Overcoming the Invisible Barriers

By Ong Ling Na, Scarlet

Sense of Accomplishment

The three weeks of immersion in the Philippines has been a unique experience. Though due to the availability of our business partners we have not been able to fully implement our plans with them (as we have only met our business partners two to three times throughout our entire stay), but we still believe that we have accomplished our own goals as we devised simple action plans which are highly feasible for our business partners.

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Lunch with the committee members of Luy-Aaah Salabat

A Different Business Culture

Before we came to the Philippines, we attended two preparation sessions.  Beau’s answer t  a student’s question on how can we make useful contributions to the microenterprises left a deep impression on my mind: just the fact that you have lived and seen how businesses operate in Hong Kong will help you grasp the problem. I didn’t really get it by then, but after cooperating with the businesses for three weeks, I am surprised by how true it was.

“The Filipino Time”

In the business culture of the Philippines, there exists something called the “Filipino time”, making people almost always late for scheduled meetings or planning things last minute. Everytime we tried to fix the time for another meeting with committee members of Luy-Aaah Salabat (instant powdered ginger brew) before we leave, we wouldn’t be able to get an immediate answer. The notices for meeting were sent to us one night before the meetings.

These are not good business practices, but when we look deeper into phenomenon, it might just fit the descriptions in Poor Economics: the Filipinos have been accustomed to lowering their standards just to make lives more tolerable. If time is all you have in a rather monotonous and slow-paced life, maybe it doesn’t matter if you don’t manage your time.

Another possible explanation is that our business partners lacked the motivation to induce a change to their organizations. At first, the microenterprise owners were clueless about our purpose here due to language barriers. And even with some explanation, they found the intervention a bit intrusive or felt discouraged by the difficulties in comprehension. It was as if they were just being nice by contributing to a research project carried out by distant foreigners. They answered our questions patiently, but mostly out of courtesy.

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A Business Meeting with the manufacturersmanufacturer of Kinagbaan Coconut Oil

But it would be wrong to conclude that they are not hard-working and have no intentions to improve their lives from there, since both microenterprises (which produce salabat and virgin coconut oil respectively) we visit operate on a part-time basis. Their members contribute their weekends to assist in the manufacturing of their products “just to earn little extra income”. But again, they were “completely content with the things we’re running”.  The absence of a higher mission in the organizations seemed to be a problem we wouldn’t be able to tackle in the short term.

Our Challenges

Over the three weeks, my business partner Anisa and I have been working hard to making ourselves useful to the microenterprises we are responsible for. As you can imagine, we experienced lots of doubts and misery in trying to identify the areas of improvement, as well as to figure out some feasible plans that would be easily implemented without theoretical backgrounds to increase their chance of survival in the institutions. The task was challenging, requesting you to think from the perspective of people whose problems are not in anyways identical to those described in Harvard Business Review or cross-cultural management. You are not only their business consultant, but also their only graphic designer, marketing director and sales manager.

Our Action Plans

In the end, with the lack of access to detailed financial records of LJSA and the low level of computer literacy of KCFPO, Anisa and I decided to focus on three main directions:

  1. a) to assist in tasks that require computer knowledge, which included the design of packaging, labels as well as advertisement flyers.;
  2. b) to explore and expand their current market;
  3. c) to monitor production cost and sales figures better with simple and categorised record keeping.

 

To work on direction b), our team spent two full days in Tagbilaran to figure out the retail prices in large malls (which the manufacturers themselves were completely blind of). We also observed the promotion campaigns of products in the same category. As we tried to re-position Kinagbaan virgin coconut oil as an external-used product instead of a food product due to the lack of a valid Food and Drug Administration license, we targeted massage parlours, hair salons and spas as our potential clients, bringing along one bottle of sample product and a stack of newly-designed flyers with us. Thanks to the locals’ curiosity and hospitality to foreigners, we weren’t thrown out of any shops and a few of them tried our testers and asked for the prices. We then put together a contact list for our business partner to follow up.

