Partners in business, partners for life

Today, microentrepreneurs are mostly women. We observe this in our caravans in the regions and provinces. Winners of the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Award, National Livelihood Development Corporation SIPAG Award, and our very own Most Inspiring Microentrepreneur Award are mostly women. Eventually, as the business becomes bigger, the husband normally joins in and helps manage.

Roland and Rosalinda Hortaleza started a business that was originally named RBH Cosmetics, now popularly known as Splash. Their business is an example of a husband-and-wife team’s entrepreneurial success. While it might be challenging for couples to work together in business and manage their own relationship at the same time, many of them are able to do so.

My Lola Victoria Araneta started Feati Bank and University, to name a few, while my grandfather Don Salvador founded RFM Corporation – the first flour mill in Asia. I don’t think they would have been able to work together in the same business, as they both have very strong personalities.

The story of Beng and Bong Elnas and Terry and Majorie Ortega are quite an inspiration. The challenge to the many small entrepreneurs is the current environment they are in. Many do not come from the best schools. Some do not even reach college. Others barely make it to high school. But, as they raise a family, the compelling need to secure a stable future and a better education for their children is what drives most of them. While hard work is needed, education gives the edge in the level of skill and creativity. But, of course, so does the will to overcome poverty and to not give up despite the challenges in life. Since business and personal accounting is merged in many of the microentreps cases, lack of funding either for the business or family becomes a problem. But still, we do have a lot of people succeeding.

Prescilda and Glen Elnas, fondly known as Bing and Bong, met in General Santos more than two decades ago. Beng was still in college and Bong was helping his family in their small rattan business. They got married and started a family in Metro Manila.

To prepare for their children’s future, Beng decided to work as an OFW in Japan. Back home, Bong started a small video rental shop. Beng came home and from their savings, they were able to expand one shop to five shops. However, with the gaya-gaya mentality of Pinoys and with the growing popularity of cable television, their business collapsed.

At the age of 35 without any work experience, Bong realized how hard it was to look for a job. Their former housekeeper then helped him to get a job as a family driver. Aside from his family, Bong was also inspired by his Pastor employers, who shared a different light about life, faith and God. “Hindi habang buhay ay magiging family driver ako…,” Bong promised himself.

Recognizing that life in the province is slow-paced compared to life in Metro Manila, the family headed for Zamboanga. They arrived with Php 1,100 and with their steamer, pots, pans and burners. Back in Manila, Beng also learned how to cook rice cakes or puto. From there, they started a small business. Puto became their bread and butter in Zamboanga.

A local micro finance institution (MFI) then granted them a 3,000-peso initial loan to grow their business. Still, the couple knew that their small business would not be able to sustain their family needs, especially as their children would soon be entering school.

Bong then went back to Manila and got a job delivering balikbayan boxes. For three years, he sent his salary to her family in Zamboanga. Beng’s home-based businesses also continued to contribute to the family income. When Bong came home to his family, Beng was granted another loan cycle. They decided to shift to an onion retailing business, which also later on failed.

As most people would have been traumatized by failure, Bong and Beng continued their entrepreneurial journey. They went back to the food business and started in a small space selling tuna products. Then, Beng tried selling ice candy, which clicked in their area and eventually became their primary business.

The demand for their ice candy quickly increased, so both Beng and Bong had to learn the process and the recipe. Their local MFI also granted them a huge loan to help them increase their ice candy production. At present, from their first sale of 10 pieces of ice candy, Beng and Bong are producing an average of 3,000 pieces of ice candy a day. Their small ice candy factory at the back of their rented house houses their ice candy makers and freezer units.

Another couple’s story proves the relentless spirit of Pinoys.

Leodegario “Terry” and Marjorie Ortega started young. Their story begins after Terry’s foster parents died when he was just 14. At a young age, they decided to start a married life together. It was hard, especially for Terry, to provide a comfortable life for their future. Despite the odds, they were determined to make their marriage work and raise a strong family.

Terry then decided to start a small business by making Binagol – a famous taro-based delicacy in Leyte. He learned the process from his foster parents. He started producing small quantities, which he sold by knocking house to house and peddling on the streets.

With limited earnings, Terry sent Marjorie to school. As she reached fourth year college, they both realized how their simple business can help them with their education. Terry then also enrolled in college.

As Terry balanced school and their Binagol-making business, Marjorie worked as a teacher. Eventually, Terry also completed his degree in Criminology and got a job in the Philippine National Police in Leyte. In spite of their stable jobs, they still continue to look after their business, which started to grow significantly.

Marjorie and Terry were able to manage their business efficiently, even with their fulltime jobs. Terry starts early in the morning, purchasing ingredients for production and delivering regular orders before going to the office at 8am. He then collects from those who ordered after he gets out of the office at 5:00pm. Marjorie, on the other hand, oversees the production when she checks on the factory during her breaks, as the school is just a few blocks away.

Their Binagol-making business is now in a different stage since its humble beginnings. They are now producing what they call “S.M.B” which stands for Sigmani, Moron and Binagol. All are famous delicacies made of gabi and sticky rice. Terry and Marjorie now supplies to the airport, hotels, and major restaurants in Leyte, apart from their store in Tacloban City’s main commercial street. A local MFI has also aided their small business to grow to its present state.

Terry and Marjorie have not only built a growing business. They have a strong marriage and a comfortable life. Two of their children are already in college, with the youngest enrolled in a private school. After 18 years, Terry and Marjorie continue to be strong together, for their business, marriage and family.

The business of Beng and Bong Elnas and Terry and Marjorie Ortega were both recognized by the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Award. These are just two of the many stories of couples who are beating poverty together.