Kwentong Negosyo (Business Stories in English) is a magazine for Filipino micro-entrepreneurs, existing and would be. It provides a platform to profile successful micro-entrepreneurs and their micro-businesses along with their network of service providers such as micro-finance institutions. Kwentong Negosyo acts as a venue for micro -entrepreneurs to interact, share experiences and successes to inspire the transformation of micro-enterprises into small- and medium -scale enterprises with employment generating opportunities and improved capacities for increased productivity and efficiency. It gives priority to featuring outstanding social entrepreneurs who adopt three bottom lines in operating the enterprise: commercially viable, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.
At 27 years old, Honie Krizia M. Navor, owner and manager of HK Stone Craft Trading, received the top honours in the Citi Micro Entrepreneurship Awards (CMA) 2016. She is the youngest awardee in the CMA— an annual awards program since 2005 that recognizes outstanding micro entrepreneurs in the Philippines. Strong determination to succeed in business has kept Honie focused on the goal and committed to address the daily demands of business management and operations.
Honie thought of reviving the family stone craft business in 2008. She was only 18 years old then and about to graduate from a two-year course in hotel and restaurant management. Financial difficulties of the family, with only her mother as sole breadwinner to five children since her father passed away in 2001, drove Honie to become a youth entrepreneur. She acted on the need of the family to earn more to meet various needs such as schooling for her younger siblings. “My mother has the experience and business network in this kind of business. So, I thought of joining forces with her to make another go of the family business. My primary responsibility, initially, was to package our range of products and services, and to actively promote our business. Istorya-istorya lang sa mga tao (business talk with potential customers). I make sure to be fully knowledgeable of our products and our capabilities. From these talks, I learned about what potential customers want. We responded by adopting our product design to customer preferences, and gradually expanded our range of products and services based on demand. If you provide a product that is needed and valued, the customers will look for you,” recalls Honie.
From the initial flagship product of marble tomb stone with engraving (lapida) valued at less than 500 pesos each, the business has since expanded to handling small construction projects such as granite pavement installation costing more than five million pesos. What mainly keeps them busy these days is natural stone or fabricated tile kitchen top installation for home owners such as families of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). “We ensure full client satisfaction. Favourable word- of- mouth by our clients has kept the projects coming. I also find time and effort to widen our network among the architects, engineers, sub-contractors, construction companies, stone suppliers, and anybody involved in the construction business,” shares Honie.
Honie adds, “I have no exit plan. When I started this business, I was 100% determined to make a success of it. As such, I came up with many strategies in partnership with my mother.” Nine years into a growing business, Honie shares the key strategies that work well for her, then and now.
- Set a goal. When you reach it, set another goal. After Honie achieved her goal to own a van for family and business use, she has next set her sights on buying land to put up a local stone supplies depot to trade local and imported stones and tiles.
- Keep clients happy. Talk to the clients and find out if they are satisfied with the product or service provided. If she cannot visit the completed installation during turn-over, Honie calls the client to get their feedback.
- Build the business network actively. Good and productive partnerships bring many benefits. When Honie decided to borrow from a bank for additional working capital, she got more than funds; she also learned the habit of saving. The bank- Valiant Bank, also nominated Honie to the CMA which led to her national recognition and receipt of prize money along with business mentoring support.
- Use money and other resources wisely. Control your expenses; know how much profit you are getting; save a part of your income regularly. Learn ways to maximize the use of raw materials and minimize wastage. According to Honie, this stewardship strategy is not only good for business; it is also good for the customers, i.e. can keep the price reasonable.
- Take good care of your employees. Honie manages a crew of 20-30 workers, 50% of whom are skilled workers. She provides her regular workers with legally mandated benefits such as social security (SSS), health insurance (Philhealth) and housing fund (Pag-Ibig). These days, she has gone past worrying about meeting the needs of her family as the business has proven to be a reliable source of income. She strives hard to get new projects to keep her workers earning so they in turn can ably provide for their families.
For all the care and attention she has given it, the business has been good to Honie, her mom and siblings. She credits the Lord for the wisdom given her which has enabled her to face and triumph over the trials and opportunities in business. “With God on our side, I feel confident as if I am standing on rock-solid ground. I am eager to deal with anything the future brings,” says Honie.
 A nationwide search for the best in micro entrepreneurship, the CMA is sponsored by Citi Foundation, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc.