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Promoting Kinagbaan coconut oil in a local massage parlor

Conclusion

I wouldn’t say that Anisa and I have made the microenterprises “more successful”, as we are uncertain how much our partners are going to comply with our business plans. But when I handed the new business cards to the committee members of KCFPO, I could sense their true contentment. Maybe it’s because someone is finally giving them the recognition they deserve, and is willing to invest their time and resources into their businesses. As I mentioned in blog one, I don’t think we can turn Luy-Aaah! salabat into Nestle or Kinagbaan virgin coconut oil into Dove overnight, but I believe every step of improvement, no matter how marginal, can be useful in initiating a larger virtuous cycle—and that’s exactly why we are here.

 

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Hope ahead

BY: LI Shi Lin June

A magical sense of relief and accomplishment arose when I handed in my final report to my first business consulting client in life. As the major part of life here, working with them has been both challenging and intriguing from the beginning to the end. I have been struggling to deal with language barrier, culture crash (eg: Filipino punctuality), information deficiency and such other difficulties I met in past three weeks. All my efforts turned into gratifications after hearing that sincere “Thank you.” from my client.

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Last photo we took with CLOW partners in Jasmed Office

Adjust everything in local conditions

“What I am capable of and supposed to do here is actually not to figure out the profit-maximization ways to improve their business performance dramatically but to solve existing problems they are faced with to make this microenterprise a more sustainable stable and profitable one.” This thought appeared to me when I have deeper understandings about our clients and their business in the second week. It is not practical nor meaningful for them to develop their business to a big company, so I tried my best to control the risks of recommendations by step-by-step strategies and worst-scenario estimation. Because for them without mature experience and advanced management knowledge, every new business decision will be riskier than we expected it to be when was put in practice.

 

The meaning of business consulting                               

After the final presentation of my business report to my client, Canjulou League of Women who make Tableja and banana chips, I began to reconsider the meaning of business consulting, especially in developing countries. Billions of microenterprises like our client in the world has never been offered the chance to meet business consultants, some of which disappear quickly. But what if they are offered professional business consulting which multinational corporations regularly have? This assumption reminds of the “Poverty Trap” theory mentioned in Poor Economy. Where are the most successful consulting firms based now? U.S, Europe, Hong Kong…The most developed areas in the world. The demand and supply of business consulting in developing countries is imbalanced. After this 21-day mutual-learning consulting course, I am now firmly against the opinion that Sachs raised in the book: “If the rich world had committed $195 billion in foreign aid per year between 2005 and 2020, poverty could have been entirely eliminated by the end of this period”. The real gap between developing countries and developed countries is not simply wealth, but information. Taking our client CLOW as example, their potentials are limited not just to budget, but to their ability to handle new projects and develop to the next step indeed. So, I think business consulting can play a significant role in the process of eliminating poverty in developing countries, and maybe it can be more significant than foreign aid. For me, I find this 21-day course really rewarding and inspiring for exploring the first-hand business consulting experiences in this special transformative business immersion environment.

Sincere blessings from the bottom of heart

Our group was assigned to 2 different business groups, the other one who make Tortas in Malbog just starts at the very beginning. But I can see hope and bright future beyond them because I know that CLOW also started with no basic accounting system, handmade products and lots of similar problems. With continuous help from local government unit and their own efforts, I sincerely hope that their businesses will thrive in the future.

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Eco tourism banner in processing center of Tableja

Growing businesses

By Wang Jinxiu, Riven

Only two weeks ago, we had totally no idea about how these two businesses were doing in any mean. But now after several meetings and checking all the records they are keeping, the picture of them has become quite clear. On the one hand, they no longer appear to me as a random group of people wanting to do some business but have basically no plan of what to do. On the other hand, there are more and more things we have noticed that they need to change in order to improve their business performance.

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Making peanut butter at Cambugason

Hearing that both JaSMED office and the retailers found by them always make payments months after all the products have been sold out, we think that JaSMED may not be so efficient or responsible. So that we suggest our business partners to approach them more frequently to get their cash collectable earlier. However, one of them is even too shy to talk with JaSMED. This will be a big problem if the core members can’t even be comfortable to discuss their business, because no work can go on smoothly in this way. But the other business in Pangdan is doing much better. They seem to be more confident when talking about their requests with JaSMED, including all those we have discussed before. JaSMED also appear to be paying more attention and showing more respect toward them during their meeting.

