Samoan woman making moves in the construction industry
Las Vegas, NEVADA — A Samoa woman is making waves in Sin City. And she's doing it in an industry that has been — and still is — predominantly male.
Virginia Toalepai is a single mother who was the recipient of the International Young Professional Division Award during this week's 15th Annual Athena Awards in Las Vegas, hosted by the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Nevada.
What an accomplishment for someone who started with only $12 to her name — and now owns and operates a string of million-dollar businesses in five states.
"I want to dedicate this Award to all my young and upcoming women in the world who are fighting for their dreams!" Toalepai posted on her social media page. "I commend you all for never giving up! Be proud and hold your heads up high! You all got this and there’s nothing Impossible with God! Just believe and push through!"
In her acceptance speech, Toalepai got the crowd rolling when she said, "I've come a long way, in a man's world. I was tried so many times as a woman in the construction field and now I get to tell them what to do — that's the best part!"
Samoa News was able to hear Toalepai's story last month, when she travelled to the territory for the Amerika Samoa Tatau Fest, during which she got her traditional malu. Her story has been shared by various news outlets all over the Pacific region as well as the US west coast. And the reason is simple: It's a story of someone who persevered, who went against all odds, who came out on top, and is a woman.
According to the Athena Awards program, Toalepai has been involved in thousands of workplace inspections and hundreds of accident investigations in construction and general industry. An OSHA-authorized instructor, Toalepai is described as "a serial entrepreneur."
In 2013, Toalepai started World Wide Safety (WWS), a company that specializes in ensuring that construction companies are in compliance with the law. WWS provides training, and inspections, as well as programs and protocols for their registered clients to ensure they are in line with US regulations.
What started off as a dream in her parents' home is now a beautiful reality for a girl who, about 6 years ago, had no job and had to move back in with her mom and dad.
It was the knowledge she gained from immersing herself in the construction industry with her ex-husband that got her started. From the floor of her parents bedroom to the big stage at various conferences, Toalepai continues to empower women everywhere.
Her business started off small, and she says she had to do a lot of networking to get off the ground. She started off with 21 accounts and now — employee wise — she services over 10,000 and about 150 companies.
She has 30 employees of her own, holding down the fort in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Pennsylvania.
In addition to WWS, Toalepai also founded 300 Productions, a music and record label, entertainment, film production, and artist management company; HAALCROS Cleaning Solutions, a cleaning company; and she created a non-profit organization: RYSHOC Family — a name created off the first two letters of her children's names — that offers career training to kids and youth, some of whom have been in foster care.
Toalepai's ultimate goal is to build a hotel in Samoa. The plans are in motion right now.
Toalepai's father is from Matautu and Fagaloa and her mom is from Vaivase and Saleimoa.
She was educated in Samoa at Vaivase Tai Primary School, Malifa, Leiififi and Pesega.