Informal Economy

Tevita Tobeyaweni – Entrepreneur’s Journey (FIJI)

Tevita Tobeyaweni is a dancer-choreographer and the founder of MATA Dance Crew in Fiji. He takes us through his journey as a growing entrepreneur.

Article | 31 August 2021
“Since our establishment, this is the first proper business training that I have undergone, specifically one that focuses on how to run a dance company.”

Tevita Tobeyaweni
My name is Tevita Tobeyaweni and I am a dancer and a choreographer. After working at VOU Entertainment in Fiji from 2013 to 2018, I established MATA Dance crew which is based in Suva.

MATA Dance is a hip-hop based dance company that was established in late 2018 with a team that represented Fiji to the Hip-hop International Competitions in Auckland, New Zealand and in the USA.

The crew is passionate about the establishment and development of hip-hop in Fiji, and is working to create avenues for driven and passionate dancers to harness their artistic abilities in the genre.

Besides their vision of developing the talent and love for Hip-hop dance, the Mata crew run a dance school allowing people of all walks of life to learn from experienced teachers. MATA also performs for commercial clients regularly throughout the year.

The crew focuses on the development and training of the hip-hop dance style in Fiji, and exploring avenues and opportunities of growth from both the local and international scene.

MATA has a total of 15-20 dancers that train and perform all year round. We have a team of 3 dance teachers that teach in our dance school for four terms in a year.

A few of the challenges we have faced in the dance sector have included:

  • Under-cutting : We have found that in the dance sector there is not much dialogue between existing dance companies and newer dance collectives about the different prices set for the hiring of every dance company in Fiji. However, we know that through organisations such as the Fiji Islands Dance Association, we will have a platform for more open discussions about the basis of how to set performances package prices at an agreed market price which no dance company can charge under. There needs to be a collective voice also by dance companies about what we feel should be charged to our clients so we are not taken advantage of. This is our experience after having been in operation for the past two and a half years.
  • With the increasing number of dance schools especially in Suva, we have found that it is important for us to be more creative and innovative about the classes we can offer to our students and the general public. We have found that always offering something exciting and new is both a challenge and a boost. It allows us to be a step ahead in what we offer in our dance school, and encourages innovative ideas to be brought to life by the teaching team and the dancers.

I have many hopes for the sector in Fiji. I personally hope that the dance sector in Fiji will broaden its spectrum in terms of what we offer to society dance-wise. I also hope that in the next few years more dance companies really work towards tapping into the international market that focuses on the specific dance genre that each dance company works on daily.

I dream of a time when every dancer in Fiji knows that this career can offer you to unimaginable experiences in life as a Fijian, and that there is no lack of spaces and dance companies that help younger dancers develop and grow in their art.

For MATA, we strive to be the best at what we do and hope to be the crew that will allow the hip-hop dance scene become more prevalent and established in Fiji and later on in the Pacific. We hope to train our dancers to be the absolute best they can be, and help understand the importance of developing your own voice and work as individual artists.

Working with the Informal Economies Recovery Project

I decided to participate in this UN-led training, through the Informal Economies Recovery Project so that I am able to relook at how MATA currently operates. The training allows me to efficiently learn how I can better run our dance company both in the business and artistic aspect.

The training has really made me understand the importance of artistic entrepreneurship and why we should all be well versed with running the business side of our everyday work.
As difficult as it may be, knowing how to run your business makes a tremendous difference to make each dance company more efficient and able to plan, budget and keep records more effectively. This allows more opportunities for each dance company as proper business planning/operation is the corner stone of the business.

This project will tremendously assist us in strategizing our operations and policies at MATA. Since our establishment, this is the first proper business training that I have undergone, specifically one that focuses on how to run a dance company.

Listening to the other members from the dance sector and drawing up solutions on how we can collectively better our current internal operations have been such a boost to us, and specifically having it in this time during lockdown is such an advantage to us as it allows us to fully focus on preparing/relooking at our respective policies and procedures.

This training will provide a better foundation for each dance company to plan effectively about where we see ourselves in the next few years to come and knowing exactly what we want to achieve and how to achieve it.

I want to thank this UN-led project for making this training readily available to us. As artists we normally leave the business side of things to either function on its own, or someone else does it for us.

However, as business owners, we absolutely have to shift our focus to the professional business side of operating.