Small and manageable but diverse in scale is the formula that Nieves upholds as an entrepreneur. She manages a range of small enterprises that comprises a sari-sari (variety goods) store, piggery, and fish vending. “The store is my anchor business because it brings daily income which we use to buy food. I also sell my husband Joel’s daily fish catch. On the sale of fish, we get the money to cover other household expenses, such as children’s education, water and electricity, house construction and repair,  etc. The hogs serve literally as my ‘piggy banks’. It provides lump-sum of money twice a year from the sale of piglets, ” shares Nieves.

Life was hard when the family depended only on fishing in the coastal village of Dalupaon, Pasacao, Camarines Sur. When the weather is good and the sea is calm, Joel, catches fish in the coastal waters. Nieves sells the fish to a local buyer. Her average daily sale is Five Hundred Pesos (PhP500 or US$10). On days of bountiful harvest and sunny weather, she dries some of the fish or make bagoong (fish paste). Using barter system with farmers, Nieves exchanges her preserved fish for rice. During the rainy season when fishing everyday is not assured, food on the table also becomes uncertain.

This vulnerability to weather and emergencies has been reduced significantly when Nieves availed of business loans from a local microfinance institution, SEDP. She used her first loan of Five Thousand Pesos (PhP5,000) in 2008 to buy a new boat worth Nine Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP9,500) for Joel. The amount was raised using the loan, proceeds from the sale of an old boat for Two Thousand Pesos (PhP2,000), and family savings. In 2009, she availed a second loan of Seven Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP7,500) to open a sari-sari store. She used the loan to build a tiny store structure beside the house and fill it with household items such as salt, garlic, oil, canned food, powdered drinks, shampoo, and washing detergent.

As each loan is repaid, Nieves takes another one to keep building her productive assets which fuel the growth of her business. A new refrigerator enables Nieves to make and sell ice and ice candies, and soft drinks. She also bought a second boat with a motor engine and fishing gadgets worth nearly Twenty Thousand Pesos (PhP20,000). For the first time, Joel can stop rowing and let the new motor engine take his boat to deeper waters where more fish can be caught. He can even take a rest for a day, something which he has not done before, to rent out the pump boat to interested fishermen.

Earnings from fish sales were used to buy a piglet on which the hog raising enterprise was started. Nieves raised the piglet into a healthy and productive sow.  The sow gives birth twice a year with a maximum of 14 piglets at one birthing season. She would keep two piglets to increase her breeding stock and sell the rest at One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (PhP1,500) each. A fattened hog that is not suited for breeding is sold after four months upon reaching a weight of 70 kilos.

Nieves is thankful to SEDP for entrusting her with a business loan that facilitated the start of her journey in entrepreneurship. She exclaims, “Now that I have experienced growing a business from very little, new business ideas keep popping up. I feel secured and confident to cast a ‘wider net in the deep blue sea’ of business possibilities. ”

Courtesy of Media Inc. and John Florence L. Granado