in photo: Mary Ann Alvarez Bejer, owner of M3K Sari-Sari Store.

In the tranquil town of Bay, Laguna (Brgy. Calo), nestled deep in the heart of Laguna, a humble sari-sari store known as M3K stood as a symbol of resilience, tenacity, and the unwavering strength of family bonds. Owned by Mary Ann Alvarez Bejer, this unassuming shop bore witness to a remarkable journey filled with hardships, health crises, and economic trials. However, it also held within its walls a testament to the transformative power of government support.

The story of M3K began in 2015 when Mary Ann embarked on her entrepreneurial journey with a meager capital of Php14,000.00. Her store, initially offering just a handful of chips and condiments, slowly expanded its inventory to cater to the diverse needs of the community.

Year after year, M3K faced new challenges and opportunities. What started as a modest corner store grew into a bustling hub stocked with daily necessities, snacks, and household essentials. As the store thrived, Mary Ann invested in a tricycle, extending her reach and serving more customers.

In 2016, Mary Ann’s family joyously received the news of a new addition, marking the start of a new chapter in their lives. This expanded their household into a tight-knit family of six, including her husband. Despite the added responsibilities of motherhood, Mary Ann remained steadfast in her commitment to her business, juggling the demands of caring for her growing family with the responsibilities of being a small business owner.

However, life took a challenging turn in 2019 when faced with economic hardships. Mary Ann’s siblings suggested that her husband seek employment abroad to secure a stable source of income. Even though the pandemic in 2020 made it challenging for him to find work, they clung to the hope of securing a better future for their family.

Then, on a fateful day in December 2020, a ray of hope broke through the clouds of adversity. One livelihood program of a certain government agency extended a lifeline to M3K. This initiative was designed to empower small businesses like Mary Ann’s, providing them with three sacks of rice. This crucial support breathed new life into their store, which had suffered during the long battle against Thalassemia.

Thalassemia had cast a shadow over their lives, affecting three of their four children. This challenging blood disorder requires frequent medical care, transfusions, and medications. Hospital bills and ongoing medical expenses began to accumulate, rapidly draining their hard-earned earnings. With their finances stretched thin, Mary Ann and her family faced a bleak future, and the pandemic only added to their hardships.

The turning point came in April 2022 when the Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa Program (PPG) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provided them with livelihood kits. This remarkable program was designed with a noble purpose: to empower small businesses, like M3K SARI-SARI STORE, to not only survive but thrive in the face of challenges.

The PPG Program was a beacon of hope, a lifeline extended to entrepreneurs like Mary Ann who had weathered the storm of adversity. Its mission was clear—to breathe new life into struggling businesses and to help them realize their fullest potential.

The livelihood kits that M3K received as beneficiaries of the PPG Program were nothing short of transformative. They infused fresh energy and diversity into their store, enabling them to expand their selection to include a range of alcoholic beverages. This strategic decision perfectly aligned with the nighttime demand for such products in their community, allowing M3K to cater to a broader clientele and significantly boost their income.

Emboldened by their newfound success, Mary Ann and her family made a strategic move to operate their store 24/7. The decision was a testament to their determination and willingness to adapt to the changing market demands. It was a reflection of their belief that, with the right support system, they could turn their dreams into reality.

With the increased income generated from their thriving business, they made strategic investments in their future. They purchased a motorbike for deliveries, enhancing their service and expanding their reach within the community. They also turned their attention to home improvement, renovating their residence to provide a better living environment for their family.

Furthermore, the additional income allowed them to acquire new freezers, specifically chest-type and cooler freezers. These investments played a crucial role in their business as they were primarily used for storing and selling ice. With the capacity to provide fresh ice to the community, they seized the opportunity to expand their services further by delivering ice to local wet markets, meeting the high demand for this essential commodity.

The provision of fresh ice to the local wet markets not only strengthened their business but also created a positive ripple effect in their local economy. It facilitated the smooth operation of fish vendors, food stalls, and households, allowing them to preserve their goods and enjoy the convenience of readily available ice. This symbiotic relationship between M3K SARI-SARI STORE and the community underscored the importance of small businesses in sustaining and uplifting local economies.

As they continued to thrive, Mary Ann and her family remained deeply grateful for the support they received from DTI’s PPG Program. This program had not only resuscitated their business but had also paved the way for their economic resurgence. It was a testament to the potential of resilient Filipino entrepreneurs when coupled with the right support system.

Today, M3K SARI-SARI STORE stands tall as a testament to the success of the PPG Program, showcasing the transformative power of government support when combined with the indomitable spirit of Filipino entrepreneurs. It symbolizes the strength of unity, determination, and the unwavering belief that dreams can thrive, even in the face of adversity. Mary Ann and her family extend their heartfelt gratitude to the DTI for their invaluable support, trust, and the opportunity to rise stronger than ever before.

From daily earnings of Php5,000.00 to Php8,000.00, they are now earning an impressive Php10,000.00 to Php15,000.00 daily, a testament to their unyielding determination and innovative business strategies. Mary Ann also acknowledged and never forgets the intervention of the PPG Program of DTI to her business and mindset as well. This remarkable increase in their income not only secured a better future for their family but also allowed them to contribute more to their community’s economic growth, underscoring the program’s profound impact. ♦

Date of Release: 3 October 2023