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Local Signwriter Bubulu Turns to Headstone Business
BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
LOCAL signwriter turned graphic designer, Peter Kennedie Bubulu, has previously changed careers and is now mastering his skills as a headstone designer of granite and marble headstones.
The Honiara resident from Forau Village in Ataa, Northern region of Malaita province has taken a break from signwriting to become an entrepreneur in the business of designing and manufacturing headstones in Honiara.
Peter said his dream of setting up the business began 20 years ago and that is to provide an avenue where people can purchase headstones for their loved ones at a lower cost rather than importing from overseas.
“I see the need in the country because all these years’ people seem to bring in orders from overseas and it’s costly where only the fortunate ones can do. There is a need for many years in this country for such a business,’’ Bubulu told Sunday Isles.
Absolute Graphic Limited (AGL) Headstones & Memorials is an established family-owned business, founded by Peter Bubulu in 2019, and the business is specialized in the design and creation of quality custom-built headstones, memorials, plaques, grave markers and monuments.
“I only started my business in 2019.
“This is a family business and it’s a trade that I have to train my children to take on the skills and to carry on with the business when I retire and my vision is to see this family business go on for many years after me.
“Currently, I employed six and train them as we go,” he said.
Peter attains his tertiary education in New Zealand and has graduated with Bachelor in Graphic Design (BGD) from the Auckland Institute of Technology.
“I’m a qualified Graphic Designer with a bachelor’s Degree in Graphics (BGD) obtained from Auckland Institute of Technology in Auckland New Zealand under NZODA Scholarship and I would like to thank the New Zealand Government for sponsoring my four years program from 1995 to 1998,” he said.
As a managing director and owner of AGL Headstones & Memorials, Peter is currently producing a variety of headstones that ranges from upright headstone to customized sizes that are in different features, shapes, standard sizes, economy, and small sizes.
“Currently, it’s the countertop granite stone we are using and it’s durable and withstand the weather and can stand the test of time.
“Our price ranges from $1,500 to $5,500 for seven sizes. Oversize headstones can be charged according to our judgment on how many works are involved.
“We own a laser machine and CNC router machine for designing our headstone.
“We can produce 5 to six each day for smaller sizes…for bigger sizes can be 2 to 3 orders per day…for designs, orders can be produced within two days for full completion, if it is urgent work, the fastest we can do is one and half-day… for instance, provided that the customer pays up an urgency fee and full payment for the order,’’ said AGL’s managing director.
He said that they are working towards producing a full tomb consisting of side kerbs, top and bottom kerbs to cover, and the headstone in the future and producing environment graphic signage as well as sitting benches.
“We can only do this when we are ready to import 7cm to 10cm thickness of a granite…Our latest laser Co2 will cut 3D sign letters and our embossed machine and printer for vehicle number plates will soon operate when the setup is done in the coming months.”
AGL Headstones & Memorials is located at Greenvalley along the road leading up to Mount Horeb School on the outskirts of East Honiara.
Meanwhile, Peter recalled that it took him years to raise funds to acquire his first laser machine in 2016 but he however also encountered some problems getting up and running his first machine.
He added that in 2018, he was assisted by the Ministry of Commerce to acquire his first granite stone from China and that’s when he started to manufacture headstones in 2019.
“I secure some savings and I first ordered my first machine in 2016.
“After my few trials running the machine, I blew it up and I have to wait for some time again to order a few parts.
“However, that didn’t work out so I waited for another year trying to save up some more funds and in 2018, I ordered another machine.
“This time it’s a CNC machine…When the machine arrived I have to familiarize myself and it took me another six months. Working with stone for the first time was tough so I have to learn a few tips in doing so through internet reading and research.
“I need granite stone for the headstones…I approached the Ministry of Commerce and secured a small fund to cater for my first 200 pieces with the help of Late Andrew Prakash (under Secretary) who linked me with the Permanent Secretary Mr Riley Mesepitu who had been so helpful and endorsed my small proposal to acquire funds for the granites.
“In February 2019, the stones arrived which I have ordered through one of the Chinese Hardware shops in Honiara,” he said.
He later acknowledge the timely assistance rendered by the government of Solomon Islands.
“I would like to acknowledge this great help from the Government especially the Ministry of Commerce and someone like Mr Riley (PS) who wants to see a small and medium entrepreneur like me who really struggles to set up a business to flourish in providing services which the country has been long ago never provide for many years,” he said.
For now, Peter is simply asking the government and its key stakeholders to support his growing business plans.
“If I would like support, I would want to invest more on machines to produce and manufacture many things that we may need in the country instead of ordering finished products from overseas which will help customers with a wide variety of choices in designing and manufacturing.
“For example, many times over the past some customers who placed orders for headstones overseas sometimes find some misspelt or additional information left out on the headstone but they cannot do much because the headstone was manufactured overseas.
“But unlike now with AGL producing headstones in the country, any mistake can be easily corrected with and is very cheap and can meet the deadline in time.
“That’s how and what I can see if I were to be in need of support. Its machinery and full supply of Granites in various thickness and sizes,” he said.