Lami Kava’s Donny Yee Vying For Exporter Awards
A story of sacrifice and determination for which the owner is now reaping rewards He started his business with $5000 selling kava from his first 24-hours and seven-days-a-week shop in Raiwaqa on the outskirts of Suva. Today, he is one of the most successful kava dealers locally while also having established regional and other markets overseas. Lami Kava managing director, Donny Jason Yee, 40, was born into the business which had been initially started by his father more than three decades ago. He then branched almost nine years ago to form his own – ‘Lami Kava’. Lami Kava is amongst companies vying for the 2015 Westpac Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Awards. The awards will be held next Saturday at the Sheraton Convention Centre on Denarau Island in Nadi. “If we get recognised that’s good. But if we don’t, then at least we tried,” the company’s Human Resource manager, Veronica Mulu said. The history Mr Yee reminisced receiving $5000 from his father to help start the business. “So I started with selling grog at the shop in Raiwaqa,” Mr Yee said. “My wife and I were taking shifts to run the shop because it was running for 24-hours.” The locally-famous ‘Lami Kava’ is a brand synonymous with excellent quality kava. Its reputation grew and quickly spread with Mr Yee very quickly realising that he needed to continue producing what his customers wanted. “People talk and they tell us we sell good kava. I have to give my customers what they want. That’s why I have to maintain the quality and be consistent,” he said. In terms of expanding its market, Lami Kava began exporting to the region around 11 years ago including countries such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, Guam, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands. Outside the region, its product are sold in Hawaii, China, Taiwan and Los Angeles. And if one has been a loyal customer of ‘Lami Kava’ one will have noticed how the packaging has also changed to take into the current technologies. The vacuum sealed bags was one of the value-adding touches the business adopted more than five years ago. Mr Yee strongly encourages those who may be interested in starting a business and who may have a lot of land at their disposal to plant kava as he foresees a shortage in future.