At the beginning we tried to find more retailers for both of our businesses in large cities such as Tagbilaran and through JaSMED channel. But later on, this plan does not work very well as JaSMED has so many micro businesses to work with and the efforts they can put into each one are very limited. All the products are delivered to similar stores and nobody is responsible to check the sales. Observing how our businesses are selling their products to neighbours and friends in a very casual way, we are also trying to understand the local way of promoting. They seldom approach to any new stores where they do not have any relatives working at. But suddenly starting promoting their products to our driver is nothing surprising to them. They are more willing to work with people who are already related with them in some way. Based on this unique logic, we come up with an idea that they can try to talk with all their neighbours, friends and relatives who have stores in any place and to the managers of schools where their kids are attending. If these people are willing to corporate, they can start selling by consignation pretty soon.

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With Pangdan Women’s Association 

Even though they are lack of basic accounting knowledge somehow, they both have accountants already. These two people generally know what they are supposed to do but do not realise the importance of their job at most of the time. Why did you record your breakfast onto the expenses records? Because I really have spent my money! Why you did not record the payment of labour? Because I was busy with my family last week. So in this last week that we are together, besides teaching them some basic accounting skills, another important thing to we need to do is to help them really understand the importance of having well organised financial records for their businesses. Since most of the members are working with the businesses as a part time, for many positions they may need to put at least two people to finish the normal tasks on time. We can not really blame them if their farmer president can not attend the seminar or their treasury is absent because of barangay festival.

What surprises me the most is their attitude toward our suggestions. I have never expected that they would have the patience of listening carefully to all of our questions and plans. Even before we finish our reports, many of our suggestions have already been taken into actions. The energy and confidence they have for their businesses ensure us that it will not take so long for them to achieve more and be more professional.

Change

By Lam Pak Lai Larry

“Thank you for your help,” said Marsha and her mother on our last meeting at the Jagna Argricultural Office in Tubod Monte. This short sentence of gratitude made me reflect on whether Mavis and I have actually done anything solid to improve their business during the two weeks of consultation engagement.

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Process of Ube Polovoron making

Gaining Trust

During these two weeks of consultation, we met multiple times to discuss on what needed to be done to improve the Ube business, the first thing they said was asked about marketing improvements. Second, was how to set prices for their new products. However, we did not deal with these problems right away, Mavis and I wanted to show them first that we are passionate in helping them and that to gain their trust. Therefore, we went to the market to do a research on similar product so that we can have product pricing comparisons for Marsha’s new products.

After the first week, they seemed more welcome and happy to see us, and, they listened to our request to show us the most updated financial records. Their cooperation and not rejecting us is definitely surprising since it was told by Professor Lefler that most of them do not trust us at the beginning, I guess we met one of the few that agrees to trust us at the very first sight.

Making Suggestions

Due to the existence of stable customers, Marsha and her mother’s business relies entirely on orders from ICM and did not have a lot of attempts to explore the local or nearby markets, another limitation is their packaging design for one of their best selling products Ube-powder. We found out that they cannot sell this product outside of ICM because of the packaging design and we thought this was ridiculous, therefore we offered help to them to redesign the packages.

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Marsha’s mother making polvoron

Apart from marketing improvements for better sales rate and distribution scale, we helped them in setting cost and pricing for their new products. One thing that we noticed was that the high transportation costs are highly non-cost-efficient, and this limited their sales since they wanted to collect all orders and send them out to reduce the transportation price. This may be a smart thing to do but for the improvement the business sales, it is not advised to do so.

In addition, we added in costs and money that they had never put into account for their price settings which was electricity, gas and water bills. We explained to them that it is very important to include minor things that actually is the basis of price-setting. We noticed that this was a very important issue in micro-businesses, since they always take electricity, gas and water as granted.

