BY Shaun If there is a competition for the most capable housewife in the world, Josephine, owner of LJA store which sells fresh vegetables and fruits, must be the world champion.
Before our trip to observe her procurement at the wet market in Iloilo, I never thought it would be possible to buy groceries for at least 100 households all on her own. Somehow, in the smelly, stuffy alley in the market, she manoeuvred her way with ease, dropping by store after store to search for goods she needed at the lowest price and of the highest quality. On a small, crumpled piece of paper, she wrote down several dozen things she planned to buy and ticked things she had bought. 155 kg of bananas, 17 kg of egg plants, 10 packs of Sotunghon and many more, she coordinated her porters to transport everything she bought from the stores to a tricycle. Sweating and irritated by the swarms of flies and mosquitoes, my partner Alex and I were obviously not used to buzz of the market and at the same time amazed by her efficiency and knowledge when it comes to bulk purchasing. When housewives in Hong Kong are tired of going to the supermarket for groceries for their own families, this superwoman in Guimaras is doing grocery for at least 100 households in the island.
Josephine told us her goal of providing convenience for the neighbourhood, and bringing the freshest fruits, vegetables, and fish to her customers, when we first visited her store. It was a small shop that is divided into two parts. She gave her parents the part that sells daily commodities because she wants them to have a meaningful and fruitful retirement. She and her husband take charge of the perishable section to support her three children until college.
Her business is relatively simple, and like many other business owners in the island, she does not have a book-keeping system, which means that she does not even know how much she earns/loses every month after her hard work. Clever as she is — skilfully bulk purchasing goods in Iloilo twice a week, she is rather reluctant to try the idea of book-keeping. “From merely 5000 peso 16 years ago, my business grew to the present level and I never record down anything because everything is in my head.” she said with confidence. To be honest, it was really hard to change her mind about book-keeping, not only because the habit of memorising everything is deep-rooted but also because she thinks she is incapable of book-keeping due to the lack of any accounting knowledge. Like many business owners in the island, Josephine has sufficient practical experience but lacks business theory which is very essential for elevating her business to the next level. In our conversation, she herself also sensed this bottleneck in her business. “I want to expand my business and have a two-story shop but I simply do not have enough capital.” She is not lazy, and she has a goal, but oftentimes, she cannot manoeuvre her business so well as she manoeuvres her way out of the wet market. What my partner and I can do is limited, but we want to at least let her understand her own business better through simple book-keeping exercises, thereby getting some sense of direction in her future business planning.