Meet Down Under Night Club Boss

Caroline Wainiqolo Cooke never dreamed that she would one day run a business.


Caroline Wainiqolo Cooke with her brother Donald Wainiqolo at the Down Under Pub. Photo: Laisa Lui

Caroline Wainiqolo Cooke never dreamed that she would one day run a business.

It was her dream to become a flight attendant.

Her independence led her to work part-time while still in school at the age of 17.

She adored her childhood even with her separated parents. It only made her stronger.

She is married to Chris Cooke, the owner of the Down Under nightclub. The couple are grateful to the government for its efforts to ease restrictions and open our border to get things back to normal. This has allowed companies like theirs to recover from the two years of confinement.

The couple has a great team that has also contributed to the success of their business. One of them is Ms Cooke’s older brother, Donald Wainiqolo, who runs the nightclub.

Tell us about your educational background?

Attended school in Tahiti and returned to Saint Joseph Secondary School before completing a Certificate in Business Studies at Fiji National University.

Can you tell us about your experience in your role?

Over the years, I have built my confidence.

What if you could also share with us your experiences before joining your current position/company?

I used to work in a cafe during my studies before applying as a bartender at Down Under when I was 19. Since then I have been in the business and I have learned a lot in running a business.

How do you manage the demands of professional and personal commitments?

I make sure that I spend enough time with my children.

Did your family background or where you grew up influence your career choices?

No. I was very independent at a very young age. It was my husband who became my mentor who motivated me to give everything I had for what I do well.

What challenges does the club face?

We wasted about $350,000 the first time we started the club because we didn’t have the right people to do the job. And it took us time to build and expand. For seven years, everything was back in the business.

Other than that, we come across breakages that require a full-time carpenter for daily maintenance work, so it’s a safe place for people to have fun.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

When customers come in and have a good time and enjoy themselves, that impression keeps them coming back.

What is your philosophy on the business as a whole and your vision for your organization?

The companies are all the same, and have the same principles.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Become a successful business after many years of sacrifice. To be able to expand with a sports bar and a lounge.

Have you been inspired or influenced by anyone in particular?

We support each other because we are going in the same direction.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

We give bonuses to our workers when we see them go the extra mile. We make them take ownership of their work and make sure they are well prepared with their customer service. We offer them a barbecue and we meet before the busy days. Thanks to this, we have workers who have stayed with us for over a decade. They have been faithful to their work and always show up for work.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your professional and personal life?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone across the border, including club owners like us. I stayed in Suva for six months while my husband and children stayed home in Pacific Harbor and we met in Wainadoi to trade goods.

On a lighter note:

Describe a typical day

I would rake our compound or do some gardening in the morning, then get my kids ready for school before I come to work. In the afternoon I pick up the kids from school and spend time with them and cook dinner.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love gardening and spending time with my children outdoors.

At home, what do you like to eat?

Home cooked meals for my family, they love the lamb curry.

Favorite dish to cook for guests?

I like cooking, barbecuing

MOTTO IN LIFE?

Love your job, otherwise you’re not going to be good at it.

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