Students launch side gigs while sidelined by COVID-19

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Aug 24 2020 10:26 AM

MANILA - Like any other parent with school-age children, I have been worried that mine are missing out. My older daughter’s planned graduation retreat was cancelled, and so was their class’ senior prom. She did not have the chance to go up on stage and take a bow after completing senior high school, the most challenging years so far of her academic life.

In a couple of weeks, she will begin university not by exploring the campus on foot, but completing an Internet connectivity survey.

The future of education is uncertain, and this is just one more aspect of our lives devastated by the ongoing pandemic. But while we do our best to cope with remote learning and delayed school openings, I came across inspiring teens that gave me hope for our country’s future.

Piso Para Kina ‘Cher

Aspiring teachers and incoming college juniors Lauren Orosco and Andrea Peregrino of Philippine Normal University were alarmed to learn that 11 of their batchmates will not be able to go on with their education because they have no laptop or smart phone to join online classes.

When one of their classmates confided that he might stop schooling, Andrea polled their class of 30 to see if they would support a fundraising project for those who are in need of gadgets. The response was both positive and negative: positive in that everyone was willing to support; and negative as it turned out not only 1 but 11 have no gadget to use, or means to access the internet.

Lauren reveals “it's a dilemma for many of us to choose between schooling expenses and daily expenses. Some of our parents have work but others have no source of income. In fact, we have a classmate who's a working-student and supports himself.” 

To keep their friends in school, they launched #MerchParaKinaCher in Shopee and @pisoparakinacher in Facebook this August. They are selling personalized Spotify Plaques with working Spotify code, and customized wired name necklaces from P120 to P550.

In their branding, they named Cher as their beneficiary “because we're aiming to provide for the needs of our fellow future educators. Cher is a call sign for pre-service teachers like us.” All profits will go towards buying gadgets for their marginalized classmates.

Classes start in 3 days and they have raised only enough money to buy one gadget, likely second hand. “Given the pandemic, we understand most people are financially-challenged. Our digital citizenship is being exercised as we try to market in a crowded social marketplace.”

They face a tough market and an even more daunting future. But Lauren and Andrea, scholars of microfinance network APPEND, are survivors. Lauren lost her father 17 years ago, and she hopes to be the first in their family to finish college. In a couple of years, if all goes well, Lauren will be able to make her grandmother and mother proud, and be a symbol of hope not just to Chers, but also for her younger brother. 

Sweet Treats Aid Tricycle and Jeepney Drivers

In July, @katherineannf, @geridy_, and @caseyloo_ decided to put their baking skills to work and launched @theubefactory to help tricycle and jeepney drivers sidelined by the community quarantine.

All 3 are incoming seniors of De La Salle University, enrolled in different courses: Geri Dy is an Advertising student, Casey Loo is taking up Financial Economics while Katherine Fernandez studies Accounting and Industrial Economics.

The 3 pooled their savings “to start a business venture for a good cause. We decided to work together in order to achieve our goal of transforming lives,” says Geri. The Ube Factory offers a single product, the creamy custaroon, with 4 flavor variants. “Our flavors cater to Filipino taste buds, from the Original to Leche Flan to Buko Pandan and of course Ube. We use good quality ingredients and priced ourselves lower than competitors. We received several reviews that our custaroons are worth its price given its taste and serving size.”

While they did not think it would be easy, neither did they expect it to be this hard. “It has been an inspiring but challenging experience for us. With the great number of individuals starting their own online businesses during quarantine, we are struggling to market our products to our target audience. Despite the challenges we faced, we are grateful to have our friends’ and families’ support. Above all, communicating with the jeepney drivers and tricycle drivers, learning more about the challenges they face and being able to provide them assistance has inspired us to never give up,” explains Casey. 

Geri, Casey and Katherine are part of a Facebook group called ‘Super Tsuper’ which allows people to donate to the drivers who have lost their sources of income and are in need of financial help. “We message the drivers one by one and ask them about their situation. We send P500 to each driver and we plan to increase the amount of money once we have done a rotation on all drivers on our list. As the business grows, we have plans on partnering with organizations that can help transform their lives on a larger scale,” shares Katherine.

Classes will soon start for all 3 but according to them, “we have short and long term plans for the business. We may have started small with the limited capital, but we have strong hopes that our business will grow as we go on. Even after the pandemic our goal still remains the same, to transform lives.”

Chairs for Drivers as They Sit Out the Pandemic

The Ube Factory can already count on the support of one more business who pledged part of their profits to aid tricycle and jeepney drivers, and that’s Pelagius Trading with IG handle @pelagius.trading.

In the interest of full disclosure, my nephew is part of this next trio. A few credits shy of completing his degree, his plans to join the corporate workforce in a few months will most likely suffer delays, but with friends John David Hwang and Sean Keneth Gaw, he decided to become his own boss instead.

The 3 market chairs for students now learning from home, workers who have adopted the work from home set-up and teenagers and adults who embraced the gaming lifestyle. Using their own savings with some help from their parents, they raised enough capital to source chairs made with materials from Germany and assembled in China. All products will undergo strict disinfection on arrival to Manila before delivery to clients.

“Given that COVID-19 remains rampant in the Philippines, businesses have been forced to shift to a work-from-home setup. The sudden change of environment for everyone led to the transition from working at the office or at school into home officers and online classes, which emphasized the importance of a good home workspace. This need gave rise to the idea of ensuring comfort and versatility, even by our sleek chairs. Not only do we provide an ergonomic product, but also quality and comfort to maximize productivity for those working and learning from home. A simple investment without even breaking the bank,” explains Gaw.

How did they choose their partners? “I knew Johann and Keneth since we were in grade school so that’s more than 10 years. It’s amusing how we used to quarrel over the silliest of things when we were younger. As we grew older, despite our contrasting views, we learned to accept one another’s flaws and work around them. Arguments between us are inevitable, but now we know not to let the sun set without settling our disagreements,” shares John David or JD to friends.

According to Johann, “our goal is to start small and scale up to an even bigger business. We are looking for a sustainable business that can help farmers. Since we are Economics students, we are exposed to all these technical papers regarding food waste in overproduction of agriculture products and that farmers are not able to find their market. We hope to be part of the solution and bring greater prosperity to agriculture.” 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.