How sari-sari store owner scaled up with pili nuts, oil

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2017 06:45 AM | Updated as of Dec 08 2017 07:48 AM

MANILA - Sari-sari store owner Merle Paete found entrepreneurial success extracting oil from pili nuts that are abundant in her home province of Sorsogon.

Paete earns P100,000 a month selling the nuts, an additional P8,000 from pili oil and another P3,000 from nut shells that can be used as an alternative to firewood.

The 57-year-old scaled up her business in 2009 with financial and training assistance from the SEDP-Simbag sa Pagasenso Inc and the SEDP multi-purpose cooperative. She was recognized by Citi this week as microentrepreneur of the year.

"Dati humihiga lang ako sa manipis na foam. Ngayon makapal na ang aking hinihigaan na foam. Napaayos ko na ang bahay. Nakabili na ako ng sariling TV. Marami talagang nagbago sa buhay ko dahil sa tiyaga," Paete told ABS-CBN News.

(I used to sleep on thin foam. Now, my foam is thick, I had my house fixed and bought my own TV. Many things in my life changed because of perseverance.)

Paete started out selling pili nuts and woven mats in her sari-sari store until she invested in a 3-hectare land to grow pili and start an oil processing business.

To extract the oil, Paete said the pili nuts need to boiled until soft. The shells are removed and pressed.

"Natuklasan namin na iyung balat pwede maging pera," she said.

(We discovered that money can be made from the shells.)

Called "lana" locally, pili is believed to have medicinal properties, she said.

Image grabbed from Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards 2017

Born to a poor family in coastal Bacon town, Sorsogon, Paete sold woven mats to put herself through high school. It was her husband, Mariano, who got her into pili growing.

"Pinupursue ko na makilala para tumaas ang presyo, kasi mahirap mag-produce, mag-piga, ngayon kaso P75 each bote na maliit," Paete said.

(I'm pursuing recognition so that I can raise prices because it it difficult o produce, to press. A small bottle sells for P75.)

Image grabbed from Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards 2017