Life is a balance of the good and the bad, but sometimes it can become uneven and lead to really tough experiences. Just when we think everything is in place and works according to our plan, challenges and difficulties come knocking at our doors.
On some occasions, they band together in harmony and perfectly hit at the same time. We are left battered, bruised, and unable to stand up. It makes us question what we do wrong to deserve such misfortunes and the gravity of the burden feels as if we can no longer make it through.
Amid a series of unfortunate events, a single mother and an entrepreneur proved possible to stand up and fight back. She may have faltered at the beginning, but not too long 'til she was able to rise again and take redemption one step at a time. A testament to resilience, strength, and perseverance, Jonelyn Medilo’s story is one we can take lessons from.
Jonelyn, known to her friends and family as “Akay,” was born and raised in Bugasong town, Antique. In hopes of a better future, she tried finding her luck in busy Manila and worked various jobs.
There, she met the man that she would later marry. Fate then brought them to Zambales province where they settled down to create their own family.
While her husband worked as security personnel, Jonelyn sold all sorts of things around her neighborhood through her trisikad – a popular means of transportation made by joining a regular bicycle and a sidecar.
From meat products to vegetables, together with her firstborn strapped tightly on her trisikad, she peddled to make extra income for their household. The family lived off their little income, but the couple strived to raise their kids out of clean and honest money.
Jonelyn started small with her “roving goods” venture, but she later found the demand and potential of malunggay or Moringa Oleifera in Metro Manila which drove her to return to Antique and find possible sources and suppliers. This is now where Jonelyn’s business journey began. Together with her close friends Maria Elena Epoc and Memia Magdayao, they formed MEEMMJON Malunggay Products – a start-up that processed malunggay leaves and developed different products out of it.
But life is really playful, to say the least. Just when Jonelyn finally entered into business with vast potential, her husband unexpectedly passed on. As it was devastating, everything changed for Jonelyn and her kids. Things got a lot more consuming and taxing, especially in raising three young children. It was then
decided by the now-family of four to return to her home province of Antique for Jonelyn to have a helping hand with the young ones and to also give attention to and focus on their emerging business.
Jonelyn and her business partners participated in various seminars and training by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other government agencies to solidify their knowledge in business operations and enhance their technical skills in developing Malunggay-based products. Trade fairs and product exhibits also played a huge role in introducing their business to potential clients and investors so as to create a wide network of market partnerships. Despite these efforts, progress failed to proceed. The lacking ingredient? Capital.
Good thing that DTI paved the way for MEEMMJON to avail of loans from SB Corp. or Small Business Corporation. This government financial institution (GFI) aims to provide assistance – financial, training, and marketing among others – to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with the purpose of securing their development. SB Corp. was created in January 1991 by virtue of Republic Act 6977 or the Magna Carta for Small Enterprises, as amended by R.A. 8289 in 1997 and R.A. 9501 in 2008.
In addition to this, Jonelyn also strived to expand her knowledge in business operations by joining the Kapatid Mentor Micro-Entrepreneurs (KMME) project of DTI. KMME is an intensive program where huge corporations use coaching and mentoring approaches to share their experiences and expertise on the many aspects of business operations to small and even starting entrepreneurs.
This 10-module course practically aims to enhance the entrepreneurial capacity of MSMEs.
After completion, she became a member of KAMI Antique or the KMME Association of Mentors/Mentees in Antique. This allowed for the forging of friendships with her fellow businessmen, thereby growing her linkages in the market.
Jonelyn was also given the chance to become a consolidator of locally-sourced products throughout Antique. As a consolidator, all types of goods come and go at their shop and these products are brought and introduced at fairs and expositions in other provinces too. At that point, she was able to extend help not just to her family but also to her fellow MSMEs.
In 2018, MEEMMJON qualified for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program Innovation-Enabling Fund (SETUP iFUND) and received equipment for their business via loan. Through this technological innovation, their processing became faster, safer and more efficient which led to the expansion of their product line from mere powder, extracts, soap and food items to black rice with malunggay, turmeric teas and capsules, ginger powder, and more.
Everything was doing fine as if the stars have finally aligned in favor of Jonelyn, or so she thought. At one snap, she lost one of her business partners as well.
Then, the memories and pain of losing someone reappeared. It was hard to bear. For her, she did not just lose a collaborator but a friend considered family.
Several years on, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. The new coronavirus emerged and took the lives of millions from all corners of the globe. Nations scrambled to stop the spread of the deadly illness but, at some point, it managed to bring the world to an abrupt halt. The once throbbing metropolises went out of life with people in isolation, transport systems nonoperational, and businesses closed down.
One of those severely affected was Jonelyn and her business. Due to government regulations, they were forced to completely stop operations for a month. Although they were able to return, sales already plummeted and losses were incurred as the market and the mobility of consumers were firmly restricted. The future amid COVID-19 seemed too shady and uncertain, prompting Jonelyn’s remaining business partner to withdraw. Despite the circumstances, none of her next steps was giving up. She had to take on the challenges if she and her family were to survive.
To continue her business and work as a consolidator, Jonelyn boldly adapted to the changing market environment. She patterned her strategies with existing trends and opted to sell their products across social medial platforms. Too good for her, malunggay is known as a health wonder and an immunity booster. And so, many tried her products in hopes of driving away the perils of COVID-19. For its benefits, her malunggay-based products reached other parts of the world through the help of her cousin Maria Luna
Long who later on became her new business partner. This forged what later came to be known as TWO M’s PASALUBONG.
Jonelyn was still recovering from the onslaught of the pandemic but she recognized the distress and helplessness of the people around her, both friends and family. Without reservations, Jonelyn and her friends from KAMI Antique set up a community pantry where the goods they ought to share were also their own products. She knew how it felt to have nothing at all and that was enough reason for her to extend even just a little help.
Through the encouragement of her friends, family and fellow MSMEs, Jonelyn stands tall against all the challenges and difficulties that she had to go through. One after the other, her misfortunes only made her tougher.
Truly, Jonelyn exhibited the unique strength and resilience of a single parent and a Filipino entrepreneur.
For her perseverance, DOST Regional Office 6 acknowledged Jonelyn as an “Outstanding Woman Project Implementer” and awarded her the proprietorship of the loaned processing equipment from SETUP iFUND. Indeed, a beautiful way to express that resilience and hard work bring people to good places.
Currently, she continues with her business and her role as a consolidator, bringing home-grown products from across Antique province to the many trade fairs and exhibits initiated by the Provincial Government of Antique, the offices of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda and Antique Lone District Representative Antonio Agapito “AA” Legarda, Jr. and other government agencies.
Jonelyn may not have a luxurious home and a high-end car nor does she eat on a golden platter, but Jonelyn is profoundly happy and content to provide for the needs of her tres marias. Until now, she remains to work hard for her business to grow with the intention of giving help, support and guidance to her family and fellow entrepreneurs.