Bayan Academy and Citi Foundation partners to help micro-entrepreneurs upgrade their business potentials
Remember the timeless adage, “Behind the success of a man is a woman?” In the case of Rosemarie Eroles and Catherine del Monte, it was the other way around. Rosemarie’s husband Alex and Catherine’s husband Richard, have always been the ever-supportive partner to these aspiring businesswomen.
For 10 years, Rosemarie and Alex have been at the helm of a 12-year-old enterprise selling native handicrafts, which in turn is helping plain housewives and young women in Lucban, Quezon who weave buri and pandan leaves into fashionable bags. Their business Marilex Handicrafts was the offshoot of Rosemarie’s training with Bayan Academy’s Citi-Bayan Entrep Eskwela program, where she was part of Batch 3 in 2012.
On the Del Monte couple’s side, their one-stop cellphone repair and accessories shop in Sta. Lucia mall bloomed through the years that their business now occupies an entire block in the mall’s floor and they have even expanded into various cellphone-related businesses. They started in just a small corner a few years ago with people discouraging them to get that small area as it is not usually noticed by mall goers, but through their persistence and hard-work, their efforts paid off.
“I have been selling bags and handicrafts made from buri and pandan, which I learned from my parents who have been doing it since 1978,” explains Rosemarie while in her shop at a mall in Quezon City. “But when I attended the classes at Bayan Academy, I got to learn more about improving and marketing the products. I learned that I could turn the bayong, which is usually something you would only bring to the market, into something fashionable and classy.”
She then put up Marilex Handicrafts, an offshoot of their husband-and-wife business Eroles Collections, which turns the woven bags that they buy from their hometown in Lucban into artsy accessories in their house in Luzon Avenue. From selling their products in bazaars and tiangges, people started noticing the quality and style of their bayongs which paved the way for them to supply for the likes of SM and The House of Tesoro. She proudly says that they have become a hit with balikbayans who buy many pieces and in turn, become “exporters” of her products.
However, this has not stopped her from pursuing other things. Now, she is also selling ladies’ accessories like bracelets, necklaces and earrings; and homemade food like yema cake, Lucban longganisa, and pancit habhab from her hometown. These items now help augment income to the already thriving sales of her bags. She has also been a regular fixture in community bazaars, tiangges and trade shows. In short, the once plain housewife is now a full-time businesswoman.
“When we started, we were the only one who does repairs and service for cellphones. We started really small but we saw the opportunity to provide cellphone accessories and sell more units. Customers came in because we were a one-stop shop for all their cellphone needs. Soon, we were being emulated by other tenants in the mall,” says Richard. ”With the income we have set aside, we expanded our space and got other spaces too so that we can reach out to more customers.”
The Del Monte couple are unfazed with the competition. In fact, they relish it as they discover more opportunities for income-generating activities. “Right now, we have opened a pawnshop for gadgets… as we found this another good venture as people are sometimes in need of immediate cash. We also opened a printer repair shop so if the cellphone business takes a backseat, then there is another business to turn back to.”
Rosemarie and Catherine credit a lot of their training from the Citi-Bayan Entrep-Eskwela in honing further their entrepreneurial skills, with how they manage their people and the financial side of the business.
“The most important business technique I learned from [the classes] is to avoid taking the profits from the business into buying things that are usually ‘luho’. I admit that it was really tempting in the beginning to buy things that would make us feel good. But now, we take into consideration first what we would do with the profit. We decided to save while rotating the capital to other businesses,” says Rosemarie. Catherine wholeheartedly agree, adding that “income from business should be used to expand the business, not to buy items that are not necessities for everyday living. Capital should also not be touched for personal purposes.”
Since 2006, Bayan Academy’s flagship Entrep-Eskwela Program, also known as Grassroots Entrepreneurship and Management (GEM) Program, had a total of 21 program licensees. These licensees are now implementing GEM in their own organizations through 426 accredited trainers who have undergone training for this purpose.
“The reach of this program is estimated to be 500,000 micro-entrepreneurs who will now be able to bring their enterprises to a higher level,” says Dr. Eduardo Morato, Bayan Academy President. “This is real nation-building at its finest as these successful micro-entrepreneurs will uplift not only the lives of their family but also their community or even back to their hometowns.”
With support from Citi Foundation, the CSR arm of Citibank Philippines, the Citi-Bayan Entrep-Eskwela Program was launched. It is part of the “Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC)” Project, which supported the establishment of a center that will cater to training 200 high-potential microfinance clients. Composed of more than 100 modules, the program assists participants in learning the various facets of enterprise management, including a self-mastery module.