Mindanao startup invests in twin advocacies
What happens when NGO (non-government organization) workers put their money where their heart is? The result is Saka Brew, a startup business of Mindanaoans for Mindanao farmers.
The founders of Saka Brew— Muneer Arquion “Monci” Hinay, Lycah Baylon, Madonna Galang and Teena del Mundo—have had actual experiences in assisting micro and small entrepreneurs (MSEs) in Mindanao through the Masicap program, which aims to provide business extension services to countryside small and medium enterprises.
Growing up in Mindanao, the four founders of Saka Brew grew accustomed to drinking rice coffee and corn coffee.
“It is usually a part of our breakfast, and a part of our day. We can still remember how our parents and grandparents would prepare the coffee—from the roasting and grinding of the fresh palay to brewing the coffee. Every sip brings nostalgia. It always reminds us of home,” said Hinay, co-founder of Saka Brew.
Now based in Manila, the four have turned their efforts toward introducing grains (rice and corn) coffee to the Manila market. The idea of Saka Brew stemmed from their desire to bring the farmers’ produce to the market and to provide a healthy option to the coffee-loving population of Metro Manila.
“Our initial market study shows there is a niche for grains coffee, especially those who want to drink coffee but are afraid of its side effects (i.e. palpitation, panic attacks, nervousness and others). Grains coffee can also be taken by anyone. It is, of course, caffeine-free, rich in fiber which is good for digestion and, according to a recent study, potentially has anti-cancer properties. We also added coconut sugar as sweetener. Coco sugar is good for diabetics because it has a very low glycemic index,” Hinay said.
Why Saka Brew? The name comes from sakahan, a Filipino word that not only means “farm” but also refers to farming communities. Hinay said the vision for Saka Brew was to assist rice and corn farming communities and increase their incomes by encouraging farmers (magsasaka in Filipino) to add value or process a portion of their produce into roasted rice and corn coffee.
“In the future, we want to expand our grains coffee blends to include rice and corn produced in other parts of the country (i.e. Davao, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, Panay and Ilocos). Our objective as a social enterprise is to plow back portion of our income to the community where we source our raw materials in the form of social/livelihood projects (i.e. solar lamps, educational supplies, value-adding of other produce etc),” Hinay said.
Presently, Saka Brew sells rice coffee and corn coffee. The raw materials such as brown rice and native corn come from an upland farming community in Maitum, Sarangani. “It is also our adopted community,” Hinay said, adding that the rice and corn processor in Maitum happened to be one of the assisted enterprises under the Masicap program. Coco sugar comes from Sarangani and General Santos City. The ingredients are mixed in Manila into the Saka Brew blend.
Saka Brew offers the following variants: Pure Rice Coffee or PRC, which is premium roasted brown rice coffee mixed with coconut sugar (sold in 200-gram packs at P200 each); Pure Corn Coffee or PCC, which is premium roasted native corn coffee mixed with coconut sugar (sold in 200-gram packs at P200 each); Rice coffee in Teabags or RTB, which is premium roasted rice coffee with coco sugar (P250 per pack of 20 teabags); and Corn coffee in Teabags or CTB, which is premium roasted corn coffee with coco sugar (P250 per pack of 20 teabags).
It’s not everyday that advocates of better farmer incomes actually put up their own business to support that ideal. The thought of it certainly adds a feel-good flavor to a cup of rich, fiber-full cup of rice and corn coffee.
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