Violeta (Volet) Malicsi is an activist for sustainable livelihood. “We will go hungry if we do not grow our food sustainably”, says Volet. She employs a mix of social entrepreneurship, organic farming, and community leadership to pursue this noteworthy cause.
Volet operates a food catering service that offers a wide and creative menu of organic food. “I became an entrepreneur who uses local organic produce to further my advocacy for sustainable agriculture as a profitable and responsible way to grow and consume food. My business allows me to buy the organic produce of small backyard farmers operating less than 0.5 hectare of land,“ shares Volet. “The organic dishes and drinks that I develop and offer to consumers also help to promote awareness, appreciation and consumption of organic fruits and vegetables in Oriental Mindoro Province. Among the organic dishes and drinks that are popular among my clients are pako (fern) salad, gourmet sardines, rice in red, black, and yellow variants, lumpia pechay, banana and kamote turon wrapped in malagkit (sticky rice) and unpolished rice. I offer drinks using vegetables and fruit in season such as cucumber, kamote tops, pandan, buko and avocado, “adds Volet.
Volet is a leader since she was 13 years old. “My parents were then local leaders of our barangay (village). This early exposure in community leadership and development work has inculcated in me a passion and mission to serve others. Early on, I realized that people need good leaders. I became a youth leader in my church. I followed the footsteps of my parents in 2000, when I ran and got elected as a barangay official. Since then, there had been many opportunities for me to hone my leadership abilities in pursuit of my advocacy and mission,” says Volet.
An agriculture course graduate, Volet became an active leader of Sama Saka, the group of small farmers in her community. She represented the group to the provincial network of 1,500 small farmers called Mindoro Ecological and Sustainable Agriculture Federation (MESAFED) and was subsequently voted to the top position. She was president of MESAFED for 10 years and currently serve as ex-officio board member. She has since moved on to pursue her advocacy and widen the local organic agriculture network as Chairperson of the Oriental Mindoro Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture Development (ORMISAD).
“In partnership with the government, we conduct regular training courses on organic farming and organic food processing to interested farmers and entrepreneurial women in the region. We also actively experiment on ways to add value to organic crops to increase its marketability and profitability. In partnership with Rural Improvement Clubs comprised of enterprising women at the barangay level, we are able to hold activities in government offices and schools where organic products can be promoted, marketed and consumed. The provincial office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Calapan City, Mindoro supported us in the establishment of a tindahan (store). This allows ORMISAD to consolidate and sell the organic food products of members such as ginger drink and candy, and sweets such as pastillas, banana, papaya and kundol candies,” shares Volet.
The advocacy for organic farming and food processing calls for a lifelong commitment. Volet does not just accept this call; she is passionate for it. She keeps her passion burning by celebrating the good stories that come out from their work. “It brings me joy to help small farmers and see them grow,” says Volet.
Advocacy tips from Volet:
- Establish a pilot model and diligently keep a cost and benefit record of its operations. Volet and her fellow advocates are able to attain gains in the advocacy for organic farming by showing proof of its profitability and viability; even a farm area as small as 400 sq.m. has been found profitable. According to Volet, “kapag nainggit na, gagaya na ‘yan (envy drives them into willing and eager adopters).”
- Develop a network of support for and among small farmers, food processors and wholesale/retailers, and service providers. It is vital for farmers to ensure a stable and regular supply of natural ingredients that meet the requirements of the processing and marketing groups. This can be better attained when farmers develop and stick to a tested and locally adapted farm plan. Convergence with government for services and funding of training and marketing activities and pilot farm development, for instance, are vital to knowledge building, promotion and networking among stakeholders.
- Come up with a ‘socially just pricing’ for organic food. Organic food need not be expensive as cost of production is lower; key is to increase the volume of production and variety of produce, and link the supply to food processors and consumers.
Kwentong Negosyo featured the entrepreneurial success story of Zenaida Guray in February 2009. The story was triggered by the recognition that Zenaida received from the Citi Micro-entrepreneur of the Year Awards (CMA). Her journey as an entrepreneur moved the judges to establish and grant her a special citation that year — Most Inspiring Awardee 2008 ‘for turning extreme hardship to productivity’.
Too poor to have a house of her own back then, Zenaida thankfully accepted the offer of her parents-in-law to use a former pig pen to house her family. They placed paper boxes for wall and at night, they would unfold another set of paper boxes to sleep on. With her savings of P500 and a P5,000 business loan obtained from ASKI, a microfinance institution that provides small business loans to unbanked women interested to become micro entrepreneurs to uplift the standard of living of their families, Zenaida started a piggery in 2003. In five years, she has grown the piggery into a thriving family enterprise that has enabled them to build and live in a decent house of their own, and buy a hectare of rice land to grow their own food too.
