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‘Coffee for Peace’ enables Filipinos to build peace with coffee


Because at the heart of CFP’s operations is training farmers on coffee processing to develop skills to produce high-quality coffee beans.​ CFP provides knowledge on the market for farmers to understand what consumers want in coffee, and the value of what they do for awareness on fairer trade pricing.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash.com

What if every Filipino, no matter where they’re based in the country, can be a “force for good” simply by sticking to routine—like, say, enjoying their morning cup of coffee?

Davao-based Coffee for Peace (CFP) proves this can be the case as its CEO and co-founder Felicitas “Joji” B. Pantoja confirms that they are a growing community of farmers and business owners practicing and advocating inclusive development principles in the coffee industry. Social entrepreneurship is their business approach to achieve justice and harmony in society and environment.

“As a reputable processor for good beans and an experienced roastery, CFP means business continuity for business owners but equally: support for farming communities. CFP even gives buyers the option to create their own brand under a MOA where 10% of very kilo sold goes back to farmers,” says J. Pantoja. 

Where does the customer from Luzon or Visayas ordering through the online shop fit into the peace building in Mindanao? “CFP by design allocates 25% of its net profit for its Peace and Reconciliation Teams, composed of volunteers from conflict-affected areas and international volunteers. They are trained in inter-faith dialogue, cross-cultural comms, trauma healing, relief and medical operations,” says J. Pantoja.

Because at the heart of CFP’s operations is training farmers on coffee processing to develop skills to produce high-quality coffee beans.​ CFP provides knowledge on the market for farmers to understand what consumers want in coffee, and the value of what they do for awareness on  fairer trade pricing. “We want farmers to be confident about the business side of farming, understand their market, correctly price and inspire the next generation to be farmpreneurs too,” says J. Pantoja.

Once the training is complete, CFP offers to partner communities post-harvest services at cost such as: coffee pulping, coffee dehulling, and coffee drying. Coffee for Peace also offers to partner-farmers and those who buy from them shared services such as: toll roasting, packaging, label design, and photography. The training result is a higher quality coffee product produced by a community in the Philippines.

Nurturing grassroots ‘farmerpreneurs’

At the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition, the top five awards went to Specialty Arabica coffee farmers from Davao del Sur. For jury member Byron Pantoja, CFP VP for operations, this indicates “farmers taking ownership of their craft as producers of some of the best coffee in the Philippines. We need to give more farmers the freedom, knowledge, and opportunity to innovate their coffee processes based on the demands of the market and the limitations of their land. That sense of ownership over what they do is what’s going to make them the best.”

Nurturing community ‘farmerpreneurs’ and realizing the country’s potential for premium to specialty coffee go hand in hand. J. Pantoja says, “Only 25% of the country’s 111M population is served by Filipino coffee farmers. Local cafes are challenged in sourcing good beans. We partner with DTI on bridging gaps such as training, equipment and drying space but getting to a scale that boosts our national reputation as a good coffee producer will take time. From 2,000 kilos at start, we are now at 32,000 kilos and encouraged to continue.”

Coffee for Peace has trained close to 880 farming families from different parts of our country, representing 13 tribes, including some Muslim areas. “Our model is to create our own competitors by giving them the secrets to making good coffee. We want to groom ‘farmerpreneurs’ who are also skilled in coffee tasting, financial management and conflict resolution. We want barista interns to dream of having their own coffee kiosks. For every kilo of coffee, one can make 140 cups of 6 ounces, and a barista in Davao nets 5K a day with his own coffee cart. The same can be done anywhere in the Philippines. Imagine if every region’s farmers had their own pop-up café or coffee cart, neighborhoods will also be educated to buy local,” says J. Pantoja.

“Premium specialty coffee from the Philippines” requires a mindset change that’s supported by the fact that local coffee has scored 80% special quality standard, points out Pantoja. A member of the National Coffee Council, she spoke about the need to streamline various resources from government policy and services and link these to smallholder farmers. “We want every island to join the national movement within the coffee industry to raise the level of coffee quality. Grassroots farmers also mean less carbon footprint for supplying the coffee locals want. We’ve gone to uplands to help a micro-lot owner assess the possibility of coffee farming. We’ve also linked roasters, who used to order coffee from us, straight to the farming community.”

Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash.com

Coffee and PH culture

Coffee is innate in the Filipino culture. “When we visit high-conflict communities, coffee served from a palayok is good quality. When I brought a sample to Canada where I used to live, the roasters said there was potential for premium quality to specialty. But we can only produce limited quantities. Opening opportunities for our farmers drove me to collaborate—inspire baristas to educate customers, get roasters to work with traders who source from farmer,” said J. Pantoja.

Operating for 13 years now, Coffee of Peace started with peacebuilding work. “Coffee is the vehicle but the ‘product’ is peace. In our peacebuilding work in Maguindanao, Basilan, and Sulu, we saw that coffee makes Moslem and Christians sit together and dialogue to settle conflict. In our environmental work, we saw that Arabica trees are included in our national greening program. Giving life back to forests also give locals a new, sustainable means of livelihood. I tell farmers: ‘You don’t have to go to the city, the buyers will come to see protected forest.’ We also advise farmers to get to know their customers, then the process follows,” said J. Pantoja.

As a case, Korean buyers came to Davao looking for fine Robusta. Local farmers have since expanded to Robusta. Explains B. Pantoja, “While specialty Arabica has fruity flavors like blueberries and strawberry, fine Robusta has a super smooth, full-bodied chocolatey taste like black tea.”

This distinction in tastes can be a strength of the Philippines as a group of islands since, explains J. Pantoja, we can’t compete with the land mass and harvest volumes of Vietnam, Brazil or Colombia, and we can’t produce for large coffee chains. “Instead, our edge is premium specialty coffee, with micro-lot orders of 1 to 2 tons that are of a quality and fetch a good price. Each island can produce a different taste profile depending on soil and fauna of that area. Arabica alone has 3,500 subvarieties, while Robusta has 2,400 subvarieties. The higher, the elevation, the sweeter the coffee.” The growing community of coffee champions and curiosity of millennials can only drive excitement over developing Philippine variants that are also ‘Just’ coffee of the social-justice kind.

For more information, visit www.coffeeforpeace.com and peacebuilderscommunity.org. Follow Coffee for Peace at www.facebook.com/coffeeforpeace.

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SOLÁ eyes growth using TikTok Shop

As an ecommerce startup, SOLÁ has adopted TikTok Shop to maintain a two-way communication with its consumers, allowing them to connect with the brand’s shapewear products.

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In the competitive shapewear industry in the Philippines, SOLÁ has distinguished itself by leveraging TikTok Shop’s distinct features, enhancing the brand’s reach and appeal to consumers.

SOLÁ, an affordable yet high-quality shapewear line, was launched in the spring of 2023 by Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza and her friends with the main goal of encouraging the community to embrace the uniqueness of their bodies and feel comfortable in their own skin.

As an ecommerce startup, SOLÁ has adopted TikTok Shop to maintain a two-way communication with its consumers, allowing them to connect with the brand’s shapewear products.

SOLÁ’s Growth and Engagement

SOLÁ through TikTok Shop was able to achieve its main goal to directly connect with consumers. The brand reached a vast audience of engaged and interested users which built trust and created a sense of community.

“For TikTok Shop specifically, we want to be on an e-commerce platform where we’re able to communicate with our audience two ways. So not just selling them, but really communicating and resonating with them through the content.  Through TikTok Shop, we got a lot of audiences interested with the brand”, Ally Gao, General Manager of SOLÁ explained.

Gao added that their unique livestreams allow them to come up with competitive pricing. “We don’t have this every single day and it’s for a limited time only and I think our audience knows that so they really tune in to livestreams to communicate with our host and the brand and partake in lower pricing. We really love seeing that because not only do they get a discount, they’re also able to really engage with us,” she said.