The Last Meeting

It was the last meeting that we first saw the president of the Jagna Women’s Ubi Processors and Confectioners Association, also known as Marsha’s mother. She was a very nice lady and the first thing she did was offer freshly made Ube jam to us, made from raw Ube tubers. She even asked her assistant to buy freshly baked bread for us. It was heart-warming to see her eyes light up when we showed her the new box design.

The most memorable thing is that we got to experience and witness the making of Ube Polvoron, since they only do processing every three months, we were very lucky that day. We watched her put on a makeshift hair band with a T-shirt and her practiced skills using a wooden spoon to mix ingredients together in a huge steel pan. Mavis and I noticed that she only had two steel moulds for the shaping of the Polvorons, this might be a reason why she is reluctant to take more orders from other potential clients since there is simply not enough manpower within the business.

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Marsha cooking freshly made Ube Jam to us

Troubles

At the beginning of this course, we were assigned to two businesses, UBE business and Pancit Yanning. You might have noticed me sharing only the UBE business memories and experiences, that is because Nana from Pancit Yanning was not cooperating with us at all. We met Nana only once and it was fun and enjoyable, she even offered to drive us back into Jagna market since it was difficult to catch a tricycle at here processing place. However, that was the only time we met her.

Nana’s Pancit Yanning business has been established for 12 years already, their financial records, operation systems were so well-established that they are making a considerable amount of money, preparing to launch their products into the international market and with the busy schedule of competing with the sunlight to finish their product making process, Nana was not responsive to our calls or text messages to schedule a meeting again.

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The only time we met Nana

 

Of course Mavis and I were disappointed, but thinking about the situations, we can see the difference of a well-established business (Pancit Yanning) and the less-established business (UBE) in the Philippines. In this small city of Jagna, we can already notice the poverty and rich gap, with Nana having a brand new processing facility and pieces of land to construct housing for her entire family while Marsha has only a rental room from the Agricultural Office for processing products.

Leaving

Two more full days in the Philippines and we will be leaving this paradise of sun and beaches. It was really wonderful to immerse myself deeply into the Philippines culture. I even learnt a few sentences of Visaya and the kids loved it whenever I used their language. Answering my doubt in the introduction, yes, Mavis and I helped the Ube business, and yes we helped them grow and change in some small ways, nothing too major but will definitely bring a positive growth to their development in the future. This program is still running and will continued by Professor Lefler, therefore I am confident that the next batch of my schoolmates will find Marsha and her mother’s Ube products standing in the very front of supermarket shelves.

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Marsha, her mother shared Ube Jam filled bread to us

 

Small change, bigger world

By: Sherry (Yang Xiaoqing)

Time flies so fast. It is already approaching the end of our stay in the Philippines. During the whole program period, Mathilda and I nearly go to JaSMED office every weekday. I feel like we are not only just student consultants for JaSMED officers but also their friends.

Visit to the mayor and the head of JaSMED
In order to collect more useful information, I even paid a visit to the mayor here. To be honest, I was very excited to meet the mayor as this is the first time in my life to meet a mayor, especially in a foreign country. I got very surprised when the reception desk said I could go into the municipal building directly without any identity and security check. After signing up in the visitors’ book and waiting for some time, I managed to meet the mayor.

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The mayor is a very approachable person.

In our conversation, I came to have a clearer idea about JaSMED’s mission—to assist the growth of the independent business. Previously according to the head of JaSMED, the most successful cooperation here—Calamay Cooperation receives both national and local government’s funding to thrive. But based on the information obtained from the mayor, after the careful assessment of the independence of Calamay Cooperation, national and local government’s funding may shift from Calamay to other businesses that are more desperate for capital. This sounds like good news to other micro-enterprises, however, there is a very important selection criterion, which is to have an organized company structure at first.

Another thing that I inquired the mayor is about the quality control’s issue as I found most products sold in JaSMED do not have information about ingredients and quality control related information, which may impede the products’ further expansion in the bigger market. The mayor replied to me that there was a certain department in charge of the inspection of quality control, but there is no mark on the label yet. So in our proposal for JaSMED, mark for quality control is suggested to facilitate local products to enter a broader market.

