Gustavia Lui

Gustavia Lui is the owner of Staavias Footwear Company. In 2013, Gustavia applied for and won 2nd place for the AMP Scholarship People’s Choice Award which was a cash reward of $1000, which she used to buy her first foot molds in China. She later went to Las Vegas to a footwear tradeshow and met the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh. She was so inspired that she later flew to New York to study a shoe-making course. After more tours of Chinese factories, Gustavia Lui launched her first spring/summer shoe collection in 2014.

Q: What was your favourite memory from your time at James Cook?

A: Playing volleyball with Mr Ramiah in PE. That was probably the only subject where I’d actually follow instructions the first time.

Q: How did you start your company?

A: It took a good couple of years of planning and research but the ultimate thing I did that enabled me to actually launch my company was ACTION – so doing and implementing what I learned or planned. I wrote down a pathway that I thought would be ideal and I researched it and it seemed to make sense. I then broke it down into steps and added to my to do list.

Q: How did your time at James Cook put you on the path of starting your own business?

A: I did a Small Business management course and an Applied Business Growth course and I learned that you can take in all the knowledge in the world but if you don’t action it, you won’t get anywhere.

Q: What was your greatest challenge in establishing your company?

A: I feel like the finance side of things was the hardest. As I grew up no one ever told me about budgeting or debts and that really disadvantaged me. So it was a matter of sticking to my guns and changing my whole perspective on finances. It was so hard to do but eventually I overcame it.

You need lots of money to start a business like mine. Money I didn’t have as a result of my poor spending habits and poor choices with money. Business became so important to me that I had to make some changes and I’m so proud of myself that I did.

Not knowing what to do, who to ask was also a big challenge for me. it took me weeks of research to find an answer to something. So stressful but worth it in the end. That’s why I went to tradeshows to learn about the footwear industry.

Q: What are your hottest products at your company this year?

A: Right now we have our Camo shoe that’s trending. It’s very different and such a stand out. It’s the type of shoe that gets you noticed anywhere you go.

Q: Are you planning to introduce any new ones?

A: Yes I’m actually heading back to China to our manufacturers to see how they’re going with the samples of our new styles. I’ll be confirming material while I’m there as well. So exciting!!!

Q: What advice would you give to JCHS students that attribute your company’s success?

A: You don’t realise how important school is until you leave it and can no longer access it. Absorb as much as you can, join as many sports / activities as you can. Have a go at things that make you uncomfortable. All these things give you lifetime experiences that will definitely help in whatever career you choose.

If you’d like to share your story or recommend someone you know for our newsletter, website, or social media, please e-mail with photos and more information.

Our students love seeing stories of alumni who inspire them to make a difference and are passionate about their work in their chosen careers. You too can have a positive influence!