EMPOWERING, ONE BEAN AT A TIME
In her early days touring the Philippines countryside, Pacita Juan found, to her surprise women would harvest coffee almost all-year round.
However, they would only sell the coffee beans once a year during the Patron Saint festival.
“I asked the women what happens when the festival is over? They said they would stop harvesting coffee beans because they didn’t have anywhere to sell them.”
“That’s when I thought, these women needed an outlet to sell their products and that’s how Figaro Coffee Company was created,” says Pacita.
She opened Figaro's first outlet with six friends in 1993. Widely known as well-respected businesswoman, Pacita helmed Figaro for 15 years, growing the brand within the Philippines and abroad, with over 90 outlets globally.
I have seen a lot of women become empowered. They become a better person, ready to grow and reach their full potential, once you give them the chance to be empowered
Not resting on her laurels, Pacita then decided to turn her focus on social entrepreneurship, with the focus to help women.
“I have seen a lot of women become empowered. They become a better person, ready to grow and reach their full potential, once you give them the chance to be empowered,” says Pacita.
From a coffee connoisseur to an advocate for women empowerment she encourages women from small communities to find a niche in the market and develop on it.
“There’s so much more than needs to be done than just coffee. There’s coconut, peanuts, chocolates and so forth.”
“When their products do well, it gives these women pride. Pride makes them want to do it over and over again,” says Pacita.
This led her to develop ECHOstore (Environment and Community Hope Organisation), an eco-friendly store that carries natural products, supporting smaller producers and craftsmen.
ECHOstore has since expanded into ECHOcafe, ECHOmarket and ECHOfarms, which allows customers to experience a wide array of healthy food options along and purchase environmental friendly merchandises.
“We help the producers when it comes to packaging the product to appear on the specialty market. You have to dress them up because first impression is key. If a product isn’t packaged nicely, no one will try it,”
“We also help them with variance or the taste - whether it is sweetened, unsweetened, salty, spicy. This will also help the packaging process.” Pacita adds.
“We are mainstreaming our products. In other words, I’m not their only client. They must be able to work together as a community, cluster their products and sell to supermarkets and other trade channels.”
Pacita is chairperson of the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network and President of the Philippine Coffee Board. A mentor to women entrepreneurs, she aims to educate more local producers to successfully run a business.
“Sometimes, the producers come to you with a ceiling price. So, we train them on product costing. That way, they will come to you more intelligently, with smart computation on how much the product really cost,”
“I want to motivate them to scale up. By scaling up, they can be more sustainable,” says Pacita.