Since the mayor is in a hurry to Manila for Congress thing that day, we did not discuss much about the bonus salary system for JaSMED’s officers. I understand his concerns about insufficient money to serve as the bonus, but the bonus can come from the sales of products there. Previously I doubt whether people here have communism thought, which is to make everything evenly and fixedly distributed. However, the situation can probably be explained as people here find the fixed and even method easy to control. Therefore, they do not want to bother themselves to develop a more complicated system to operate everything. From the bottom of my heart, I still strongly believe even the small change like adding the bonus in the salary system will have a big impact. I can foresee with the bonus as incentives, JaSMED officers will work harder to promote the sales in order to raise their salary, which can create a win-win situation for both officers and local micro-enterprises.

To urge JaSMED officers to take the measures suggested by us in the report, I also presented our ideas to the head of JaSMED who is very energetic and open-minded. Luckily, she accepted most of our ideas and even told me she would forward our proposal to the mayor for further consideration, as some of the strategies require a certain amount of government funding.

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Photo taken with the head of JaSMED(the left one) and two other JaSMED officers–Prescila and Meriele.

Emerging FARAON Women’s Association
In the first week in Jagna, we came to have a brief understanding about FARAON Women’s Association’s business model. And in the second week, we paid a site visit to the association and got the facts about their production process as shown in the following photo. This process is still very traditional and slow. However, the hot wire is that some members of the association have learned a new method from the other association to produce candles faster than in the traditional way.

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The traditional candle making method used by FARAON Women’s Association.

The similar problem appears in this association just like the situation in JaSMED, employees here for producing and packaging candles have the salary based on the association’s agreement before. This is what they should change otherwise it will be unfair for those producing candles. And workers here have a certain target for the production each day, so more efficient worker can get off work earlier. However, in most well-organized companies, employees usually have a fixed time duration for their working and the salary usually depends on their working efficiency in a certain fixed duration of time. Though most women working in this association only regard the job here as a part-time job, it is still important to form the company structure with fixed working time for employees.

In addition, the president of this association actually is busy with her other work, so she only has meeting quarterly with employees here, which may be insufficient for business management. Therefore, it is highly recommended to set a position of the manager who can devote more time for management. One member told me most members did not want to take the position of manager since as the manager, there are a lot of troublesome issues you need to deal with. But when I suggested if the manager can have the higher salary than ordinary employees here, she said some members might consider.

I would say there is large space to improve for this association’s candles making business like price setting adjustment and accounting practice for bad debt, etc. For their longaniza and tocino production, they hold confidence to offer the products with even better quality than those from Cebu but cheaper price. They actually also know the local sellers here. The only problem is the lack of capital. This may be solved through gradually using some profits earned from candles production to restart the meat production. “Rome was not built in one day”. Only constant accumulation of capital can thrive this association.

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The third meeting with Dora who actively works in FARAON Women’s Association gives me more information to do our consulting project.

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The best seller found in Tagbilaran Island City mall. FARAON Women’s Association can try to produce similar products in the future.

Moreover, consulting experience in Jagna reminds me some reading materials from Poor Economics“everyone has a shot at being a successful entrepreneur especially the poor”. Their ideas somehow are still relatively novel here without fierce competition. Besides, the market has not paid attention to the bottom of the pyramid. That’s why those micro-entrepreneurs should have more chances in the future. However, we have to admit the severe conditions here may require them to work harder to seize the precious chance. Frankly speaking, I did not expect micro-entrepreneurs here to quickly adopt all of our suggestions. What I hope is that we bring small changes to their minds, when these small changes accumulate, the bigger world will be ready for them to explore.

