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in their current and past positions as well as potential to affect change in their communities and influence others.

Final words?

It has been proven that when women participate in business and politics, economies grow and nations thrive. We have a significant role to play as Pacific women in business because there are still so many barriers and challenges that we face as female entrepreneurs. Let us help each other succeed, and by doing so, we can inspire and effect positive change in our communities. Some organisations where you can get involved: Women Entrepreneurs Business Council (WEBC), The Fiji Association of Women Graduates (FAWG. Soon to be renamed to Graduate Women (Fiji)), Women in Business (WIB), Rotary Clubs, Soroptimist International.

For more information about The Greenhouse Studio, visit www.greenhousefiji.com