Women are a driving force in national economic development and their share in the labor force and the business sector continues to rise. They are involved in enterprises at all levels as managers and owners, and have made an important contribution to the growth of the national economy.
Such is the story of a woman entrepreneur from Talisay City, Cebu Province. Being a full-time mother and a businesswoman, Epie Labajo juggles the tasks of being a wife, mother to four children, and entrepreneur of her own native fashion accessories business.
As a businesswoman, she is entirely hands-on in her business. “I personally handle my business. It’s difficult to entrust the responsibility to someone else. If you want to profit, you must work hard,” she said.
Labajo started her business in 1991. Out of mahogany shells, dried banana trunks, coconut shells, and rice straw, she creates fashion earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and ornaments that have kept her family business alive and booming. Trained mainly by experience as worker of an exporter of fashion accessories in Cebu, Labajo has managed to run her own. She has a steady stream of local customers and buyers abroad. To cope with huge capital requirement for producing the fashion accessories, Labajo said she requires an advance payment of 35 percent from her overseas buyers. “This way, I am able to buy the raw materials and pay the workers,” she explained.
With her bullish attitude, she has earned the reputation of being the neighborhood’s superwoman. Most of her hours are spent working, especially since her work shop is just in her house. Her days are well spent to the last minute because of the seemingly endless tasks: customers coming in to press for their orders, her children vying for some attention, deciding on what food to prepare for the family. But of course she has time to unwind and be with her friends. As the regional organizer of the Pambansang Tagapag-ugnay ng mga Manggagawa sa Bahay, Labajo encourages other housewives to be like her. “You can’t just be a full-time housewife, you also need to think of earning.” Her organization, the national network of home workers, recognizes the need to seek means to protect their rights as small-time business persons. While capital assistance and trainings are an external help, the key really is persistence, including external support. WINNER (Women in the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement), an initiative of UNDP with assistance from Italian Cooperation, has likewise helped Labajo in promoting her products through the Internet. “Our counterpart organization in Iloilo participated in training on e-commerce and gained access to overseas buyers,” she said WINNER aims to showcase the women’s products in the Internet for business matching and to consolidate suppliers for volume and quality as well as to strengthen the micro enterprises’ bid for global trade.
As a home-based entrepreneur, Labajo feels gratified to see that she has provided well for her family. “You strive on your own; you don’t reap what you did not sow.”