Teresita Antonio smiles the smile of the contented.
By REDEMPTO D ANDA
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY: Teresita Antonio never dreamed of basking in her near celebrity status just by the modest success of her sari-sari, or convenience, store located near this city’s main strip.
Driven to Palawan in 2008 by the poverty in Catanduanes, Teresita, her husband Claro and only son John Clarence, a special child, decided to migrate to Puerto Princesa City, hoping for better economic opportunities without actually knowing how they would fare in a burgeoning city with just the carpentry skills of the husband.
Pressed by the hardship of urban living, Teresita decided she needed to make additional income for her family by putting up a sari-sari store, pawning her lone family heirloom for P5,000 that served as her capital.
The effort Teresita, now 41, had put into her business and its consequent rapid growth were what made her a uniquely different story.
It could be the serendipity of her store’s location, or perhaps the way she had branded her tiny establishment with the colors and icons of her main product, or the self-discipline she had imposed on her business, that made it a success story interesting enough to attract the attention of a major corporate sponsor such as Coke Philippines.
Her sari-sari store has become 10 times bigger in just four years with Coca Cola’s support, and Teresita was one of the 1,000 fresh graduates of the company’s pilot training program rolled out in Palawan this year, specifically focusing on women for economic empowerment.
“With the P5,000 initial capital I had, the only thing I could buy for retail at that time were Coke products. I just stacked them nicely on a stand, made up by myself and wore a nice red dress. In just a few days, my inventory was already worth P7,000,” Teresita tells the Inquirer.
An eagle-eyed Coca Cola account developer personally witnessed how Teresita had nurtured her upstart scrappy little store. He wisely engaged her to become a beneficiary of the company’s support program for entrepreneurs, assisting her initially with support products and eventually inviting her to join the company’s entrepreneurship training program timed to celebrate the International Women’s Month.
“At first, when the Coke representative saw that I bought an ordinary styro box to store my products, they gave me a nice small cooler which I proudly displayed and announced to my neighbors. Now I have a much bigger, twin-door cooler I got free from the company.”
Coke chief executive officer Bill Schultz says the company has been replicating the training program nationwide and globally, assisting women entrepreneurs with training and one-on-one advice and technical assistance.
“We are targeting 10,000 graduates from the entrepreneurship training this year, half a million throughout the Philippines by 2020 and five million throughout the world,” Shultz tells the Inquirer.
Shultz was in Puerto Princesa on March 8 and represented Coke in the event celebrating International Women’s Day held at the Provincial Capitol multipurpose hall.
Schultz adds the company is also committed to complete 100 school buildings this year and launch a feeding program in Palawan.
Company officials admit that Teresita’s success story has inspired their program and dubbed her “John Clarence Store,” named by Teresita after her special child, as “among the perfect stores based on the parameters set by Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc.”
At present, Teresita says, she easily makes a gross income of P4,000 on a daily basis, mainly from her Coca Cola sales and other basic supplies. She has already recovered her pawned heirloom and saved enough to send her now 17-year-old son to a special school.
Teresita’s dreams have since evolved to include a house of her own for her family and a much bigger store to keep her busy. - Inquirer