Last but not the least, I want to say “thank you” to all the people accompanying me here these days. I really appreciate our professor–Mr.Beau for developing this program and bringing us here. And I also learned a lot from my classmates especially my business partner, Mathilda. Our host–Paz treats us as her own daughters, which I can sincerely feel from the bottom of my heart. JaSMED officers especially Darwin who has a good command of English assist us a lot in finishing these two consulting projects. I can not list all the friendly people here, the head of the JaSMED, Dora who works in FARAON Women’s Association and the mayor, etc. You guys make my stay in the Philippines really colorful and unforgettable. I will miss my stay in this country where Spanish, American and Asians’ culture meet as reflected in the F.Sionil Jose’s three novels. Thank you and good bye, the Philippines! Look forward to Seeing you next time!

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Photo taken in front of a church here with long history.

Struggling Through the Challenges

By Rachel Tsui

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Meeting with potential workers at Rebecca’s workshop.

Struggling to Sustain the Business

Rebecca’s business (the Jagna Relief Society) has a stable customer base but it never seems to have sufficient manpower to cater for the demand. We hence invited two potential employees that were desperate to look for income sources to visit the business and explore the opportunities to work in it. You might think it’s a golden opportunity to meet the needs on both sides (the business and the idle homemakers) (at least that’s what I had thought). But it turned out they were not very interested after knowing the meager salary of making the mats. I asked Rebecca the possibility of raising the salary but she said the feasibility was low as it would pose a heavy burden on her business. The business needs fast and immediate production to meet the high demand but had inadequate working capital for hiring workers, buying bulks of cloth and equipment. This results in a vicious cycle: not having enough capital, insufficient manpower, raw materials and equipment for production, lowered productivity, delay of delivery, customers dropping out, less revenue …—the cycle goes on and on. It’s really hard for the business to sustain itself. Apparently the deadlock is not unique to our business but applies to many other micro-enterprises.

The phenomenon matches with what Abhijit Banerjee brings up in Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty on entrepreneurship in the developing economies: “So many have managed to be entrepreneurs in the face of so much adversity, and have made so much out of so little. However, there’re two troubling shadows in this otherwise sunny picture: the businesses remain tiny and are making little money…The vast majority of the businesses run by the poor never grow to the point where they start having any employees or much in the way of assets.” For most micro-businesses, the problem essentially lies in the unavailability of a large enough sum of money at the initial stage of business operation to get over the hump to achieve more substantial growth. It is hence not easy for the enterprises to sustain themselves in the long run.

Micro-enterprises would look for financial sources to overcome the barrier. The options of borrowing from banks and applying for loans are often refuted due to the inability of the micro-businesses to afford the high interest. Applying for governmental funding from well-intended Local Government Units that hope to assist micro-enterprises might be the way out. Upon successful application, the processing might take two to three years to process though. Rebecca’s enterprise is also going to apply for funding from the Jagna Municipality and the Department of Labour and Employment, I believe it would continually sustain itself by keeping good business practices (e.g. making good use of the record-keeping system) until it eventually gets the funding to kick start a virtuous cycle: having more working capital accumulation, having sufficient workers, raw materials and equipment, eventually increasing productivity and revenue.

Struggling to Make a Living

My experience working with Rebecca also made me think about the problems of the employment condition in the Philippines. For many Filipinos, jobs and the good quality of life are still scarce indeed.

There is a severe lack of jobs in the place. Job creation has been struggling to keep pace with an ever-expanding population and workforce in the Philippines despite the high rates of economic growth in recent years. What’s equally upsetting is the slow rise in the level of wages, which fails to catch up with the increase in cost of living. For Rebecca’s business, the workers get around ten pesos upon completion of a small doormat. The process takes roughly an hour so the workers’ daily wage might be around a hundred pesos—roughly equivalent to the price of two meals—if they work for ten hours per day. It can be seen that the salary is certainly insufficient to support the livelihood of workers themselves, not to mention their families. Though this might not be the most representative example, this example serves as a springboard for us to have a glimpse into the treatment of the workers working in the micro-businesses.

