Roscini Eugenio beams as she shows the building extension which has doubled the size of her bakery and grocery shop in Roxas on the Philippines island of Mindoro. “Dante’s ideas and the skills he taught us were really important in making our business grow” she says. Australian volunteer Dante Tagle had worked with Roscini and her husband Estoy during three consecutive assignments through the Australian Volunteers for International Development program at the nearby Gelacio I Yason Foundation Family Farm School.
A key element of the School’s curriculum is the Family Enterprise Program (FEP). This innovative program sees the school educating students about small business development, and working with students’ families to build up feasible and sustainable businesses through training, mentoring and occasional soft loans. The Eugenios’ bakery is one of the school’s success stories.
Dante’s three assignments were focused on building the Farm School’s capacities in business education and social enterprise development, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the FEP. As part of his work on the FEP Dante mentored the Eugenio’s on basic business management skills, going back to the bakery on each assignment.
“When we started four years ago the business was very small, with only a few items, but learning from Dante we were able to manage our finances well and come up with strategies to manage our capital” says Roscini. An example of the relatively basic but important changes the Eugenios made was to give set salaries to themselves as well as to their bakers and delivery person. Previously cash for daily expenses was taken directly from the shop’s cash box with no accounting of income or expenses.
In the words of Mina Ballesteros, Director of the School, “this advice is quite simple but it helps a lot. Now they can really know what they are earning”. For Roscini “This was a big help because we were able to learn how to manage our capital. It’s not mixed with our needs for the family, so we were able to make it grow and use it efficiently.”
Madam Ballesteros also believes that having repeat assignments can help maintain and reinforce lessons learned. “These sorts of business skills are difficult to master the first time. I would tell them Dante is coming, and he will look at what you are doing, so they were encouraged. Also sometimes you need that extra push so as to not backslide.”
The progressive change in the Eugenio’s bakery exemplifies how multiple short-term assignments by skilled business volunteers can generate change over time. The Eugenios’s bakery was just one of many local small businesses, from banana plantations to organic rice farms, which benefited from Dante’s assignments with the School. The improvements to these businesses demonstrate how working with local community organisations on business projects can provide leverage to bring about change to the wider community.
Dante’s assignments were delivered under the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program – an Australian Government initiative. Each assignment was developed by Australian Business Volunteers who are working in consortium with Scope Global, a delivery partner of the AVID program.