A café and a pharmacy - service with a difference

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Alpha Cafe and Chemist owners Nataivai Siitia and her husband Junior Siitia.

Alpha Cafe and Chemist owners Nataivai Siitia and her husband Junior Siitia. (Photo: Aufa’i Areta Areta)

The Alpha Café and Chemist is not your everyday kind of pharmacy – it offers a service with a difference and is within the vicinity of the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Motootua.

Run by Samoan couple Junior Siitia and Nativai Liki-Siitia, the café located in Poinsettia House, Motootua opened its doors to customers in November last year and the pharmacy followed a month later.

“We first started with just two tables that can seat five people per table. After one week of opening the people were requesting more seats so we equip our tables and chairs to accommodate more people. We started with the café on November 5 last year,” Mr. Siitia said.

But the first-time business owners were challenged by their lack of entrepreneurial experience, according to Mrs. Liki-Siitia.

“We are just ordinary people who never would have thought of establishing our own private pharmacy. My husband was very helpful through the entire process and journey in leading the way, so despite how long it had taken to get approval; we did get an answer.”

While the couple both lack business experience, they more than made up for it with their professional backgrounds – Mrs. Liki-Siitia having clocked over a decade working as a pharmacist in Samoa’s public and private sectors, and her husband in media coordination as well as graphics designing.

The business would not have got the financial support it needed as an SME start-up, without the assistance of Samoa’s Small Business Enterprise Center (SBEC).

Mrs. Liki-Siitia said: “When we had first started the business and we were looking for financial support, we didn’t know how to go about with that. But SBEC was very helpful, to the point that we got the funds needed to begin our business 

 We haven’t been able to properly publicize the business – it was mostly by word of mouth and through our Facebook page. At the moment we are working on our website and we are hopeful to launch it soon.”

They are also making the most of the business’ location next to the country’s largest hospital, he added.

“We have been getting customers. Most of them are grateful because of the convenience of location and amble parking space, it’s also just within walking distance from the Motootua Hospital.”

Currently, the pharmacy has essential drugs in stock and those that are not on the shelves can be ordered, and be flown into the country within a week or two.  “Because of the limited funds availed to us for our setup, we decided to concentrate mainly on the prescription medicines for now. We have about 95% coverage of essential medicines in stock. Our shop items are mainly simple things that someone would need on a day to day basis, or when being hospitalized like soaps, towels, deodorants, creams and lotions, with the hopes of building our range as we go.”

Mr. Siitia recently resigned as Samoa Rugby Union’s media marketing coordinator, in order to dedicate more time to the business.

“It would be unfair for SRU if I work and help run the business at the same time, not giving my 100 per cent, so that is why I resigned last week,” he said.

Besides the café and the pharmacy, the couple also decided to provide a passport photo service along with  3D printing, laser cutting and engraving as complimentary services to the Pharmacy.

“We will always acknowledge God’s guidance in our lives, for without Him, nothing would have been possible.”

They also credited and thanked their families for getting behind them when they began their plans to establish the business at Motootua. “We are so blessed also to have such amazing friends who have become family and we are forever grateful. They have shared with us so many ideas on how to improve not only our Café menu but also our Pharmacy services.”

But the whole purpose behind the business side of things is to help our families and most importantly, our community. If this goes well then down the line we are able to help them out,” Mr. Siitia said. 

Mr. Siitia is a New Zealand-trained graphic artist and Mrs. Liki-Siitia has a Bachelors from Fiji and a Masters of Pharmacy Practice from Monash University, Australia. 

As the owners of a three-month-old business, they are flexible with their pharmacy’s opening hours and are trying to strike a balance between business and family time. Currently, their business hours are: Monday-Wednesday 8.30am–6.00pm, Thursday-Friday 8.30am–8.00pm, Saturday 8.30am–2.00pm and Sunday 6.00pm–9.00pm (sometimes 4.00pm). 

You can contact the company on telephone 604958 and also find the company on Facebook under the name Alpha Cafe & Chemist. 

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