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  • Writer's pictureMina Amso

Savvy Iraqi businesses owner Fadia Tomas talks moving to New Zealand and floral decór

She is the epitome of a kiwi-Iraqi living in New Zealand and making it.

Fadia Tomas, an immigrant, travelled thousands of kilometers to land on New Zealand soil 23 years ago looking for a blossoming life.

She says her first impression of New Zealand after landing was that of quietness. Of course, in Iraq, she says, shops open late into the night, so when she found out that everything was shut by 6pm, she was shocked.

Her story like many migrant Iraqis consists of struggles, trials and tribulations, but also of triumph, joy and successes. She says she knew she was set on making New Zealand home.

“We started from scratch, we didn’t turn back, Tomas says.

“Like for me, I came here and I was done. That’s me, that’s my country, I have to live with it. I have to love it in good times and bad, and we survived.”

Tomas moved with her newly wedded husband and gave birth to two girls, Rosie and Christina. Life was just beginning for the Iraqi couple, when Tomas began working as a florist in a local shop and began liking the work.

“We started from scratch, we didn’t turn back, Tomas says.

She says for the most part of living in New Zealand she loved it, breathing New Zealand’s fresh air and the delightful flowery perfumes. She worked with the people of the land, New Zealanders, and says has been wonderful.

“They’re really friendly, they really push you up. If they find you a hard worker, you can do things, they will push you up. They are supportive. They will help you up skill.”

She says New Zealand is an excellent place to raise children giving praise to the Catholic and secular schools in the region. When it comes to beautiful places in Aotearoa, she singled out Queenstown as her favorite holiday destination.

“Like when you go to Queenstown, that’s not New Zealand, it’s a different place. You see all the people alive, walking (and enjoying themselves). I love Waiheke too, but not like Queenstown.”

She now has a well-established floral business that caters for weddings and corporate events. But it wasn’t so big at the beginning. She started on her own, and slowly began to grow and employ people.

“I always follow my dream, and my dream is to be bigger and nicer. And when you want to do more things, you can’t do it by yourself. I have a big team, a beautiful team. [My staff] support me all the time.

She says every time Tomas and her team take on a wedding project, they come out feeling proud and accomplished.

She’s now known as ‘Fadia the florist’ among the Iraqi community. She’s probably been to almost every Iraqi wedding.

“I started to do weddings in 2002, twenty years ago. I’ve done a thousand Iraqi and other cultures’ (weddings) actually,” she laughs.

However, the journey for Tomas involved a lot of scarifies. Floral work is demanding with hours and hours spent working on an event to make it seamless and flawless, meaning there were many days when Tomas didn’t see her family like other mothers do. Nor go to social events on weekends.

“You don’t see your kids all the time. A lot of the time I don’t see them for days, only one hour.” But she says the thing that’s making her stay the course is her passion.

“I started to do weddings in 2002, twenty years ago. I’ve done a thousand Iraqi and other cultures’ (weddings) actually,” she laughs.

She says since moving to New Zealand life has been one big learning curve. She says it’s a challenge being a woman in business, who’s Arabic, who has a family. Middle Eastern people take care of their elderly and extended families, something Tomas says was an added thing to her already busy life.

“With our family am not only caring about my husband and my daughters. You have to take care of your father, your parents-in-law, your brothers and your sisters.”

But she says the last three years have even been tougher, seen with Covid-19 restrictions closing the doors of her business for a considerable period of time. It was “very tough”.

“You’re working so hard and see yourself going down and you have to be challenging yourself to be surviving and smiling, pushing all your family and staff at the same time.”

She says the industry has become more competitive and challenging with many events and weddings being cancelled at a moment’s notice either people were having to isolate with Covid-19 or having those country wide lockdowns.

There’s always silver lining though. Tomas joked about the time she had to hunker down wither family in 2020 when the pandemic fist hit.

“I loved it and that’s when I asked myself: what am I doing why am I working? What have I done? That’s why people see me maybe with a bit of success, am thankful, and it’s really nice, but sometimes I think I should stay home.”

Of course, that’s not what she did, Tomas was determined to get back on it again as soon as restrictions were lifted designing flowers for weddings, alongside her staff. Tomas operates Stylish Weddings and Events on Alice Road in Glenfield. She resides with her husband Ayad and her two girls Rosie and Christina on the Shore.

Watch other interviews on the Mina Amso Show on Youtube:

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