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From ‘bagoong’ factory worker to owner

Shrimply successful: Teresita and Emmanuel Valdez with the employees who help them in their bagoong business.

MANILA, Philippines - Teresita Valdez was only 13 years old in 1973 when she started working, removing fish heads in a bagoong factory. Her parents were working at the Navotas fish port at that time. “I was big for my age,” Teresita recalls.

The factory had different products, including fish sauce and bagoong. While others did not stay long on the job, Teresita persevered. “I was not choosy about my work,” she says. She experimented with the bagoong formula and came up with an improved product.

After 13 years of working in the same factory, Teresita moved on to assume the position of supervisor in another bagoong factory, banking on the experience and knowledge she gained from her earlier work.

After a couple more years, she was ready to start a small business, as industrial partner of a relative who provided the financing.

In 1993, she finally took the plunge and went on her own. Together with her husband, they sold their house in Dagatdagatan and used the proceeds as the capital for their own bagoong business.

It’s a modest undertaking, with only 12 regular workers augmented by extras numbering up to 20 whenever there’s a big purchase order. They supply exporters directly, starting with just one and now seven, filling up as much as a whole container van at a time: 1,200 boxes with 24 big bottles of bagoong of different kinds (Balayan, salted, etc.) per box.

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In 2005, they were able to buy a piece of land in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, where they built their house, to which is attached their small bagoong factory.

“You have to be hardworking and frugal,” Teresita says in the vernacular. “There are those who, once they earn, will start buying all sorts of things. In my case, everything goes back to the business. Our only major purchase is the house.” 

She has also taken advantage of the microfinancing services of  TSPI (Tulay sa Pagunlad). Last year, Teresita was named the national winner of the 2014 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA).

“Since 2002, the CMA has recognized entrepreneurs at the grassroots who have overtaken poverty with support from microfinance institutions as partners in financial inclusion and enterprise development,” says Aneth Ng Lim, Citibank director for public affairs and corporate citizenship. “Through its 12-year run, the CMA has recognized microentrepreneurs from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao whose thriving businesses have greatly improved their quality of life and helped the community through employment generation.”

In a ceremony at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Manila recently, this year’s Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) search for the most outstanding microentrepreneurs in the country was launched. BSP governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., who described CMA as a “groundbreaking program,” remarked, “The success stories of CMA winners show that the Philippine microfinance industry is catalyzing positive results on the ground. We look forward to seeing microfinance providers magnifying their outreach to serve more of the financially excluded segments of our population.”

 Lim explains, “The launch signals the start of the nomination process as program partners Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. prepare to receive nominees for the various awards categories from microfinance banks, cooperatives, non-government institutions, and microfinance networks. A national winner, as well as Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao awardees will be chosen from among the nominees. Special awardees for Agri Micro-business, Innovation, and Community Leadership will also be recognized.”

The national winner will receive a cash prize of P200,000 and special awardees will each get P100,000. The loan officers of the winners will also get a cash incentive of P10,000.

In addition to the cash prizes, CMA provides the winners with a two-week micro-entrepreneurship course. They also receive laptops, together with basic computer training, as well as life and health insurance coverage to protect them and their dependents from unforeseen events.

Teresita found the micro-entrepreneurship course most helpful. She learned proper record-keeping as well as cash flow and time value of money. Most importantly, she learned about interpersonal relations, how to be a leader, how to handle people, how to deal with employees.

“I cannot take them for granted,” she says. “They are the ones who help me. If not for them, I would not be where I am now.”

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