In February 2017, Kwentong Negosyo reached out to Zenaida to have her business story updated and to hopefully draw more inspiration from her rich business experience. A reboot of her story unfolds below. Be inspired.
“I no longer raise pigs”, says Zenaida, to the surprise of Kwentong Negosyo. She was quick to add, “My husband, Dominador, and I now raise tilapia (carp). We operate five fish ponds in a hectare of land.”
A barangay (village) ordinance on bad smell in the community forced Zenaida to close her thriving piggery sometime in 2013. At its peak stock of 50 heads, smell from the pig waste became too strong that complaints from neighbours kept coming and could no longer be ignored. By that time, Zenaida too was having some allergic reaction to the residue of hog feeds which makes her cough incessantly. Thus, for both her health and harmony in the barangay, she gradually sold off the pigs/piglets and turned her attention to starting a new business. “It was not a difficult decision to make as we have already chosen a promising business to pursue. Over the years, we have gained experience in fish pond operations and we thought it was the right time to go into it full-time. It was during my travels when I saw and heard testimonies of the good benefits of having a fish pond in the farm. I convinced Dominador to put up a fish pond, initially to raise fish for home consumption. This valuable experience and good results from the trial pond made it easy for us to invest more money in fishpond operations,” shares Zenaida.
Zenaida turned to ASKI and Land Bank to help them finance the substantial investment of building ponds and raising tilapia. They hired two regular workers to care for the daily needs of the ponds. Four to five seasonal workers are hired for repair and maintenance of the pond structure and for fish harvesting.
The fish is harvested 2-3 times a year with each harvest season covering from 1-2 weeks. The average harvest volume is 600 kilos a day. Local buyers come to the farm at pre-arranged harvest dates Harvesting starts in the early morning when the temperature is still cool. By mid-morning, the fish would already be on their way for sale to markets in various towns of Aurora province. “There is always local demand for fish. Market has never been our problem. Our biggest risk is ‘fish kill’ which is beyond our control. When the temperature becomes extremely hot, the risk of fish kill heightens. We have had our share of fish kill resulting to investment losses over the years. Business uncertainties have made me very prudent with money. I make sure to save some when income is good,” adds Zenaida.
On this useful financial advice, Zenaida shares three more key practices that she diligently follows to sustain her success in business. These are:
- Take good care of your business. Be vigilant 24 hours and catch and resolve small problems before they turn big and difficult to solve.
- Be open to investment opportunities. Zenaida buys farm or residential land when the right price and location are presented them.
- Give priority to God. Spend time with the Lord and seek his guidance in everything you do. Drawing inspiration from the ways of God, give back to the community by sharing your talent and resources. Zenaida is a willing contributor to the annual fiesta events and youth programs of the church.
Sustain business success through resilience with a good balance of financial discipline and generosity. Take it from Zenaida.
Note: Kwentong Negosyo thanks Cris Guray, son of Zenaida, for the 2017 photos.
It’s time to give back to the Lord after many years of receiving His bountiful blessings.This is what inspired Jun Saret, Chairman of the Saret Organic Farmville (SOF), to become a farmer-social entrepreneur.
Having retired as Senior Vice President of a local pharmaceutical company, where he supervised the company’s organic farm that produced medicinal plants, Jun, along with his wife and two children, established the family farm in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, Philippines in 2013. The Saret family went boldly into farming in Barangay Liwayway which the locals refer to as ‘lupang sinumpa’ (cursed land) because of its poor soil and lack of water for agriculture.”I saw extreme poverty in the area. This convinced me that we found the right place to do business and be of service at the same time. We reached out to six families who depended on income from farm labor. The first thing we did is to give them land to start creating wealth for their families, ” shares Jun.
For the use of land, the farmers agreed to several conditions imposed by the SOF, such as: adoption of cropping pattern (kinds and mix of crops to plant) and farm technology that adhere to organic and good agricultural practices. Farmers also signed up to a marketing agreement with SOF assuring them of market for all their produce at a pre-determined price. Recognizing the lack of capital of the farmers, SOF supplies them with the needed farm inputs. All that is required of the farmers is to plant and care for the crops. And even for their labor, SOF extends subsistence support until the farmers can turn their harvest into earnings and cash. This is a temporary arrangement until the farmers have built up and attained the financial capability to manage their own farm and family’s basic needs, and have imbibed a full appreciation and understanding of organic farming as the responsible and sustainable way of agriculture.
