The Green Dream

Evelyn Grace has always been interested in healthy food products. There was a time she was looking for dried mangoes supposedly free of artificial preservatives and chemicals. She was not fully convinced, however, that those sold in the market were indeed safe for her kids.

To make sure that her family would eat chemical-free dried mangoes, she tried preparing it.

“That time, one of our helpers approached me and asked if I wanted to try making dried mangoes and shared to me the process that she knew,” she said. It took Evelyn five long years of trial and error before she managed to perfect the recipe.

In 2004, she decided to set up her own business and called it Green Thumb Agri Products.

Evelyn Grace processing the mangoes

Natural process

Evelyn’s dried mango products undergo a chemical-free process. She ensures that no chemical preservatives are used. To her fulfillment, this enterprise benefits not only her family, but the entire community as well. The economic impact has reached other municipalities, too.

Notably, Evelyn prioritizes local sources of her raw materials as well. Her production requirements are sourced from local farmers from December to June. She would only purchase from other sources whenever supplies within Zambales are not enough. At times, she gets mangoes from as far as Davao.

Similarly, Evelyn also buys the needed sugar from local sources.

Aside from being mindful of her raw materials, Evelyn makes sure that the enterprise is inclusive and benefits those who are in need.

“Most of my workers come from Malatapi Community Livelihood Center Incorporated. We also employ indigenous people and persons with disability (PWDs). We also provide jobs to less privileged families. I consider all of them as my extended families,” Evelyn shared.

Strips of raw mangoes being processed

Improvement and expansion

Today, Evelyn’s enterprise has expanded, offering more varieties of products. Aside from dried mangoes, Evelyn has diversified into producing wine, nectar, pickles, cookies, jam, and pies.

“The wine was discovered by accident,” said Evelyn. During the process of preparing dried mangoes, Evelyn recalled that they noticed that the mango nectar became very sweet after a few months of fermentation. This encouraged her to try introducing other products that could be appealing to consumers.

In addition, Evelyn and her team are now in the process of trying tamarind and kamias as raw materials for other food products.

Strips of dried mangoes ready for packaging

Since it started, Green Thumb Agri Products has managed to establish a name in the market. Most of the buyers are Overseas Filipinos (OFs) from Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, London, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States who buy her products in bulk.

Evelyn also supplies Pasalubong Centers in various towns of Zambales such as Iba, San Felipe, San Marcelino, and in Harbor Point, Ayala Mall in Olongapo. Green Thumb Agri Products are also shipped to other provinces including Batangas, Baguio, and Aklan.

Helping hands

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has significantly helped Evelyn’s business through various assistance such as funding, training, and marketing. Also, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) complemented DTI’s support, and provided Evelyn a mechanical dryer, which is necessary for the mass production of her products. Even the provincial government of Zambales also threw its support by offering a startup fund.

“DTI helped me to enhance my product labeling to make it even more attractive to buyers. They provided trainings on how to display our products, how to win buyers, and how to compute for pricing. DTI’s trade fairs also became a great venue for promoting our products,” said Evelyn.

Starting from a small kitchen, Green Thumb Agri-Products has expanded its facilities to include a drying area in Candelaria, Zambales to process dried mangoes and other products – a success that Evelyn strived for.

A pack of dried mangoes by Green Thumb

“We maintained the quality of our products and our good relationship with customers—those are the keys for a business to grow. We also tried applying socialized pricing here. Right now, I’m still trying new processes to make it grow,” she says.

Like other entrepreneurs, Evelyn also experienced rejections and financial problems, but she did not let those hurdles stop her from pursuing her business. Instead she looked for solutions to overcome challenges.

“I had a lot of rejections, especially when I studied about the processing. But those were challenges, so I had to think of ways to improve my product. I looked for solutions and classified the result of my production to Class A, Class, B, Class, C, and Reject. Most of the rejects were overripe or overmature mangoes that already had discoloration. Since I don’t add preservatives, those things can really happen. We were also challenged financially because I started the business at the time when my children were starting college,” she says.

These trials encouraged Evelyn to help other entrepreneurs in whatever means possible—providing mangoes to budding businesses, allowing them to consign their food items, and sharing her knowledge on the process of making dried mangoes and other food items.

Evelyn Grace packaging the dried mangoes

Now with all the achievements she is enjoying, she dreams of exporting her products to other countries.

“Before, I really didn’t want to get into export. Some Chinese businessmen approached me for a joint venture but for a very low price, so I settled with what I have. But one day, someone offered me a reasonable price so probably in two to three years, we would be exporting our products,” she said.

With all the good things happening to Evelyn right now, the next step for her is to share it.

“I never dreamed of a luxurious life, just enough for my family. Now that we have all these blessings, we want to share it to others,” she said.

Evelyn Grace and an employee posing with their products