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She is a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a wife. And in many cases, she is also an entrepreneur.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8 with the theme #BreakTheBias, it’s a must to recognize women’s non-traditional roles, such as being successful entrepreneurs. In the Philippines, March is also National Women’s Month.
For over a decade now, this recognition of women’s achievements is at the core of ECHOstore. The social enterprise, through non-profit ECHOsi Foundation, has been helping women lead small and medium enterprises in different communities around the Philippines. The ECHOtrio, a group of forward-looking women composed by Pacita “Chit” Juan, Jeannie Javelosa, and Reena Francisco, works to empower women’s groups and the communities they belong to, all while keeping the supply chain alive. ECHOsi provides training to the women entrepreneurs to develop and improve their products and ECHOstore carries their products both in their physical stores and online store.
Who would have thought Melizabeth Food Products started with only P200 as capital? Elisa Tomas is a true inspiration to other women micro-entrepreneurs. Tomas, a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) noticed the surplus supply of saba bananas in the local trading post in Quirino. The bananas were too ripe to be cooked as banana cue and were therefore sold at a bargain price. Her keen observation gave birth to a business idea. She bought bananas, cooking oil, and sugar with the money she had on hand. She started selling banana chips in her community.
Later she started selling the banana chips in buses after learning that sales aboard buses are doing well. She registered her business in 1998. In 2009, she was one of the awardees in Pondo sa Sipag, Puhunan sa Tiyaga, a national search organized by Manny Villar’s Sipag at Tiyaga Foundation.
Elisa Tomas keeps on improving her products based on the suggestions of her customers and the knowledge she gained from ECHOsi’s training. One of her new products is vegetable kropek made from carrots, squash, and malunggay. Melizabeth Vegetable Kropek can be purchased individually or as part of the Merienda Time Basket and All Around Sauce Basket available on echostore.ph.
Another women micro-entrepreneur (WME) who started small is Teresita Cordova. Like Tomas, Cordova also started selling her products in her community. Inspired by her dream to send her children to school, in 2006 she started bringing 10 kilograms of peanuts for grinding from her home in rural Canarem, Victoria, Tarlac to Tarlac City. The following year, she was invited to a trade fair held at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong where her peanut butter was awarded the best processed food.
By holding tight to her dream, she was able to grow her business. Through the help of government agencies and non-government organizations like ECHOsi she received training on how to manage her business and introduce her products to the market.
She no longer travels to the city to have her peanuts ground because she was able to acquire machinery and equipment.
Both Tomas and Cordova also dream of growing their businesses and having their products be known across the country and internationally. Everyone can help them fulfill their dreams by buying their products.
Beyond that, both ECHOstore and ECHOsi believe that supporting WMEs’ products and women-led projects will not only help these entrepreneurs and their families but also help their employees, their respective families, and the local communities. And hopefully, help bring change to the society.