When Life Gives you Calamansi Instead of Lemons

It was only a little over five years ago when Rosario Amoroto faced her greatest entrepreneurial trial by far. Her business, Island’s Best Foods, which produces calamansi concentrate and other related products, has been doing well since it was established in 2008. The abundance of calamansi on the island of Homonhon in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, her hometown, inspired Rosario to start her own venture.

“We started our business because we saw how the ‘overharvest’ of calamansi by farmers in our town would just rot because there was no market for it. We wanted to help, so we thought of going into calamansi processing,” she said.

Aside from concentrate, her other products include calamansi extract, ready-to-drink calamansi juice, and calamansi jelly. Not only did she address the lack of a market for calamansi in the area, but she also helped empower farmers in her community.

Rosario’s business was poised for growth until, in 2013, typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the Visayas and wiped out everything she and her companions worked hard for over the years. “When typhoon Yolanda came, everything we worked hard for was destroyed. Nothing was left of our production area. How do we start rebuilding?” she asked, recounting the loss she had to go through. In the midst of it all, Rosario realized that God kept them alive because they had a mission.

The calamansi farmers who supplied Rosario with raw materials came to them asking, “When are you going to start production again? How about us?” Rosario said all businesses go through trials, whether man-made or natural, and they weren’t going to surrender to Yolanda just yet.

Inspired by the potential of her business and driven by her desire to help the local farming community, she rose again just as the whole coastal municipality of Guiuan bounced back from the devastation brought by the typhoon.

CARD Bank had been with her through the process of recovery, giving her access to loans that helped her rebuild her business.“Our relationship with CARD is very important because we can source additional capital from them when needed. They are very accommodating and always ready to help anytime,” Rosario said. She came to know of CARD Bank through the mothers in barangays where she used to serve as midwife. Her first loan, released in 2013 before the typhoon hit, amounted to P3,000. With a 100 percent repayment record, Rosario has now reached her tenth loan cycle with a loan amount of P50,000.

Fast forward five years later, her business has thrived even more, evidenced by impressive monthly production figures. Each month, she can produce 1,500 750 mL bottles and 1,200 500 mL bottles of concentrate as well as 12,000 bottles of ready-to-drink calamansi juice.

Thanks to fairs sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), most of their products have reached Manila. These products can also be found in neighboring areas like Borongan and Tacloban. Their calamansi juice is also distributed in school canteens in Eastern Samar. Rosario’s monthly gross sales reach P400,000, 80 percent of which is spent for production, leaving her with a monthly profit of approximately P80,000. Over the years, her assets have grown to almost P2.8 million.

Aside from processing equipment, Rosario also invested in a delivery van, a motorcycle with a sidecar, and a building for her production area. The microentrepreneur currently employs six workers, three of whom are family members plus one seasonal hire. All of them are covered by healthcare benefits, enjoy Christmas bonuses, and are entitled to provisions for family emergencies.

As Rosario enjoys the fruits of her labor today, she believes the trials she faced in the past made her stronger and better. She hopes to be able to fully comply with Food and Drug Administration requirements so she can enter the export market. Rosario is also blessed to have been chosen by the DTI to be among those who will undergo export business training.

“Our lives have changed because of our business. It’s easier for us to achieve what we aspire for, even if we thought we could never reach it. We are also able to extend help to others. Now, we can secure the future of our children because we have something to pass on to them,” said Rosario. Rosario encouraged those who have unique business ideas not to be afraid of going for it. There will always be those who are willing to help, whether it is a government agency or microfinance institutions like CARD Bank. Just as her hometown produces an abundance of calamansi, so has Rosario and her family been blessed with a business that brings them closer to their dreams.