Choose goodness

JUST BE - Bernadette Sembrano (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2014 - 12:00am

Better wages for construction workers, produce coal from biomass and employment opportunities for laid-off sales attendants. These are just some of the objectives of my classmates enrolled in the social entrepreneurship course at the Ateneo School of Government. Meanwhile, our little company — Be Good Store’s advocacy is simple: Choose goodness.  

Technically, this is my first venture into business where I’m really studying the numbers. It’s common sense, profitability=sustainability. The first company we set up was inspired by an advocacy to make good quality books accessible. We didn’t have a feasibility study then, but I was content just to be able to cover the operating expense — cost of rent, electricity and salary of our store manager.  

This time, I’m back on the drawing board, and obviously, we need to raise targets beyond just being able to pay for OPEX (operating expense). 

The whole exercise of setting up a business is very challenging, not to mention stressful. Beyond setting up the physical store and picking up supplies, looking for staff, what’s gruesome is accounting for the inventory. For the first few weeks, my sister-in-law Missy and I had to pay for unaccounted inventory right from our own pockets. In short, abonado.

Then we learned to fine tune the process a bit to track the inventory, etc. We had to list down everything.  On our first bazaar, we were relieved that we got our numbers right. Whew. Alleluia! 

If you ask me if this business was worth our time — on the aspect of it being financially rewarding vis-a-vis the stress we get from it — I can’t give a definitive yes for now. In moments that I get tired setting it up, I tell myself that I need to go back to the communities that inspired us to set up this business in the first place.

In our trips to the provinces, oftentimes, I encounter farming communities. One such community is Davao Oriental hit by Typhoon Pablo in 2012. Amidst the devastation, I learned that there was a company that sold chili powder, “dumang,” as the locals call it.  I bought several bottles of dumang, and gave them away to my friends who run a restaurant at ABS-CBN, and to some executives. I hoped that they would like it and order from the community.  

Christmas is also the perfect occasion for me to support products that benefit communities. A few years ago, I bought coco sugar from a cooperative in Mindanao and my entire family helped me place them in glass containers to give away as Christmas presents.

This year, we give friends Tabang shirts to benefit communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda. I’m not saying that we are generous people, but only to stress that others if not majority of Filipinos have done the same thing, especially during time of need. What the Be Good Store hopes to achieve is for goods that benefit communities be available to a greater number of people.

Working on this little project, I have encountered generous people who share their talent and knowledge to help make the humble business work. There are also many companies and organizations that have gone ahead with sourcing from farming communities, and they inspire me.

When asked if this company is non-profit, my quick answer is: It’s for profit, but it’s about sharing the wealth. 

At the end of the day, my belief is, we can make an impact on other’s lives, if we simply and consciously choose what is good for yourself and good for others. 

If you have products sourced and made by cooperative groups, maybe we can carry them in our store. There will be a next batch of social entrepreneurship seminars beginning May 24. Please get in touch with moneacelineyap@gmail.com for details. 

(Please e-mail me at bsaguinaldo@yahoo.com.ph.)

ATENEO SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT BE GOOD STORE COMMUNITIES DAVAO ORIENTAL MINDANAO MISSY AND I TYPHOON PABLO TYPHOON YOLANDA WHAT THE BE GOOD STORE
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