With the initial positive results from this set-up, SOF has since expanded its inclusive business operations to include upland cacao farmers in Dingalan, Aurora Province and the Aeta communities in Camarines Sur Province, Bicol Region. SOF partners with the Department of Agriculture to reach out to agricultural areas where poor communities can benefit from SOF services.
In addition to promoting and engaging in organic farming, SOF is also busy in product development. Among its ‘all natural and organic food and non-food products’ are cacao bar and powder, coconut syrup, wild honey, bath and dishwashing soap, etc. The newly developed Chocoliz Cacao Bar (see photo on the right) is already an award winner for innovation. It is packed with cacao, at 80%, and only 20% is filled with sugar and other ingredients; most chocolate bars available in the market carry the opposite composition, i.e. 80% sugar and only 20% cacao. The high cacao composition of Chocoliz bar enables it to retain the therapeutic and medicinal values that come from organic cacao.
The SOF business model is just one of the emerging social enterprise models that is gaining gradual support globally. Good for the soil and the soul, may it prosper and inspire more interested social agri-entrepreneurs to act.
SOF products are distributed through its online shop: http://saretorganicfarmville.com/shop-now
Kwentong Negosyo of Nieves Orquinal-Italia
Small and manageable but diverse in scale is the formula that Nieves upholds as an entrepreneur. She manages a range of small enterprises that comprises a sari-sari (variety goods) store, piggery, and fish vending. “The store is my anchor business because it brings daily income which we use to buy food. I also sell my husband Joel’s daily fish catch. On the sale of fish, we get the money to cover other household expenses, such as children’s education, water and electricity, house construction and repair, etc. The hogs serve literally as my ‘piggy banks’. It provides lump-sum of money twice a year from the sale of piglets, ” shares Nieves.
Life was hard when the family depended only on fishing in the coastal village of Dalupaon, Pasacao, Camarines Sur. When the weather is good and the sea is calm, Joel, catches fish in the coastal waters. Nieves sells the fish to a local buyer. Her average daily sale is Five Hundred Pesos (PhP500 or US$10). On days of bountiful harvest and sunny weather, she dries some of the fish or make bagoong (fish paste). Using barter system with farmers, Nieves exchanges her preserved fish for rice. During the rainy season when fishing everyday is not assured, food on the table also becomes uncertain.
This vulnerability to weather and emergencies has been reduced significantly when Nieves availed of business loans from a local microfinance institution, SEDP. She used her first loan of Five Thousand Pesos (PhP5,000) in 2008 to buy a new boat worth Nine Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP9,500) for Joel. The amount was raised using the loan, proceeds from the sale of an old boat for Two Thousand Pesos (PhP2,000), and family savings. In 2009, she availed a second loan of Seven Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP7,500) to open a sari-sari store. She used the loan to build a tiny store structure beside the house and fill it with household items such as salt, garlic, oil, canned food, powdered drinks, shampoo, and washing detergent.
As each loan is repaid, Nieves takes another one to keep building her productive assets which fuel the growth of her business. A new refrigerator enables Nieves to make and sell ice and ice candies, and soft drinks. She also bought a second boat with a motor engine and fishing gadgets worth nearly Twenty Thousand Pesos (PhP20,000). For the first time, Joel can stop rowing and let the new motor engine take his boat to deeper waters where more fish can be caught. He can even take a rest for a day, something which he has not done before, to rent out the pump boat to interested fishermen.
Earnings from fish sales were used to buy a piglet on which the hog raising enterprise was started. Nieves raised the piglet into a healthy and productive sow. The sow gives birth twice a year with a maximum of 14 piglets at one birthing season. She would keep two piglets to increase her breeding stock and sell the rest at One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP1,500) each. A fattened hog that is not suited for breeding is sold after four months upon reaching a weight of 70 kilos.
Nieves is thankful to SEDP for entrusting her with a business loan that facilitated the start of her journey in entrepreneurship. She exclaims, “Now that I have experienced growing a business from very little, new business ideas keep popping up. I feel secured and confident to cast a ‘wider net in the deep blue sea’ of business possibilities. ”
With guest co-writer and photographer: John Florence Granado of SEDP.