The problems of limited jobs and low salary plaguing the whole country hence give rise to the widespread phenomenon of working abroad. It is noteworthy that one in three among the estimated 2.4 million Filipino workers working abroad is was a labourer or unskilled worker in 2015 according to the survey released by the Philippine Statistics Authority. While working as a Foreign Domestic Helper (FDH), they can earn approximately eighteen to twenty thousand pesos a month, which is three thousand pesos more than a contracted teacher in a private school according to the school principal working in BIT International College I encountered during a business meeting. Even college graduates from education or healthcare might opt to working abroad in the more developed economies as FDH.

Working abroad as FDH might be physically and mentally draining, but it’s deemed as a way for many to climb up the social ladder. The more stable and higher-paying job which fulfills the workers’ and their family’s basic needs (food, medical care, and education) is a great appeal to them. It also allows them room to envision substantial improvements in their future quality of life, which echoes with the point made in Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty: “The sense of control over the future that people get from knowing there will be an income coming in every month—and not just the income itself—is what allows these women to focus on building their own careers and those of their children.” All in all, having a steady job abroad isn’t just about monetary returns, but more importantly—bringing about hope of shaping a better future.

Working with Active Entrepreneurs!

By Deng Xiaomeng MavisIMG_6858

(Photo took on the way home)

Only two days to go in Bohol! Our consulting trip in the Philippines almost comes to an end. Recall the passing three weeks, the meetings with micro-entrepreneurs and the discussions with partners, I found the entrepreneurs we cooperated with are not the same as the stereotype that they just sit in their shops and have no promotion. On the contrary, they produce new flavors, change package designs, join exhibitions and have other initiatives to expand their business.

Pancit Yaning’s

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(Selfie with Nana)

I remembered for the first blog that I wrote my observations about the Pancit Yaning’s. I described it as a small scale production but after several visits, I found it is a well-developed organization consists of more than 10 people with clear function divisions. I am surprised by their labor specialization, as well as blush for the false assumptions after the first short visit. In this organization, they have quality controller, purchaser, marketer, and the members with special attention to the livelihood, religion, infrastructure and environment. According to Nana, the owner of Pancit Yaning’s, the products are sold in most cities in the Philippines now. Another thing also amazes me is that Pancit Yaning’s takes some Corporate Social Responsibility actions. During Christmas, they would send out free peanut bars to children and hold Christmas parties. Maybe doing so will not have immediate influence on their sales results, but as their business expands, one day their good reputation may have positive impact on the business. Picture1

(Facebook Page of Pancit Yaning)

Recently, they are building a new production room with larger room and better machine to expand the production. Simultaneously, they seize every chance to promote their products. They actively attend product exhibitions in local and nearby cities to expand domestic market and are applying some registration from the government, after which they could export the pancit to foreign market. Frankly speaking, they need little help from us. Reversely, I think the lesson they taught me is that one secret of success is to be active on your business, and always seize the chance!

UBE (Purple Yam) Products

On the last day we visited Marsha, the business owner of UBE products, we showed the new package design for their UBE powder and the drafts of price setting for two new products. I thought it would a short visit. However, before we left the office, Marsha’s mother arrived and she is the major producer of UBE products. Marsha and her mother would start producing UBE powder and UBE polvoron soon and invited us if we wanted to take a look.

(Left: Boiling the powder; Right: Moulding the polvoron)

We were happy to accept the offer and watched them proficiently start washing the Ube tuber, blending it into powder, stirring it, adding butter, sugar and other ingredients, moulding, etc. During the process, Marsha breezily talked about her trials about UBE ice cream, having tried several times but failed. She is still producing new products about UBE and considering how to improve current products. For instance, the shelf life of Ube jam is quite short. If the box is opened, the jam can only be stored for three days. They are not just staying with the current situation, but has a direction to improve. Even though their current business scale is not as large as Pancit Yaning’s, both of them share the same value of managing their business. And I believe the UBE products will also have a promising future.

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(Selfie with Marsha and her mother)

Before Larry and I left, we tried the bread with fresh UBE jam and took a selfie with them! It really tastes good and hope it could be recognized by more customers!

Last words

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I want to give thanks to the Professor, my homestay family, my classmates and the friendly Filipinos. Thank you for your support which makes my stay fantastic here!