Hazel Myrisse Gibe, a Typhoon Yolanda-survivor, becomes the sole supplier of banana chips to Global Organics and Wellness Corporation (Glow Corp), a farmer-owned social enterprise based in Laguna.
Eastern Samar, where Cabe came from, was one of the 44 provinces devastated by Typhoon Yolanda [ internationally known as Haiyan] with over 6,300 deaths. Cabe, like most of the families in the province, lost their houses and livelihoods that changed their lives forever. Cabe, her husband Robert and 4 children, experienced hunger for a week while they were trying to grapple with the emotional and financial impact of the typhoon on their family. Cabe’s husband Robert mentioned, “We may have survived [Typhoon] Yolanda, but we may die of hunger.]
Like other farmers, Cabe undergone trainings on Integrated Diversified Organic Farming Systems to rehabilitate farmlands of the members of the Island of Samar and Leyte and Cooperative (ISLACO). After the training, Cabe began to intercrop bananas with coconuts in 2015.
Just after a year, Cabe’s banana bore fruit and, instead of selling it in traditional way, she was adviced to turn them into chips. Cabe said, “The advice stirred my imagination and I turned to Youtube to do research in banana chips processing”. She added, “I borrowed Php10,000 to buy some cooking equipment and convert part of our house as processing center. We initially processed between 20-50 kilograms of banana chips and we generate Php1,500 out of this. If I only sell these bananas in a traditional way, I will only receive between Php400-500 for my 50 kilograms of bananas”.
People in the community also benefited from the business as she needed more raw products to keep up with market demand. Cabe needs at least 1,500 kilograms of bananas every month. Aside from being a stead market to her co-farmers, Cabe also buys from farmers Php18 per kilogram compared to the Php10 prevailing price, giving each farmer Php8 or 80% additional income.
Initially, Cabe sold her banana in groceries and pasalubong [souvenir] centers in Quinapondan and Guiuan, Eastern Samar. She then used ordinary plastic as packaging materials.
Expansion and external support
Cabe saw the potential of her business to grow bigger. Her quality and delicious banana chips reached other municipalities and provinces, including Guiuan and Borongan City in Eastern Samar, the cities of Calbayog and Catbalogan in Western Samar and Tacloban City, Leyte.
To expand further, as a food processor, she needed to get license to operate from the Food and Drug Administration. The Municipal Government of Quinapondan and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also required Cabe to get business permit. Cabe shared, “We slowly expanded our processing center to accommodate our production. But with the limited capital, we can only build a processing center made of light materials. I have to borrow again from friends. Nevertheless, the newly-expanded processing center increased our processing capacity to 130 kilograms of raw materials from 50 kilograms”.
In 2017, Cabe’s concerns were addressed. People In Need (PIN), an international NGO, provided technical and market development support that allowed her to participate in local and national trade fairs. In 2018, PIN delved on enhancing Cabe’s packaging design, supported initiatives toward compliance to FDA’s food standards (in preparation for the application of LTO). Cabe was also trained on how to negotiate with prospective buyers. After completing the prerequisites, PIN supported Triple L to pay for the listing fee to enter mainstream markets amounting to Php500,000.00.
PIN ushered Triple L’s connection with the mainstream market. In 2018, GlowCorp was invited to PIN-organized forum to explore possibilities of bringing Triple L’s banana chips and other PIN-assisted products in the national markets.
Mentoring activities with Glow Corp followed to identify areas for improvement, ensuring Triple L’s banana chips would be accepted in the mainstream market. GlowCorp facilitated label and barcodes’ creation.
GlowCorp started to introduce Triple L Banana Chips in Puregold, Rustan’s and All Day Supermarkets in 2019. Through successful negotiations, GlowCorp got the approval to serve 50 Puregold outlets. It served its first purchase order to Triple L in April 2019. Towards end of 2019, GlowCorp increased the number of stores to 185 outlets and purchased 6,000 bottles of banana chips worth Php597,857. In 2020, even during the ‘lockdown’ due to CoVID-19 pandemic, GlowCorp purchased 8,580 bottles worth Php1,014,120, a growth of 70% in a matter of 6 months.
With a growing business, DTI also mentored on business and financial management. Cabe said, “I was trained by DTI on business and financial management. I was part of their Mentor Me Program. DOST also lent me Php254,000 worth of processing machine. This helped us process the bananas chips massively”.
Challenges as Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs in the Philippines faces insurmountable challenges, and Hazel is no exception. According to articles, there are 11 challenges that entrepreneurs that must face and hurdle. These are money, wrong team, poor time management, insufficient planning, weak co-founders, unable to meet up the demands of growth, unwillingness to move past comfort zone, stiff competition, branding, absence or poor mentorship and bad management. Triple L as a start-up experienced most of these. “We have overcome some of these challenges, and some are really recurring issues especially money”, Hazel said. “But with the support groups around me, I know we can overcome them. I see myself working with GlowCorp for a long period to make sure we grow further”, she further enthused.
“We grow bigger and this is an indication of success. All our income have been plowed back to the operations. This is to make sure that we support our community by buying their produce at a competitive price. Our company also employs people from the community. We have now 22 workers, and they were unemployed before like me. We are building a new processing plant worth more than Php2M and this will increase our employment to 16 bringing it to 38”, Hazel said.
The new processing plant can process 500 kilograms of fresh bananas per day, up from the current 130 kilograms. According to Hazel, they expect to generate annual income of Php6-8M from the current Php2.5M when the new processing plant starts operating.
“We still anticipate lots of challenges, but seeing our company grow and supports at least 300 farmers from Eastern Samar and neighboring provinces, this makes me dream more”, Hazel said.