Boy who couldn’t afford shoes takes successful recycling business back to Tonga

Na'e kole sū holo pe 'a Saia Latu ke tui ki he ngāue' he na'e 'ikai ke ne lava ke fakatau hano sū ka 'i he 'aho ni kuo lele 'ene pisinisi 'ana ia 'a ia 'oku' ne tokanga'i ai ha ngaahi polōseki lau miliona 'i Nu'u Sila.

Success is like owning a brand new pair of shoes.

That was the message Tongan businessman Saia Latu told this year’s Tonga National Day Celebration in Auckland.

Latu was one of the guest speakers at the event, which was organised by the New Zealand Tonga Business Council and Auckland Council.

Latu is Managing Director of Te Riu O Waikato (TROW) Group.

He won the Business Council’s ‘Business Executive’ award in 2017, two years after the TROW Group was formed.

He left school when he was 14 because his parents could not afford to keep him there.

Nor could he afford shoes.

“My first job was pushing trolleys at the Auckland domestic airport, and I remember when I’d see people coming in and out of the terminals the first thing I’d notice were their shoes,” Latu said.

“I couldn’t afford shoes back then and had to wear my cousin’s.

“So when I’m asked what success is, I say success is like owning a brand new pair of shoes.”

He eventually moved into the machinery hire and civil infrastructure industry where he spent 15 years, building on the contacts and knowledge he had gained.

“I fought hard for every opportunity I was given because there are millions out there like me,” he recalls.

Eventually Latu formed the TROW Group, which salvages and recycles material from building sites for use in schools, community centres and churches.

It manages million-dollar projects across the Auckland and Waikato region.

In conjunction with contracts from the Auckland Council, the TROW Group has been able to provide furniture and materials to schools, communities and churches in Tonga.

The group has established a company in Tonga to help distribute and store materials.

Latu said he wanted to duplicate the model in other Pacific islands.

The main points

  • Success if like owning a brand new pair of shoes.
  • That was the message Tongan businessman Saia Latu told this year’s Tonga National Day Celebration in Auckland.
  • Latu is Managing Director of Te Riu O Waikato (TROW) Group.

For more information 

A million ways to salvage

TROW Group

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