Who am I and why am I here?


WARNING: Before you read I had better warn you. I've been told to use "business guidelines or practices" when writing blogs which I feel is absolute GENIUS if I'm writing to an audience of robots. 

I'm more of a people person so I like to talk, hang out, build friendships and relationships. I'm honest and transparent which is exactly how our blogs will come across - raw, unedited and honest! 

I've realised how difficult it is to please everyone! Luckily for us that's not our goal, we've accepted that there will always be critics and those we cannot please, but we firmly believe our blogs and culture here at Staavias will resonate with people who value honesty and you being YOU. 


My name is Gustavia Lui, founder and owner of new footwear brand called Staavias. I’m half Samoan half Tuvaluan and a mother of 3 boys Demetrius 12, Deniro 8 and Detroit 4. I am happily married (9 years in June 2016) and we are currently based in Auckland, New Zealand. 

I grew up in a 3-bedroom Housing NZ home (state housing) in a suburb called Takanini, South of Auckland. I lived with my Mum, Stepfather, siblings, Aunties and cousins. From the outside, we looked like happy families but behind closed doors life was a nightmare.

I had endured so much abuse at a young age, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. It was so bad I was uplifted from our home at the age of 7. The final straw was when my dad broke my arm.

Early that morning he and a few friends watched a live boxing match on TV and he was heading to bed as I was getting ready for school. Elastics was the in thing at the time and a friend allowed me to take hers home, so after getting ready I put my elastics around 2 chairs and started jumping.I didn't know my Dad was annoyed by the jumping noise, he walked back out of his room looking furious. I was so scared I stopped everything and sat down quietly. He looked at me and continued walking down the hallway. I was relieved until I saw him come back with a 4 wheeled pram. He stood at the doorway and with all his might threw it directly towards my face. I held up my arm to block my face and as a result my arm broke.

Prior to this, I got regular beatings for being "naughty" the bumps and bruises were easy to hide but this wasn't going to be as easy. I went to school and as expected the authorities found out.

I was immediately uplifted and placed into my Aunt's care and this was just the beginning of moving around from relative to relative, house to house and from school to school. For someone so young, I had difficulty trusting anyone as well as all these other issues.I became consumed by hatred and anger, I started to rebel. I felt paranoid that everyone was against me. I felt so alone, rejected and unloved. I started smoking cigarettes and drugs thinking it would keep me happy - of course it never lasted. I used to wonder how I ended up the way I was, I was quite negative and my thoughts started to take over me, I became depressed. This led me to attempt suicide when I was about 11 years old. 

As I think back to that day while typing this blog, tears roll down my face remembering how dark my world was at the time. I had mixed together chlorine, dishwashing liquid and ajax hoping it would poison and eventually finish me off. Thankfully another Aunty was suspicious and followed me around the house literally. I just gave up in the end, tipped it out and sat outside the house crying for the rest of that day. 

This was life for me up until the end of my intermediate years. Towards the end of Year 9 I had to move back home. My Dad had calmed down a lot but I was still scared and still angry. My behaviour worsened in high school, I was uncontrollable and I eventually dropped out of high school halfway through Year 11. I secured a part time job at McDonalds in Papakura and met my husband there. By 16 I was pregnant and a Mum at 17.

People made remarks like - "I'm not surprised" or "her life was heading that way anyway". It was hard to ignore but I decided to shut everyone out and focus on raising my baby. My parents, especially my Mum was super supportive of me and my choices. I found my own place with my baby and hubby (partner back then). Slowly I started to change my life, my son was 5 months when I secured my first proper full-time job earning $30K at the age of 17. In 2006, I started with Work and Income as a Case Manager and after 9 years I left to pursue my dream of owning my business, full time. 


Today I think back to my childhood, teenage years and life as an adult and I can't help but thank God as I know it was my training ground for the bigger things I will be blessed with in life. Once I figured out who I was, I was able to look past all the negativity for positive lessons and I could apply them in my life today.  I've become a strong, independent, loving woman as a result of my experiences. 

Now that I've started my business, the ups and down that comes with business can either make or break you especially if you put your whole life on the line for it - something I've done. I thank God I have had years of training and despite the many, ongoing setbacks and challenges, I am able to keep my eye on our vision, learn from it and keep moving forward.

I started Staavias to solve a pain point my in my life. I have been blessed with large feet but I cannot find shoes that fit them comfortably. I love to dress up and look good but when it comes to shoes - I would always be left feeling down after days and days of looking for shoes all throughout Auckland and not even finding one!! I hated that feeling hence I am so passionate about pursuing this dream. 

The purpose of me sharing my story is not to bad mouth anyone in my family, my Dad is actually a truly changed and loving man today. We all have pasts and have done things we are not proud of so we have no right to pass judgement on anyone else. The reason I've shared my story is to encourage you to believe in yourself and know that your past does NOT define you or your future. If you choose to persevere through everything - there are great rewards waiting for you at the end. 

So Staavias for me is not just about selling shoes to make a quick buck. It's about using my life experiences, lessons and this platform to inspire and empower anyone I cross paths with - whether you're a customer or not. I believe this makes Staavias shoes extra special. 

So yes that's me in a nutshell, I think it's important for you as a reader to gauge an idea of who I am and a bit of my history as this will help us build a genuine relationship - something Staavias will always strive to do as a business. 

I’d love to hear of topics you want us to cover in our blogs, send us your stories of when or how you overcame an issue in your life. We love these kinds of stories, they are full of empowerment and encouragement. 

Please feel free to comment below and share our blog :)

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I can honestly say alot of stories are similar. Brutality at a young age. Gustavia I have so much admiration for you. yes you give inspiration to alot of Polynesian people. i love your children and am so glad to have had a part in their life in early childhood. Arohanui Meri. I am finally buying a pair of shoes from YOU. Ka kite ano .

Meriana Abraham

Finally cool shoes for real feet !
I heard about you on the National Radio, your incredible story & beautiful shoes.
God bless you Staavia !

Kate Bates

Hey girl your story was so inspirational and good on you?..I did wonder whether you got around to starting your business and well lets just say I’m impressed..I was in class with you way way back in 2012…Thanks for being real and giving me that extra bit of confidence to continue with my dream.x

Deborah Petch

Blessings from Brisbane ☆ ☆ ☆
It was actually my husband who sent me your link (online NZ Herald article) via an email with the subject header ‘Big shoes for women’…on receiving this email that morning I was excited to read about your vision, purpose and solutions for Pasifika-sized feet Gustavia…God bless my dear husband for thinking about me for he knows only too well the numerous times we’ve tried on shoes in stores only to be disappointed by the lack of fit or comfort. My previous teaching career in Auckland allowed me to get away with sneakers and chucks. ..but more recently, my move to do research in Brisbane has left me a bit under-dressed in the professional work I do as an academic, particularly when speaking at conferences and seminars. So, I am grateful for God’s timely blessings today. ..I received my first two pairs of Staavias in Brisbane this week, just in time for Mother’s day. ..I’m so happy with my shoes. ..and my husband and children are pleased too!

Ruth Faleolo

Congratulations Gustavia on an inspirational story that I feel is only just beginning. Good luck and all the best on your journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and don’t be afraid to ignore it if you disagree either!



Mike Dennehy

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