Kwentong Negosyo thanks SEDP and John for this article.
Kwentong Negosyo of Kusina Batanguena
What a waste to throw surplus food away! One palayok of sinaing na tulingan got spoiled all because a customer who pre-ordered it failed to show up to claim and pay for it. To put a stop at throwing good food away, Nestor and Johna Velasquez of Mataasnakahoy, Batangas, became backyard manufacturers. They had a mission. They were determined. They had each other to offer much needed support and inspiration, and they used the right tools such as a Pressure Canner worth PhP50,000. The couple sold their old vehicle to get the business going.
Bottled Sinaing na Tulingan (braised tuna) —what else, became their first product. Through the couple’s efforts, they have extended the shelf-life of sinaing na tulingan from a week to 2 years! How’s that for a noteworthy and innovation-driven kwentong negosyo?
Since joining trade fairs sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) beginning 2015, the bottled Sinaing na Tulingan never fails to be included in the list of nominees for Most Innovative Product. It received 3rd place in the Most Innovative Category at the DTI sponsored ‘Kalakal CALABARZON 2015’ regional trade fair.
“I know that we are on the way to success when customers keep coming back for more. They also tell us how much they love our product. We have established institutional market outlets through the 50 branches of Robinson’s Supermarket and over 40 branches of Shopwise paving the way for more exposure and wider reach to a bigger customer base,“ shares Nestor.
Since the first product, they have come up with two others– ginataang tawilis (indigenous freshwater fish found only in Taal Lake, cooked with coconut milk) and ampalaya (bitter gourd) atshara (pickled). All you need to add to the menu is hot steamy rice to enjoy a delicious Filipino meal. Yum!
The couple looks forward to a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). This partnership will enable them to acquire advanced technology and packaging equipment. Innovate for success could very well be the motto of Nestor and Johna.
Kwentong Negosyo of Ariel Agapay
Ariel Agapay of Libmanan, Camarines Sur is a rice farmer and trader by choice. “How you see things around you depends on your mindset. To some people, this soil looks like plain dirt; to a farmer like me, this soil brims with possibilities,” shares Ariel.
Ariel comes from a rice farming family. It was natural for him to help in the farm
at an early age. By the time he reached his teens, he considered himself an experienced farmer. Small family land, dependence on rain for water and vulnerability to natural calamities notably drought and floods have kept the family at survival mode.
Despite this generational hardship, Ariel maintains his love for the land and his optimism to be able to provide a comfortable life for his family from the fruits of his labor and the land. “Farming income is seasonal. It takes six months to harvest, mill and sell rice at a good profit. Farmers must find alternative sources of income while the crops are in growth stage. I chose to go into small-scale rice trading like my grandmother. She was my model for resourcefulness and industry. To keep the family from going hungry, she would sell rice from town to town. She always returns from her selling trips laden with food and some money to provide for the other needs of the family,” he shares.
Ariel started trading part of his rice harvest until he raised some capital to trade more rice secured from neighboring farms. He buys palay or newly harvested rice when price is low, pays for drying and milling services, and sells the rice a few weeks later when price is higher. “Going into the rice trading business requires a good social network of farmers, millers, and retailers. It helps that I am friendly and flexible. I gain the trust of my friends and business contacts by being open to situations and coming up with compromises that are mutually beneficial and fair to all parties concerned. I do not always have to earn well. What I prioritize is to expand and strengthen my business relationships,” adds Ariel.
SEDP, a local microfinance institution, happens to be one of the business allies that Ariel nurtures. He obtains working capital from SEDP to increase his trading volume or make improvements in his farm land. On a loan of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (PhP200,000), he bought a water pump for farm irrigation. This led to an increase in his rice production from 100 sacks to 300 sacks. In addition to production gains, Ariel also values non-financial benefits that SEDP offers its members. One of his three children was lucky to be selected as SEDP college scholar. Ariel, with wife, Emilinda, need only finance the college education of their two other children.
With increasing incidence of extreme weather events, Ariel cannot help but be worried sometimes. “There is no business without its set of challenges,” says Ariel. ” In farming, there will be times of zero harvest due to typhoons, for example. But there will also be an opportunity to replant and recover what has been lost. Persevere, take courage, and develop a network of support who can be your allies in recovery and growth.”
With guest co-writer and photographer: Paolo Ramos, a student of Bicol University.
Micro entrepreneur story inputs courtesy of SEDP -Simbag sa Pag-Asenso. Inc.
