Nothing can prepare you when meeting friends from long ago. You wonder will it be the same? Will they remember me? Will we connect like we did before? Anxiety and apprehension guard your heart. But usually it is all for not.
In February of 2017 we returned to the Philippines with our two boys, 12 and 13 to reconnect and visit the very place Mike and I started our lives together. We scheduled 7 days in Baguio with a few in Manila on the front and back and then a 1 week family vacation to an island with beautiful beaches and a place to debrief with our boys after submerging them into 3rd world culture.
Well we ended up canceling 3 days of that vacation and extending our time with our friends in Baguio. It was like we had been gone a weekend and not 15 years. It was amazing to catch up, to meet their kids and hear their hearts. We encountered broken stories with happy endings but we also encountered brokenness still waiting for their story to make sense.
We found out that many of our friends had businesses, were trying to start businesses or had failed attempts. We began to talk and share and before long we were invited to give input and guidance in their endeavors. Below are a few examples of businesses that have reached out for help and found hope and success.
We had heard that Jonalyn had borrowed money to start an online ESL school. She had not shared too much with us but after a couple weeks invited us to their home for a dinner. We found our way to a ghost town called Shilan. There are over 600 townhomes that are either half built or run down in this community and only 20 people live there and they are one of them.
After a lunch we had a coffee together and the story began. She had borrowed 100,000 pesos from her mom to start the business. She invested in a physical space, computers, teacher training and incorporated. But now it had been months and there were no students and her family was barley making enough money to live. She shared her story in tears, knowing that she should have asked for help and not done it on her own. She should have not isolated herself from her family, but was to ashamed to show face when things were not working. As she shared Mike began to see that this was a viable business – but she didn’t know her numbers. She said she needed 50 students to make it work and as we began to break down the business and talk numbers we realized she only need 5! It was a like a weight had come off her shoulders when she realized that it was still possible to pay back her mom and make a living for her family.
Knowing the website was very badly done and her knowledge of business was minimal we offered a partnership for the business. We would move forward and build her a new website, logo, and marketing plan and she would continue to find leads in China, Taiwan and Thailand. It was launched in May and have full time students starting this fall from Canada as well as Asian universities. Budgets, cash flow management and humility were all part of her journey from the dark place of lost hope to practical hands on approach that shone light so quickly.
Strawberry Jam and Candy
La Trinidad is located in what is known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. It draws many tourists and the big show is Strawberries. It is the only place they are grown and many come from Manila to tour the farms and enjoy the fruit.
Ronnie and his wife Ming ran a strawberry farm and cart. He also had 2 plots of land for vegetables. The strawberry farm can be very lucrative when in season but there is no profit when the rainy season arrives. We met with him and his sister who needed work, to talk about the strawberry business and how it worked and what they needed to do. They kept no proper records, had outstanding vendors owing money for their goods as well as no organization in how the business was run.
They reached out for help and Mike organized an excel cash flow sheet for them. They looked at it with WIDE eyes and where amazed at where their business could be in 6 months. Neither had seen anything like it and their minds started to open up. They learned about income and expenses and how when people do not pay on time it hurts their business. They learned about how paying others to work can actually make them more because production increases and they have more to sell. Together a plan was made to meet a few more times as they learn to use the Cash Flow, reported their production and staffing resolutions.
This small business continues to bring in revenue for the family and even the small scale operations has been an amazing learning experience for things to come.
Farming is a way of life in the La Trinidad area and a lot of it is overseen by the local university. They are told when they can plant, how much they can plant and what they will sell it for. There is a lot of control and it brings uncertainty to families every year. Some depend on a lottery system to even know if they will have land to farm! With this in mind aquaponics was discussed with local farmer friends and the idea was immediately grabbed onto. Within 1 month he tore down his chicken coup and set up an aquaponics test site. For the next several weeks and months they began to learn it along side Mike, who via Skype chats and Facebook Video chats, for hours on end found their way.
With the long rainy season and the unstable weather conditions aquaponics ensures ongoing growth and success in the farming industry. It also removed any control that is put on farmers from the local university. The opportunity is amazing and we are now investing in a full scale 1200 sqft greenhouse to bring this option to market.
The future is bright for business owners in the Philippines.
With a bit of education and application of values their companies can succeed. We look forward to what is to come.