Rey-Mic Enterprise Founder Thelma Reyes-Miclat on women empowerment, social entrepreneurship

Ms. Thelma Reyes-Miclat, or more commonly known as Tayna, is the founder of Rey-Mic Enterprise in Davao City, a social enterprise that produces gourmet salted fish and employs non-working mothers. In its company description, it states, “We strongly believe that the personal needs of most women who have devoted thir lives fending for the household needs have somehow been neglected, thus the need to be empowered.” 

The DLSU Center for Business Research and Development – Social Enterprise Research Network interviews Tayna, wherein she talks about her social enterprise’s focus on women empowerment, her previous experience in the corporate setup, and the importance of social entrepreneurship. 

Can you describe to us your value proposition and what makes the business unique?

In the first place, we are all women in the business, and I do not say that they are my employees, they are more of my partners. Many women are typically given the burden in the household and have no capacity to finish college—that is what I tapped within the community. It becomes easy for us to partner with them because even if they work for eight hours or more, they can still go home and attend to the laundry or cook. That is the opportunity for us to do business and at the same time help these women continue to perform their tasks as mothers.

I was a working mom, but in the corporate setup. Even though I had the decision-making power, I still valued family. This is because work should never compete with family or vice-versa. What I did before when I was with Sky Cable was I had an area made for mothers to be able to bring their children at least once a week to the workplace. That is the bonding between mother, father, and child—I applied that practice here in my social enterprise.

Can you tell us more about your professional experience? Did you work for a long time at Sky Cable?

I was in marketing at Sky Cable, and then I was suddenly transferred to customer service—this is one of the most stressful jobs. The tendency is that my people will go home tired and stressed, and this affects their children. Most of them are women, so as you can see I really value women. In the workplace, if the women simultaneously get pregnant, that also becomes a problem. The society dictates that if a woman gets pregnant, it is automatically a burden to the company. These women take a leave of absence for around 60 or 75 days, and once they return to the workplace, there comes a time where they become insecure due to being gone for long. That is what I want to address. As a woman, I can relate. Whenever women get insecurities during the time of childbirth and this happens simultaneously with postpartum, the situation worsens.

During my time at Sky Cable, there are also women coming to me, complaining about their husbands due to infidelity and involvements with vices or other issues. I started an annual Halloween treat to bring together the mothers, fathers, and children, and from there it became a tradition and bonding time for them. I realized, I think this model should apply to companies that are very machismo and patriarchal. We must strengthen the women and wives in whatever form, and enable a participative environment for them.

Going back to your social enterprise, can you tell us more about Rey-Mic Enterprise’s work with the Great Women Project?

We wanted to partner with the Moro women of Maguindanao, and this was possible because of the Mindanao Business Council and Department of Science and Technology who brought 15 Maguindanaoan women to our facility and encouraged them to join. The Moro women said they wanted tons of supplies. Our negotiations went great. As for me, I taught the Moro women how to teach their own children and become empowered in their own, simple ways. The biggest problem at that time was the Mamasapano clash. It was okay beforehand, then security went bad. We did not earn much.

Given your corporate and social entrepreneurship experience in business, are there any tips that you can give to other social entrepreneurs?

Check if you are doing it for yourself only or if you are doing things that you want others to benefit from. Sometimes, you’re more educated than the others, so your stock knowledge will have to be imparted. For me that is social entrepreneurship. It is really being able to share what you have. If you do that, then perhaps you can be what is called a socially-responsible person.


From corporate to social entrepreneurship: The ups and downs of Erika Valerie Ng Wong

Erika Valerie Ng Wong is a corporate-woman-turned-social-entrepreneur who partners with farmers in the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (GKEF) and the nearby community to create dairy products from carabao milk. Her past experience in the corporate world left her questioning her personal role in society. She knew she had to do something to help address social problems. That was also when she discovered the Social Business Summit in GKEF, which talked about how a new breed of businesses called social enterprises. These businesses are socially-innovative and tackle core social issues such as poverty and employment.

In our interview with Ms. Wong, we highlight the steps she went through from being a corporate woman to slowly scaling her social enterprise Karabella Dairy.

What happened after you joined the Social Business Summit? What drove you to continue your path as a social entrepreneur?

I was so inspired after the summit. At that time, I just went to GKEF once a month during weekends, because I still had my corporate job. Every time I went there, I sit in during their discussions and meetings. At that time, the management meetings were still very informal. The farm was also not a VAT-registered entity yet; it was more of a foundation, so it wasn’t profit-generating. Then, there was this time when they were looking for social entrepreneurs interested in ice cream because, before, there was this social enterprise called Cream of the Crop, which suddenly disappeared. Their concept was focused on partnering and working with dirty ice cream manufacturers.

Did you have a specific objective that time?

At that time, I really wanted to become a social entrepreneur. So whatever I was assigned to, I was willing to take that on. Eventually, I decided to be a social entrepreneur, and so I joined the countryside fair. They had me buy a tub of ice cream, specifically dirty ice cream from local manufacturers, which was around P900 each. It was very expensive.

At that time, we had different flavors including watermelon, salabat, and coffee. I found myself asking, why dirty ice cream? I decided to visit the community that produces this type of ice cream. There, I found that the facilities and equipment are usually placed in the middle of the squatters’ area, and there were no walls. I asked my friends from engineering how to make the dirty ice cream business into a food-grade level business. They said that it’s important to build walls, tile the floors, and place a sink for sanitation purposes. When we estimated the costs, it turned out that I needed a million pesos in capital investment. That includes only the facility. To create the set-up, I used my savings from my corporate stint.

Initially, however, I thought that the business model was not entirely feasible. There was a time wherein I discovered that, underneath the machine being used to make ice cream, there were hair and even shards of glass. My community partner showed it to me.

At that point, I told myself that I can’t work with them anymore. I revisited the business plan and looked at it on a macroeconomic scale. I was able to use the different templates from my college classes in economics and business. While researching, I found out that 98.8% of the dairy products in the Philippines is imported. Almost all the brands in the market are imported, but packaged locally. That’s also when I discovered Fonterra, the fourth largest dairy industry in the world, which is also a cooperative. Their shareholders were farmers, and they’re based in New Zealand. They also have cooperatives in China. I told myself I wanted to emulate Fonterra’s practice, but I’ll focus on carabao milk, mostly because of the poor farmers commonly associated with it.

I researched about carabao milk, and found that it is richer in terms of nutrients as compared to cow’s milk. I was raised with cow’s milk, so I don’t know much about carabao’s milk. People who came from the province—they’re the ones who know more about carabao’s milk. That’s when I thought to myself that I wanted to champion carabao’s milk. I formed my vision, and that is to be the supplier and processor of carabao milk. From there, I eventually created a full line of dairy products like ice cream that are made of carabao milk.

How do you measure your enterprise’s social impact?

For now, it’s more of how much salary we are able to give to the community partners and how many liters of milk we buy at prices higher than the market value. Usually that’s how we do it, because we haven’t thoroughly studied how we would measure our social impact. Eventually, what we plan to do is that we can buy the milk at even higher prices. It still depends. We will still undergo studies. On top of the P75 cost of milk, we’re planning that to include what would go to the SSS contributions and PhilHealth of farmers, among others.

Do you have any tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

It’s very difficult, because it’s a constant battle. There are days when it can get very depressing, but at the end, you should always ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place. What for? Why did I start this? What gives me inspiration are the people who work with me in the GKEF community. On the other hand, you need to make sure that the farmers are taken care of, and that they will still be there in the next generations to come. If not, there will be much less production of food, and many people would starve. That’s what the GKEF is breeding — a generation of social entrepreneurs and farmers.