Sharing stories and learning from others is one of the highlights of Pacific Connect events, and there were many inspiring moments during the Side Hustle to Sustainability Dialogue, a Pacific-wide talanoa that rounded out the busy and ever-changing year that was 2020.
One such story was that of Kenny Lawrence, a first-time Pacific Connect member who joined the Dialogue via the Lae Community Hub led by Julliane Terry. Following the presentations, during which more the more than 50 participants heard from Ginia Sialis, Manita Ray and Zha Agabe-Granfar about turning small side-businesses into sustainable ventures, a Q&A session allowed Kenny’s story to shine in the spotlight. The following is an extract provided by Kenny:
Kenny Lawrence was born in Papuan Compound LAE, Morobe Province Papua New Guinea, the third of six children , two of whom were adopted, which is very much a PNG cultural habit. Kenny was educated up to Year 10 at Lae Secondary School, which he had to leave because of family circumstances as they could not afford school fees (again, very common in PNG).
Settlement life in PNG is beyond the understanding of most other cultures: PNG people do not starve because we have an abundance of fresh produce (although a lack of protein), but we lack education, health and career pathways with an added pressure of a “Wantok” system which creates an us & them situation.
Sitting idle in the settlement, Kenny fell in with a bad crowd and joined a raskol gang doing not so good things. As a result, he served prison time but came back to society as a reformed man. He did mission work in Australia and around PNG before returning to his Papuan Compound with a dream and passion “to keep our younger youth off the same path I strayed down”. He was engaged as a welder and manufacturer for a local firm Hornibrook NGI.
While working at Hornibrook, Kenny came up with a unique idea after going to the market one day: a portable cooker designed for markets, called Kuk Blo Mi.
A trained and skilled welder and manufacturer with a creative mind, he has designed a unique Cooker for the Market Mamas .
It’s designed with two functions in mind: a Gas Burner or Wood Fire (converted in less than 30 seconds), with an umbrella stand – approx 1 metre high – perfect for sitting and keeping the food off the ground with an immediate ability to control the heat, stopping food drying out and wasting.
Kenny’s business has gone from strength to strength as he realised the potential of his business plan, which he shared and sought advice from the facilitators and participants present during the Pacific Connect Dialogue.
He teaches the youth of Papuan Compound welding and manufacturing, and has a PASSION in providing them work and keeping out of trouble. He now employs 5 young men, and many more want to learn from him.
He himself is an active participant in the LSE SME INCUBATOR HUB learning how to grow, market, budget and develop his dream into a BUSINESS.
This is his first of many products ….
Look out PNG – Kenny Lawrence and KUK BLO MI are here !!
We can’t wait to see Kenny back at our Dialogues this year and look forward to him sharing what he’s learnt with new Community members.