For these entrepreneurs, Independence Day takes on several meanings

As the Philippines celebrates its 126th year of freedom, we reflect on its relevance in today’s world.

Just as we had inspiring heroes fighting for the Philippines’ right to self-governance and freedom from colonial rule in 1898, we have modern-day heroes that continue to contribute to the nation’s growth and to individual self-sufficiency today.

These are Filipinos who overcome hardships to achieve personal and financial empowerment through entrepreneurship. According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, MSMEs “generate 62.4 percent of the country’s total employment, contribute 36 percent of gross value added, and account for 25 percent of total exports.”

Madiskarte Moms PH, an online community that supports starting and established mompreneurs, exemplifies the enduring spirit of Filipinos whose businesses create opportunities for our people.

By creating products using materials and designs that are Filipino-centric, they impact everyone in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They create direct and indirect employment for suppliers and their communities.

Former OFW and now entrepreneur Lois Gabriel studied makeup artistry at SOFA and put up her own events company.

If there is any modern-day example of heroes, it is Filipino mothers who are smart enough to realize that it doesn’t take a huge capital to start a business. When they changed their mindset that it could be done, they did it. After all, when you’re fighting for your family’s future, you become brave like the hero you can be.

From OFWs to business owners

For Lois Gabriel, mother of three daughters and an OFW in Dubai for six years in the early 2000s, the secret to becoming an entrepreneur was using her biggest skill: coordinating things. “Not everyone can coordinate with too many suppliers all at the same time. I am very good at reminding clients, following up suppliers, and doing quality control during execution.”

In Dubai, her degree in communication and her skill at organizing events paved the way to a side hustle that she first offered to her friends and church mates. When she came home to the Philippines to give birth, she decided to put up Lois Gabriel Events where she wears many hats as event coordinator, host, and professional makeup artist.

“My first attempt didn’t materialize. In 2008, I enrolled at the School Fashion and Arts (SOFA) , where I took up makeup artistry. That was a game changer. I launched my makeup artistry page, and clients were also looking for event coordination and that was the rebirth of Lois Gabriel Events. Currently, I have five people on staff and on call staff whenever I have events booked.”

The pandemic all but stopped her business but not her dreams. “My husband was earning enough for our daily needs, but we had no savings. Also, a very important reason for starting a business was my self-fulfillment as a woman and human being—that I am able to surpass the mediocrity cast upon women. It takes a lot of sweat and tears to be able to sustain a business.”

Another former OFW, April Ocampo worked in Macau and Singapore until the pandemic. In 2020, she was in the Philippines on maternity leave. For the next three years she was unemployed and became a full-time mom.

She wasn’t used to not working and suffered from post-partum depression. It caused her to question her worth, caused her anxiety and self-pity. “Napakaganda ng tinatakbo ng career ko noong wala pa akong anak. OFW po ako at tumutulong sa pangangailangan ng pamilya namin, may sariling pera at kalayaan dati. Nawalan ako ng identity.” 

To be honest, she says, putting up a business in the beginning was simply for herself, “para sa aking sarili, para po sa sanity, at lalong lalo na po sa self-worth ko.”

In January this year, she put up Bounty Honey which sources wild honey in Mindanao. Her business began with only 18 bottles and P3,200. Now, she is faced with the happy problem of supply since the demand for her honey is rising.

Leaving the comfort of the corporate world

Mommy Princess is a mompreneur who embodies an employee (she worked in BPO for 18 years) who tried her hand at business on the side, until she finally did it full time. During the pandemic, her company paid their employees three months despite halting work (they went back to the office after).  

While stuck at home, she sold homemade body wash under the name Isla but pressed pause because she couldn’t find the right supplier. In 2022, she pivoted Isla to handmade accessories using macramé and clay because they didn’t expire. “I’m a single parent with a 10-year-old and I still handcraft my jewelry pieces. When I have a lot of orders, I ask for help.” She employs stay-at-home moms and working students.  

Mommy Princess says one of the biggest challenges in starting a business is limiting one’s belief. “When you’re surrounded by people that are not business minded, you get inputs like ‘Mahirap iyan,’ ‘Naku saturated na ang market.’ The advantage in 2022 was it felt like everyone is starting a new normal life. So why not defy all the odds? What kept me going was my assurance that God got my back. His grace is sufficient.”

Another corporate employee since she graduated from college, Ayeng Antonio-Mendez opened Abuela Café and Bakery in the last quarter of 2022 and began fully operational in August the following year.

When you have a full-time job, starting a business takes courage because you are either leaving a regular income or if you don’t leave you’re adding more stress to your life. “In terms of our corporate job, we were doing very well. But on the business side, this is the most complicated because construction is ongoing and there have been delays and additional costs.”

Mom to a four-year-old daughter, Ayeng says her family—her brother and sister-in-law, Ayeng and her husband—started the café because it was a long-held dream of her mom. “We are all working in the corporate world, and we thought why not try to build our own business that someday our children will also benefit from and maybe continue. We also carry some recipes we had inherited from our grandmothers, too. It’s like making their legacy and ours combined to continue evolving.” 

These women have created a chain of impact around them—not only economically but also mentally. They have encouraged other moms to be brave, to be open to new possibilities and to take on challenges along the way. That’s true freedom.

Empower yourself like these Filipino moms. Join Madiskarte Moms PH on Facebook.

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