Helping create a paradise in the countryBy Chit U. Juan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Vicky Wallace-Sandidge is a wife, mother, nurse. But most of all she is a Filipina by birth and a Filipino by business.
She has seen how life was in Upstate New York, playing and keeping house for her executive husband, learning how to bake muffins and performing the hardest job of all: Being a house manager.
In an unexpected (by her parents) career change, she took Nursing at a later time, passed the board and practiced as a nurse in Honolulu, Hawaii where she thought getting a break for herself was sitting in a café in a mall while her children played in the controlled environment of shopping.
She worked long hours, and in between, now as a widow, would pick up her two children from school and if any energy was left, make a home-cooked meal for them.
She went home to Bohol to check her previously-acquired hectare of beach front property, more like waterfront, which she bought at P5 per square meter (today’s prices are more like P2,500 to P5,000!) and had an awakening. As she says it now: “I found my core!” She packed her bags from Hawaii, told her parents she was going to take the plunge and return home.
In her one hectare paradise, she started a few bee colonies, planted vegetables and started with a room and a little office. She slowly built one room after another, baked muffins as she did in New York, sold her honey in little glass bottles and started to add merchandise to her little country store.
She now has 40 rooms and has expanded her operations with two shops, one in Island City Mall and one near Loboc River where she also serves her famous salad and house recipes.
A few years later, she would hire more people from the community to tend her gardens, build her tables and chairs, weave some fabrics for her room decors and even make slippers that are to be used in the rooms or sold to guests who wish to take a new pair home.
She tells us the story of her homemade ice cream. A man applies for a job as a maintenance man, and she tells him she already has enough maintenance men on board. He volunteers, “I can make ice cream!” and on she goes to try the man’s prowess in making homemade ice cream using her local malunggay, buko, tomato and even spicy ginger. The rest is history. She now has homemade ice cream served in local “cabcab” cones made from cassava flour.
Vicky shares that she believes “poverty is not an option” in this gifted country like ours. She grows her own vegetables for her famous “organic flower salad;” she buys all her fruits from her employees (they come to work with fruits they get from their backyards); she buys 500 coconuts a day from employees who need a little extra for their children’s allowance, all on top of their equitable pay as part of her 232-strong workforce. Now, that’s locavorism to the core.
She always has the expression “I am blessed” and you better believe it. She is blessed with employees who share her vision of sustainability, and she is now blessed with a new partner—Mr. Sandidge—a new child, Maggie, and a growing business built on community engagement and sustainable practices. There are no plastic bags used in the resort, they have a weaving area where women produce bags, fabrics, and other crafts. Men make slippers and chairs and tables that are used in her rooms. The rooms are decorated with all the handiwork done on premise, such as curtains and shades with woven flowers, etc.
The business now sits on seven hectares of waterfront property, sloping and undulating terrain where she builds around trees and plants and does not disturb or remove what nature has provided.
She has a country store which is open to the public from 5 a.m. to midnight. And the location of her Bohol Bee Farm cannot be missed by anyone driving into or out of Panglao Island. To this day, she is a hands-on entrepreneur who keeps her community gainfully employed, uses all local resources while she gives livelihood to many more women in and around the island. She has gone through many trial and error experiments but has risen above all of the challenges as a winner.
All these is because she just loves what she does. Legend has it that she sleeps at 7 p.m. (after the news on TV), but gets up at 2 a.m. to do the accounting and auditing of her operations. And all her people know these good habits that make her a good model as a socially-responsible, sustainable entrepreneur.
(The author is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra and Podium malls. She also heads the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=82246