From Kwentong Negosyo, thank you SEDP, BU and Paolo!
Kwentong Negosyo of Manoy Roy and Rose Lonzame
Severo ‘Manoy Roy’ Lonzame of Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay is the man to look for when you need something in the island. He and his wife, Rose, run a grocery store that sells food items, drinks, house ware, foot wear, etc. If this colourful range of goods does not entice enough, they also lure customers by their sense of smell through an offering of chicken and pork barbeque on the side. Manoy Roy was an ambulant textile merchant when he met his wife, the island lass who sold barbeque. They got married in 2000 and started a buy and sell of dry goods comprising of plastic and glass house ware and foot wear, and vegetables. They made do with an initial capital of Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP10,000) which came from Manoy’s savings.
” I became an entrepreneur for selfish motives, i.e. to provide a good life for me and my family. I have been able to do that and more. Entrepreneurship showed me that I can provide for my family and help others too.”
The small capital constrained Manoy Roy and Rose to meet customer demand. “Early on in the business, we realized that demand for dry goods is seasonal. We would have a better chance to increase sales and income by offering basic goods that customers use daily. I knew then that I had to look for additional capital,” shares Manoy Roy. The situation changed for the better when Manoy met a local microfinance institution, SEDP and availed business loans from it. His initial loan of Five Thousand Pesos (PhP5,000) was promptly used to diversify the product range to basic necessities. Subsequent loans at higher amounts formalized their entry into the grocery business. “We were right. Our sales shot up when we offered and sold basic goods for daily consumption,” adds Manoy Roy.
Loans were also used to acquire productive assets such as four freezers. This enabled the couple to sell meat and processed food, further fuelling business growth.
Business was doing well when another business opportunity presented itself to the couple. “We were approached to rent out the set of gowns and men’s polo barong that were used in our wedding. With business running in our blood, we said yes. We earned an unexpected income while at the same time helped newlyweds keep their wedding costs down,” shares Rose. Countless weddings in the island went on to use the same wardrobe before they received a request from a customer for a new set of gowns and barongs to rent. This request and other similar requests led Manoy Roy and Rose to gradually build a more expansive wardrobe of gowns and barongs in different colors, fabric and design to fit a variety of island events. No longer confined to weddings, the wardrobe now dress belles at the May flower festivals —Santacruzan, and even high school students attending the Junior-Senior Prom.
The island opened up many opportunities to Manoy Roy and Rose. Ambitious and hard working, Manoy Roy grabbed hold of the opportunities and took the entrepreneurial path. He shares, “I became an entrepreneur for selfish motives, i.e. to provide a good life for me and my family. I have been able to do that and more. Entrepreneurship showed me that I can provide for my family and help others too. No radical moves are needed other than treat customers with compassion and respect. We allow customers to get products on credit so no family goes hungry when money is scarce in the island. We do not use bad language to avoid embarrassing our customers. For treating them well, customers honor their obligations to us as soon as they are able to. They become loyal customers as well. I feel humbled to be in this position to help others. With three of my four children having obtained their college degrees, I work harder than ever to grow the business not so much for my family but for my community.” //
With guest co-writer and photographer: John Florence Granado of SEDP.
Kwentong Negosyo thanks SEDP and John for this article.
Kwentong Negosyo of Josephine Rectin
Josephine Rectin of Legazpi City, Albay is a typical Filipino micro entrepreneur who started with a small capital. Back in 1995, she sold vegetables on foot. She had Five Hundred Pesos (PhP500) in capital. Twenty years later—and this is where her story deviates from most micro entrepreneur’ stories, she heads a multi-million family business that encompasses a mini grocery store, rice farming and trading, livestock raising, hardware store with gravel and sand, hollow blocks and nipa shingles making, trucking and hauling service, and a computer printing shop. “We grew the business gradually in response to customer demands. Together with my husband, Robert, and our children, we pursued one new business after the other in tune with the market conditions,” says Josephine.
Poverty kept Josephine from pursuing education beyond elementary years. She was already helping her father sell goods at a young age. Poverty continued to hound her when she had her own family to nurture. She turned to what she knew —selling, to help Robert provide for the needs of the family. “I started as an ambulant vegetable seller. When customers asked for other goods like dried fish, I would promptly supply them and then add these to my basket of products. From a portion of my earnings saved up over a period of time, I raised enough money to establish a sari-sari (variety goods) store. My store allows me to sell more and earn more. It also keeps me informed of what customers need and want. As I listen, I get ideas for new businesses. The hardware business, for example, came about when there was a house construction boom in the community. It helped a lot that my husband is keen to run it,” adds Josephine.
