Little entrepreneurs

Who is my little entrepreneur? Shobe raided out some items from our stock gift bin for small unused items like bead necklaces, bracelets from General Santos City, notebooks, notepads, sticky notes, coin purses, utensils sets. She sold them at their Entrepreneurship Fair in school and earned P360. Without prompting, she paid me P180. Meanwhile Achi and her groupmates made pizza. They spent P466 and made P625 for all their efforts.

You know you’re Tsinoy when you have to work at your family’s tiamkhaw (store) on weekends and in the summer… for free!
These days, not all Tsinoy kids work 100 percent at the tiamkhaw. Many work at dad’s or mom’s office checking email, answering the phones, checking inventory.
My parents are both teachers so there was no tiamkhaw for me to be sent to. But my cousins and I, with me at 6 years old, were often called by our diku (mom’s second older brother) to repack peanuts at his house. We loved it.
One of his househelpers supervised as we transferred peanuts from a large sack into 250 gram-, 500 gram-, one kilogram-bags. Best of all, we got to use heat sealers and evenly distributed the packs so each of us gets a turn. I think we got paid with 500 ml of soda to share among the five or six of us.
Sometimes, Diku would send a sack of peanuts to Guama’s (my maternal grandmother’s) house. There was no required amount to finish but we were rewarded anyway with pandesal with cheese spread and soda! Our task: take the thin brown peanut skins off the peanuts so Diku could sell skinless peanuts at a higher price. My cousins and I each got a small basin of peanuts. Sometimes, nothing got done because we were busy playing outside.
Diku’s best friends were intermittent summer showers or intense heat because we all stayed indoors peeling peanuts. Our hands were small enough to grab a peanut comfortably between fingers and rub the skin off. Skin that stuck like glue to the peanut had to be scraped off with a small paper cutter, with the handle end wrapped with masking tape to prevent us from cutting ourselves.
I think I would be charged with child endangerment these days if I have my girls work like that.
In hindsight though, many of the things asked of me in childhood were life skills that come in handy even today. Where else would I have learned to handle knives and paper cutters carefully or that when a heat sealer fails, to use candles to seal plastic bags?
Kids I see today clearly didn’t have the same exposure to work that I had.
Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran recently took in five grade 12 student interns who needed to complete 80 hours of work. I asked them to print sticker labels, cut them and stick them where they belonged. When I saw the labels, all of them were cut unevenly and I had to ask staff to redo them.
What happened? They used scissors even though I had shown them our cutting table with a green cutting mat, metal ruler and paper cutter. None of them knew how to handle a cutter and were a little scared to do so.
There have been many of these instances at Kaisa where even college students seemingly had no idea how to do things, like finding information from a book rather than Google search or talk to someone over the phone rather than sending a text message over the mobile phone.
These life skills are essential and really should be learned in childhood, not when they are in senior high. They appear so clueless with many little things.
When I got older, I would go to Dikim’s (Diku’s wife) grocery store on Sto. Cristo Street and help them sell groceries. This is Divisoria, so grocery sales are more of taking phone calls, listing down orders and handing them to the kargador to complete. I was sometimes assigned to check the boxes against the orders before they are tied up.
Our driver also used to climb our makopa tree to harvest fruit. My cousin and I would pile them up in a bilao and sell them at 10 centavos apiece outside my grandmother’s house on San Nicolas.
I remember asking people to just buy 10 pieces all the time because counting out change was hard (I was seven; my cousin was five).
I also remember resenting all my aunties and uncles for not paying when they grabbed fruit from our bilao. They said the fruit was free from my house anyway.
As an adult now, I think that was the wrong way to go. Adults in the family should be the first to support young children’s enterprises.
A few years ago, one of our members’ children came to Kaisa for an event. My kids immediately invited her to play with them. They all suddenly got busy in the office drawing, coloring and folding paper.
During the event at the lobby, my two girls started approaching Kaisa members and our guests, peddling their folded paper for P5 each! Many of the adults bought the folded paper and the kids felt they were so rich! My friend’s daughter, being the eldest and the promoter of this enterprise, paid my daughters a wage of P20 each. She definitely has a good business head on her shoulders.
Back on the home front, Ahma paid Achi for encoding passages from a book needed for a conference paper. She got P50 for her work and was ecstatic. The first thing she thought of was to use her own money to buy a gift for her friend’s upcoming birthday.
Being employed is not a bad thing in itself. As well, it is reminiscent of our own experiences working with the adults in our family. I would like it better, though, if our children’s default is to be little entrepreneurs. Maybe I have one in my youngest.
Shobe asked me recently to buy her 20 small plain white notebooks that she could decorate and sell online. She also asked permission to use my Facebook account to sell her products. She immediately told me that she would use her angpao money from last new year to pay for the white notebooks. In the next breath, she turned to Achi and asked for her help in decorating the notebooks.
“Achi, I’ll pay you for the drawings.”