Philippines Fellowship: Baguio meets Betty Crocker
People say that you shouldn’t take anything you have for granted, that there’s always someone somewhere who is struggling whilst you’re sailing. Growing up in the UK you often overlook the simple things. You overlook the difficulty of ordering supplies and receiving them the next morning (thanks for that one Amazon). You overlook being able to flush loo roll down the toilet. You overlook clean tap water.
The thing that hit me the hardest about the reality of this is the resilient spirit of six talented and intimidatingly hard-working entrepreneurs. This brings me to Sheena: what a woman.
Sheena studied finance (outstanding match for me – I cannot count) and is now running a bakery out of her own home. When my teammates and I first sat down in her kitchen, she proudly presented us with her cakes and began to tell us how she made them.
I then became hesitant.
Inner monologue: I’m sure she just said the cakes were made with vegetables, topped with vegetable whipped cream and had no sugar in them.
Turns out she did say exactly that.
Turns out the cakes were absolutely incredible.
We then asked her about finances. Did she know how much each individual cupcake cost? Did she have the breakdown of ingredients? Of course she did, she pulled out a massive notebook with every single cost detailed down to how much electricity was used per cake and each cake’s contribution to her monthly bills. Sheena was the third entrepreneur we had met that week, but the first to have heard of a cash flow or how to separate personal finances from business finances. We were pretty shocked. And I was pretty relieved – I could leave the numbers to the big kids.
Next we had to innovate. How do we get more customers? How do we reduce costs? We arranged to start testing. Sheena told us that there was a weekly meeting on Mondays held for one of the local government committees. So the next week we asked Sheena to make some of her healthy cakes – old recipes and new. We then prepared a feedback questionnaire and stationed ourselves outside to taste-test to positive results! People loved them and were even asking for her business cards (we should’ve thought of that).
Sheena has consistently impressed us, each time we meet with her she is passionate and enthusiastic about expanding her business. She gives us as many ideas as we give her and takes her own initiative. At the moment she supplies to a local restaurant and is now in talks to supply to nearby schools.
Our next steps are to reduce her production time; with more customers she’ll need to work faster. Each week we get closer to consolidating evidence for the final week, where Sheena will pitch for a grant to help her buy appliances that will increase productivity. With recent news of a pregnancy, the importance of the growth of her business goes without saying.
The differences between the Philippines and the UK are pretty stark. Take what I said about next day delivery; right now we are struggling to source cake decorating tools. To order them online, they won’t arrive until September and finding them in a shop here is nigh impossible. Yet, Sheena isn’t phased. None of the entrepreneurs seem phased by their barriers. And none of them fail to inspire.
Megan Green, Philippines 2016