Local perfume business pays homage to Chamorro culture

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(MV) — Local entrepreneurs Shawn and Jaki Fujihira have a strong connection with Chamorro culture, so when they decided to launch their own fragrance business, keeping it local and true to their heritage was important to them.

Paopao, which means perfume and fragrant in Chamorro, is the only perfumery in Saipan, the Marianas and Micronesia, according to Jaki.

“I was born and raised on Saipan. My father is Chamorro and my mother is Mwokilese, a small outer island of Pohnpei. We have a lot of pride in this product, and we hope customers will experience that local pride when they try our perfume,” Jaki said.

While it officially launched Sept. 6 of this year, the concept has been in the works for some time according to the Fujihiras.

“On a ‘baecation,’ my husband and I had the opportunity to learn how to create perfumes for ourselves. We did it on a whim and as a fun experience. By the end of it, we saw it as an opportunity to create something unique for back home,” Jaki said.

As the economic challenges of the pandemic affected the Fujihiras, like many other local families, they decided to turn the idea into reality.

“2020 turned into an opportunity to invest and prepare. We took lemons and made lemonade,” Jaki said.

The fragrance line

The product line currently available is their summer line with two variations: Hågu line and Lel line. Each line has a fragrance for men and women.

The fragrance line names also connect back to their local roots.

“Hågu in Chamorro means You. You, for your livelihood, need to work and generate revenue. This line is a very work-friendly perfume and great for daytime or an everyday fragrance,” Jaki said.

Hågu for men is described as “sweet and fresh with a citrus base,” while the Hågu for women “opens light and fresh and sits on the skin with its fruity base,” Jaki explained.

Lel means beautiful or attractive in Mwokilese. It’s described as an evening or date night fragrance. Lel for men opens with a citrus scent, but “lingers more on its spicy and musky base notes,” while the Lel for women also opens with a citrus scent, but “features floral notes giving it a soft feeling with a woodsy base,” Jaki said.

Purchase locally

The product line sells for $30 for a 50ml bottle. Jaki said the price point was important to ensure it would be accessible for all budgets.

Currently, Paopao fragrances can be purchased at MiscKnicKnacks, in the Ladera Building, along Beach Road, during business hours from 1 to 5 p.m. every day. Purchases can also be made by contacting the husband/wife team on Instagram at @paopao_SJF or on Facebook at

Small business, big dreams

While the business is in its early stages, the Fujihiras have big dreams for their small business.

They plan to launch a new fragrance line seasonally, while also keeping customer favorites year round. They also have plans to launch a website, which will feature additional products and Micronesian favorites.

Long-term goals include creating a production operation locally to create jobs and allow for exports.

With much excitement for the future, the Fujihiras are also enjoying the current moment.

“Getting the business launched was a major milestone. We’re excited to see it finally come to fruition after months of hard work,” Jaki said. “We’re very proud of this business and for the opportunity to share our Chamorro culture. We hope those who try our perfume share in our local pride.”

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