Furthermore, SOLÁ embraced content creation spearheaded by Kylie Versoza, boosting the brand’s visibility and consumer recognition. The company plans to include collaborations with more content creators to expand SOLÁ’s reach, showcasing the platform’s potential in fostering organic growth in a competitive shapewear market.

Maximizing the 6.6. Campaign

SOLÁ is geared up to provide exclusive discounts to its customers in TikTok Shop’s 6.6 campaign. This initiative includes partnerships with L’Oreal Paris, offering complimentary products during key livestream sessions.

Additionally, SOLÁ plans to exclusively offer on TikTok Shop, a 12% discount on all products, excluding select items such as the Milk Colorway and nipple cover, along with collectible vouchers and free shipping options during the campaign period.

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Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon taps TikTok Shop to grow business

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon was founded by Josemartin Casillano during a challenging time, following a significant medical expense. Starting as a side project, Casillano’s commitment and hard work led to the rapid growth of his business.

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As the digital landscape continues to reshape the business landscape, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are finding new avenues for growth and expansion. Among these success stories stands Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon, a local business specializing in snacks crafted from organic white oyster mushrooms.

With the rise of e-commerce platforms like TikTok Shop, this local enterprise has seized the opportunity to enhance its market reach and visibility, positioning itself for sustainable growth in the digital era.

Thriving in Adversity

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon was founded by Josemartin Casillano during a challenging time, following a significant medical expense. Starting as a side project, Casillano’s commitment and hard work led to the rapid growth of his business. Initially employing a small team, the focus was on efficient mushroom cultivation, production, and sales. The nutritional benefits of oyster mushrooms, including being a source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, attracted a health-conscious customer base.

Leveraging TikTok for Business Growth

Recognizing the potential of social media, Casillano launched a TikTok Shop to increase the visibility of his products. Dedicated to empowering local micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), TikTok Shop assists businesses in enhancing their visibility and creating growth opportunities in the digital landscape. Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon stands out as one of the success stories from this platform.

“Selling Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon has become easier because of TikTok Shop. Customers can now see our product. It doesn’t require a large capital, and you don’t need much technical knowledge to join TikTok Shop,” said Casillano.

Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon experienced a significant transformation after partnering with TikTok Shop. Leveraging the platform’s dynamic features, including content creation tools and shoppable content options, the business saw an unprecedented increase in visibility and consumer engagement. Consequently, the growing business boosted its sales by 50-60% through TikTok Shop.

Empowering Filipinos with income opportunities

The rise in Casi’s Mushroom Chicharon sales created new opportunities for many individuals. Starting with an initial team of three, the company has expanded to employ 19 people and now relies on 35 mushroom growers to meet the growing demand for its product.

“TikTok Shop helps small business owners like me through their programs like Buy Local, Shop Local. By providing vouchers and discounts, it further boosts the sales of small business owners and also helps local employees and farmers,” Casillano shared.

Launched in November 2023, TikTok Shop’s “Buy Local, Shop Local” campaign aims to enhance the visibility of local vendors and promote community pride and economic solidarity among consumers.

Reflecting on his business journey, Casillano acknowledges the collaborative efforts with TikTok Shop, citing its alignment with his goals to promote business and support local growers. Together, they contribute to positive change, fostering growth in agriculture and socio-economic empowerment.

Looking ahead, Casillano sees potential in continuing the partnership with TikTok Shop, recognizing its role in fostering growth for Filipino enterprises.

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How Linya-Linya and Common Room’s financial missteps’ turned into business successes

Retail shop owners Jim Bacarro of Linya-linya and sisters Roma and Maan Agsalud of Common Room shared in RCBC Boz Sessions that they had to learn it the hard way.

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For many successful entrepreneurs, financial missteps are part and parcel of the job—at first. And retail shop owners Jim Bacarro of Linya-linya and sisters Roma and Maan Agsalud of Common Room shared in RCBC Boz Sessions that they had to learn it the hard way.

RCBC Boz Sessions is a video series featuring Filipino entrepreneurs who share their own journey, tips and insights on starting and growing their own businesses.

