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Published on octobre 27th, 2021

Raiwaqa Bakery: When Disaster Strikes, the Bread Must Go On!

Now employing more than 100 people, Atela Yee’s bakery is always open to customers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, overnight business is slow, but a cup of tea and a slice are always available through the side window for taxi drivers and shift workers who have a permit to move around during the curfew.

The pandemic is just another natural disaster that Atela’s business, Raiwaqa Bakery, faced head-on in the same way as it has done with the annual cyclone season since opening its doors in 1999. It did, however, give Atela cause to consider creating a more formal plan to handle such events in the future—there had to be a better way. Working online with a representative of the Business Link Pacific Programme, and using its business diagnostic survey tool, Atela was able to identify exactly what the business needed to take it into the future.

Business Link Pacific, managed by DT Global and funded by New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is a private sector development programme that connects small and medium-sized businesses in the Pacific to local advisory services. The programme works across Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu and offers an approved network of advisors who provide accessible services to business owners for their business growth. The programme also offers subsidies to help businesses improve their outcomes.

With advice from the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation, Atela developed a Business Continuity Plan to minimise the effect on workers and suppliers when the next disaster struck.

Atela elaborates, “In creating the plan we looked at the products which we needed to keep in production through a crisis and who supplied the ingredients. In another part of the plan, we assigned roles to various staff members, so everyone knew what to do.”

This involvement of staff in the planning process ensures engagement and offers staff security by knowing that there is a plan and how they can help.

“Now, as soon as we hear the cyclone warning we immediately order ingredients and send our handyman off to ensure the generators and water tanks are in good order, we have fuel and other necessities in stock, and we schedule staff for sleepovers in the bakery,” Atela laughs.

They even have mattresses and bedding on hand in case of flooding and staff simply can’t get to and from work safely. Safety is an important consideration and staff members with dependent children or elderly family members are transported home, and the more flexible staff are scheduled to work through at the bakery.

The objective of the Business Continuity Plan is to enable the business to be flexible enough to resume operations quickly, safeguarding the supply chain while maximising safety and fulfilling contractual commitments with clients.

When the first cyclone for 2021 struck Fiji in late January, Raiwaqa Bakery was ready with its plan in place. Staff had been trained in their various disaster roles and everyone knew what to do. Leaping into action when the cyclone warning sounded, the bakery didn’t miss a beat. It remained open throughout, providing customers with the bread and services they relied on, while other bakeries were forced to close their doors for the duration of the cyclone.

Atela now feels more secure knowing her business is prepared for the future. She also takes comfort knowing her staff are mentally prepared for a crisis and are on board with the plan, knowing what their roles are in a disaster so there are no surprises. Having a system she can trust has enabled Atela to delegate a part of her own role to others in the business, and let go of some of her concerns.

She can now focus on other aspects of the business which were also identified in the business diagnostic survey carried out by Business Link Pacific, and continues to grow her business with programme’s support.