Good customer relations is key to a successful business. Josephine makes times for small talk to make her customers feel welcome. “I support the saying that the customer is always right. And if they are wrong, I make them feel alright by being patient when resolving issues that matter. A good entrepreneur should avoid being short-tempered and impatient with customers,” shares Josephine.
Josephine acknowledges her 10-year productive collaboration with a local microfinance institution, SEDP, as another key factor to her thriving businesses. Over the years, SEDP became a steady and reliable source of additional capital for existing or new businesses. Many loans were used for asset acquisition such as trucks for hauling. A loan was also used for business rehabilitation after Typhoon Reming destroyed business properties and stocks.
Having attained this scale in operations, Josephine and Robert are no longer content at providing their children with college education. They are also intent at building houses for them, three have been built so far, and mobilizing seed capital for business ideas that the children may pursue. One child has put –up a computer printing shop; another child has brought up the idea for the family to buy and operate a nearby beach resort. Josephine shares, “the possibilities are endless especially if you are your own boss. As an entrepreneur, you have the flexibility to manage your time and resources. If you want to accomplish more, work harder and longer. Success does not come easy, but if you are willing to work for it, it is yours for the taking.”//
With guest co-writer and photographer: Mary Joy P. Atendido, a student of Bicol University.
Micro entrepreneur story inputs courtesy of SEDP.
Kwentong Negosyo thanks SEDP, BU and Majoy for this article.
Kwentong Negosyo of Merly Payte
Merly Payte of Bacon, Sorsogon has learned to live in harmony with the forest land that surrounds most of Sto. Nino Village. From palm trees, Merly and her local network of 20 women, weave dried palm leaves, locally called buri, into mats and sold to traders in the Bacon district. From pili trees, she and five other workers harvest pili nuts, sun dries and de-shells them, and sells the pili kernels to traders and buyers in Bacon District and Legazpi City where pili is then processed into delectable sweets and pastries.
“I became an entrepreneur to augment the family income and ably provide for the needs of my small family comprising of my husband, Mariano, and our only child. My first business was a sari-sari (variety goods) store. For my hard work and perseverance, the business grew and there was enough money for my family’s use. As my economic situation improved, relatives and friends turned to me for financial help in times of emergencies. This all too common situation made me think of starting another business that can employ my neighbours so they can have additional income. I looked around our village and noted the availability of skilled local weavers and buri palm trees. This idea gave rise to the mat weaving enterprise in 2000 which was capitalized on family savings of Two Thousand Pesos (PhP2,000). These days, we produce an average 350 mats and transact weekly sales averaging PhP10,000,” says Merly.
Merly stayed true to her calling. From the same motivation to help her neighbors, the pili business was put up next. Out of these two community enterprises, there are now twenty-five (25) families in the village who receive additional income. Merly ensures that they are paid fairly and timely and treated with respect. During Christmas holidays, she extends a humble cash bonus and gift pack of grocery items to each worker to thank them and make them feel appreciated. Her workers, in turn, work hard at making quality products that Merly can be proud of.
Due to the seasonality of the raw materials, i.e. harvest season from May-October for pili, and sunny weather for buri, Merly had to stock up on inventory to enable a relatively year-round production and sale. SEDP, a local microfinance institution, came to her assistance when she needed additional operating capital. “In addition to financial support, I learned the habit of Bible reading at SEDP. Wisdom from the Bible helped me change some bad habits. I used to be hot –headed. Now, I have become a more understanding and tolerant person,” shares Merly. For her next round of loans, she plans to engage in school uniform sewing and in soft broom making.
Merly embodies the saying ‘bloom where you are planted’. She did not accept poverty as a way of life just because she lives in an isolated village bounded by the forest and the sea. She dreamt of sufficiency and good quality of life with own land to grow food, business to have cash income, quality education for her child, and vacation for family bonding and leisure. She could have stopped there, but not Merly. She also dreamt for a better life for her neighbours. She worked hard, focused her efforts on the targets, and she accomplished much. //
With guest co-writer and photographer: Henrick Zairy S. Hipos, a student of Bicol University.
Micro entrepreneur story inputs courtesy of SEDP.
Kwentong Negosyo thanks SEDP, BU and Henrick for this article.