A Startup in the South Pacific Could Be a Worldwide Model

National Geographic
  • Monica Jain
  • Sept 7, 2016

Alfred Kalontas, the founder of ALFA Fishing in Vanuatu, bootstrapped his business from nothing to become the preferred seafood supplier to over 70 percent of the hotels and restaurants in the island nation’s capital, Port Vila. He is now starting to export his high-quality, sustainably caught products to New Zealand and is seeing demand from Australia and beyond.

For most of us, bootstrapping brings up images of garages, ramen and sleeping on sofas. It’s what many entrepreneurs do to get through the first stages of growing a business, when they need to reinvest all the money they make into their company. They take only a subsistence salary—or no salary at all.

Entrepreneurs in Vanuatu and other Pacific islands face the same growth challenge. But for people already living at a subsistence level, bootstrapping requires an advanced degree of creativity—and has higher stakes because success in this context means not just business growth, but also improved living standards for the entire community.

On a recent visit to Vanuatu, I took a close look at the operations of ALFA Fishing, one of the 2015 Fish 2.0 prize winners. I learned what bootstrapping means in this environment—and how important it is to developing sustainable communities and fisheries

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