Social entrepreneurship: Tindera helps other tinderas start and grow

Entrepreneuership may seem, at first look, to be a very self-serving activity.  But look again.

It’s true that many businesspeople start ventures to earn income for themselves and their families.  However, they end up helping others — they create jobs, they supply a need, they help build their communities, they pay taxes which the government spends on infrastructure and social services, and sometimes they earn dollars from export marketing. And yes, they often help other people set up and run their own income-generating small businesses, too.  This is how the cycle of growth is perpetuated.

This is known in development circles as “social entrepreneurship.”

The story of Cristina Salbabora or “Ate Nene” is typical of social entrepreneurs found in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the Philippines.

Ten years ago, Ate Nene (then 42 years old) started her business by selling drinks (palamig) and snacks (sitsirya) in front of the municipal hall in what is now Taguig City.  One day, another tindera or seller approached her asking if she knew how to cook palitaw (rice dumpling).  She didn’t know — at least not yet then — but she said “yes” anyway.  The other tindera immediately ordered 50 pieces to sell the following day.

The minute Ate Nene arrived home, she asked friends and relatives for recipes and techniques for cooking palitaw and was successful in preparing it.  The following day, she delivered what was ordered.  More orders followed from other tinderas as well.  Soon, they were asking her if she could supply other food items.  Ate Nene recalls:  “Dahil nabigyan nila ako ng ideya, tumigil na ako sa pagtitinda sa munisipyo.  Simula noon, sa bahay na lang ako hanggang sa nasanay na silang kumukuha ng paninda naming kakanin” (Because they gave me an idea, I stopped selling in the municipal hall.  From then on, I was home-based.  It didn’t take long for them to get used to picking up food from my home to sell).

Today, Aling Nene supplies an average of ten retailers with local snack fare, including palitaw, kutsinta, pichi-pichi, palabok, pancit, ginatan and Pinoy-style spaghetti.  The business has flourished and Ate Nene has established her reputation as a good cook in her community.

When Aling Nene started her business, she had four children, Jennilyn, 23; Janet, 19; Jayson, 15; and Joan, 13.  All of them assisted in the business by chopping the ingredients and wrapping the food in retail-sized packages.  At that time, the two older daughters were unemployed, while the two younger children were in school.

With the minimum wage her husband was earning as a factory worker, Ate Nene’s family was in a tight financial spot.  This was exacerbated when her husband was laid off from his job.  He then began to help out in the business, making Ate Nene’s food venture a real family enterprise.

Eventually, the “outlets” of their kakanin business grew from two to ten regular retailers.

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Photo:  one of Ate Nene’s tinderas