Pag-Ahon: How Three Filipino Small Business Owners Conquered the Pandemic Lockdown

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The year 2020 was tough, especially for those who own small businesses to make ends meet. When the lockdown was implemented nationwide, there was little to no sale for the day to bring food on the table. In a recent documentary released by Small Business Network Philippines titled Pag-Ahon, we are introduced to three individuals: Balut vendor Tatay Virgilio, store owner Nancy Sevilla, and entrepreneur Remia Adedoja. Their stories echo similar struggles that many Filipinos faced during the pandemic and how they managed to rise from this struggle in such very complicated times.

Tatay Virgilio’s Determination

Although he is given a monthly pension from the government, it’s still not enough for Tatay Virgilio, his wife, and cats to survive. This is why, despite his old age, he sells Balut, Penoy, and cigarettes every night, walking along the dark corners and streets to earn more.

As much as he wanted to walk farther in the areas to get a broader reach to sell more, his age and stamina were impossible. He usually stays on one street corner earning more or less 400 pesos a day. He confessed that his daily earnings are not enough to pay for his basic needs every month. If he falls short, he borrows money.

When the pandemic hit, it felt that his 4,000-peso capital was wasted due to little to no daily sales. Also, at that time, senior citizens were not allowed to go outside as local officials were implementing strict health and safety protocols. He survived the pandemic through the little savings he got. He then worked even more challenging when the limitations were slowly lifted in order to gain back what he lost. As long as he can still walk and sell, he will do it until he can’t do it anymore. He said he doesn’t need his sales to grow in an instant. What’s important to him is that he brings home money at the end of the day.

Nancy’s Backup Plan

Nancy Sevilla is a store owner who sells fruit smoothies mostly to students. She does all the stops to earn and sell her goods with a daily sales goal of 15,000 pesos since she sells mostly perishable products. Her husband wakes up as early as 2 am to get their needed supplies for the day and family always comes first.

When the pandemic hit, it was tough to make ends meet as the lockdown also caused students to stay in their homes. Since there were no physical classes, the ingredients they had were slowly rotting and would inevitably have to be thrown away, which is a complete waste.

With her four daughters in mind, Nancy made sure she had a backup plan to still provide food and pay the utilities despite the limitations caused by the pandemic. As a wise store owner, she makes friends and connections with her customers. They say if you do good and offer them great customer service, they will definitely come back to you. She then decided to open up her store and sell vegetables since she thought it would be one great way to earn more on a daily basis. She also finds solutions to keep her goods safe and fresh for consumption, like wrapping them in clear foil when selling them to customers.

She decided to open her vegetable store at full capacity when the other stores closed down and this was also the period when their sales constantly increased. She said if she didn’t make better and wise backup plans to keep her business afloat, their family would have finally closed shop by now.

Remia’s Social Resilience

Back in 2009, Remia experienced Typhoon Ondoy and considered doing a business with water hyacinths as raw material. Both a family business and social enterprise, she hired out-of-school youth, housewives, and fishermen to train them to make various handicraft products. Although profits are small, what’s important to her is they were able to generate jobs for them and give them economic empowerment.

Their business was not exempted from the limitations and struggles caused by the pandemic. Workers hired by Remia were worried that they would not have money due to no sales at all. There were even thoughts that they might be laid off due to slow production.

It was a blessing in disguise for Remia that she decided to branch out her business into a digital store shopping platform. This also skyrocketed their business’ sales, and despite their limitations, they were still able to make constant sales. She didn’t have to lay off people, and they were able to generate enough sales for their family and employees to spend on their essential needs and more.

Her social resilience has paved the way for the employees’ families to fulfill other life goals like enrolling them in school and saving up for a land of their own. She is also determined to expand her enterprise to help other Filipinos earn for their families.

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Clarry Herrera
Founder and CEO of Small Business Solutions, Small Business Network, and Herrera Ventures, Inc.; Clarry is an entrepreneur and growth marketer who aims to help Filipino MSMEs maximize their growth potential by leveraging the power of digital transformation.

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