Linya Linya’s Jim Bacarro said their company experienced “a rollercoaster of hilarious financial missteps” before it became the renowned and popular apparel and lifestyle brand that it is today. In this episode which premiered on April 3, he shared on Facebook how their funniest financial mistakes became the company’s foundational strategies, entitled Nadapa, Natuto, Kumita.

‘Those epic fails were also the foundational parts of who we are as a company today,” Bacarro shared.

Kids in a candy store

The Linya Linya founder cited issues with cash flow and business capital as “bloopers” that eventually became “incredible lessons.”

Bacarro admitted that they were like “kids in a candy store with our cash” during their beginning years. “Sales meant celebration, right? Wrong! We pulled out cash without thinking twice. And guess what? When it was time to pay suppliers, our wallets were singing crickets.”

He added Linya Linya started their operations “undercapitalized,” diving into projects with their “pockets half-empty.”

“The result? We got smothered by interest payments and were left scrambling for funds.” Bacarro explained, adding that they were also prone to making unplanned and unnecessary big purchases that “led to us scrimping on our actual products—the T-shirts!”

Mixing business with personal

Sisters Roma Agsalud-Agsunod and Maan Agsalud of the arts and craft store Common Room also admitted committing basic mistakes during their first few years in business.

In their YouTube video “Three Mistakes When Scaling Up Your Business,”  Agsunod and Agsalud shared the lapses they committed that prevented them from leveling up sooner.

The Common Room sisters said they did not know anything about the basics of business when they started. “Sa sobrang wala kaming alam sa negosyo, akala naming kumita na kami basta maibalik lang ang rental fee namin,” they said.

Their lack of business know-how made them commit other mistakes, such as mixing personal finances with their business earnings, and making decisions based on feelings instead of hard financial data.

“When Common Room was just starting, kami ang breadwinners ng family namin, so lahat ng earnings naming napupunta sa panggastos ng pamilya. Hindi namin alam na dapat paghiwalayin ang personal bank account sa business bank account. Pag hindi niyo sila pinaghiwalay, mabagal ang growth ng business,” they shared.

They also said: “Ang solution to not knowing the basics of business is to do simple self-studying. Kahit pinaka-basic concepts lang, pwede mo na matutunan sa YouTube videos. Manood lang kayo ng ilang videos at malaking advantage na agad yan.”

“Nakaka-stress ang mistake na yan. Kaya ikaw, study your data before you make any big decision,” the sisters added.

Don’t be afraid to try new tools

Bacarro believes that a financial misstep can translate to business success if one recognizes the mistake immediately, and turn it into an opportunity for growth and innovation. “Through these mishaps, we learned the hard way that managing a business isn’t just about making sales; it’s about smart financial planning,” he said.

For Agsunod and Agsalud, accepting the mistakes allowed them to make the necessary fixes and changes. “So, to all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, embrace your mishaps, learn from them, and maybe get a little help,” they said. Bacarro advised being in the know when it comes to new tools and technology for business owners as these could significantly make their lives easier. “Don’t be afraid to try new tools to help grow your business,” he said.

And so these bosses were all delighted to have found out about RCBC’s Boz app – something they wished they had when they were just starting out.

RCBC Boz is one of the bank’s newest apps specially designed for beginning entrepreneurs. It is a mobile banking platform that allows users to manage their RCBC business accounts separately from their personal accounts, to have an overall financial view of their business performance. It also has functions that allow users to pay suppliers, create and send invoices, and set financial goals. The mobile app has a Report feature that can provide entrepreneurs with weekly, monthly, and yearly financial reports—giving them access to instant and accurate business financial data.

“Entrepreneurship is fun. Having friends who can laugh and cry with you along the way makes it even better. What’s best though is a friend who can laugh, cry, and actually help you with stuff you’re not so knowledgeable on. An app like RCBC Boz is that friend,” he added. 

Download RCBC Boz app now and tune in to RCBC Boz sessions for more practical tips and insights on managing your own business.    

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