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Women empowering women. Their businesses are not just about profits—they are driven by a sense of community, solidarity, and a desire to see their fellow women succeed. 

Two women who focused on lifting other women around them are Kapekoh founder Jazel Gallaza and Cami Candles founder Catherine Kionisala-Fabello. They believe that supporting women by teaching them skills and providing employment not only reduces their economic hardship, but also uplifts their families and communities. 

Jazel and Cathy are both winners at the second Gawad Madiskarte, which recognizes the most innovative and successful start-up and scaled-up businesses by Madiskarte Moms. 


From OFW to business owner 

Jazel Gallaza, a mother of two, was one of almost two million OFWs in 2020 (women make up 59.6% of the total). During the height of the pandemic, she was sent home like millions of Filipinos working abroad—unemployed and uncertain of her future.  

“Even before the pandemic we were facing challenges in life and it got worse when the pandemic came. During that very down moment, a door of opportunity opened for me,” Jazel says. 

Like all OFWs that managed to save some money, she had to decide whether she would go back to work on a cruise ship when the pandemic was over or stay in the Philippines to put up a business that would enable her to be with her family. 

At first, she tried reselling other people’s products, such as jewelry and thrift clothing. But a difficult bout with acid reflux — a condition in which the stomach contents leak back up into the esophagus causing heartburn and other uncomfortable symptoms — led her to an idea. Why not make coffee out of corn? Corn coffee is less acidic, and can help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower blood sugar. Besides, corn coffee is an old beverage in the provinces and supply would not be a problem because corn farmers needed more buyers for their crops. 

So Jazel set about realizing her first ever business. Today, she says, Kapekoh “serves as our bread and butter, and we’re able to help other people too by supporting our local farmers, helping charities, and supporting other moms who want to earn from the comfort of their own homes.” 

As an OFW, Jazel experienced and saw how women make sacrifices to make ends meet. She not only wanted to give people an alternative to coffee beans, but for other women to earn too. “My business goals to this day are to help individuals who are experiencing acidity and yet love to drink coffee; to help moms earn extra to provide for their families; and for my product to reach people not just nationwide but worldwide.” 

As for women who ask her for advice on starting a business, she tells them: “Avoid ‘analysis paralysis.’ Research your market and make sure your product or service is something they are willing to pay for. Start before you’re ready. Don’t just plan, begin! It may feel scary but have courage, keep the faith and give it a shot. Remember that there’s a blessing amid adversity, you just need to seek it. The moment you feel you’re afraid to jump is the very moment to give it all you’ve got and go for it. All big and very successful businesses started small. Kaya laban lang sa hamon ng buhay. God is always there for us.” 


Looking after one’s emotional health

Catherine Kionisala-Fabello used to suffer from debilitating anxiety. She was, after all, responsible for people under her employ. Not too long before the pandemic broke out, she had started a business that was now struggling. 

“Lagi ko iniisip, how can I pay all the occurring expenses such as the salaries of my employees and my business’ operating expenses. I had three employees and it was hard for me to let them go because they needed a job to sustain their families and I wanted to help them. They were my responsibility—and that was why I had difficulties sleeping at night.” 

Then there was her own family. “My husband wasn’t sure about me starting a new business again because he thought it was too risky and that it might flop. I honestly felt that when I started Cami Candles, people around me were skeptical, thinking the market was too saturated already.”

Catherine says that people’s doubts put doubt in her own mind—which made her even more anxious. “I was questioning myself. Baka tama sila, baka mag-fail na naman ako.” 

But she persisted and Cami Candles was born. The candles use oils from natural plant extracts that help promote health and wellbeing. Cami’s emotional health benefited from aromatherapy, making her more calm and able to sleep at night—something melatonin or antihistamine tablets couldn’t do.

“It wasn’t only me that aromatherapy helped heal, but also my two kids who are on the autism spectrum. At nights when I’m having a hard time sleeping or experiencing anxiety attacks, I just inhale my essential oil blends or turn on my diffuser. It calms my mind and keeps me relaxed. When I need to do certain tasks, I use it also to keep me focused.”

The business side of things also kept her mentally and emotionally grounded. “Cami Candles kept my sanity. I was so busy doing it to the point na super pagod ako and ang dali kong makatulog. But, really, when I started it was a leap of faith. I just said, ‘Lord, ikaw na bahala. Your will be done. If this is not successful, then I should learn something from it. If maging successful, I will still keep learning from it.’”

Cathy was able to keep one of her employees to help her make the products at home. Now, of course, she has more. “I trained my staff and made sure the quality is there kung papaano ko ginawa. It was a big success last year kasi holiday season na. I was surprised that a lot of people wanted our candles. We have plenty of repeat orders and even bulk orders, so I hired more people.” 

Cathy’s goals are to help people achieve mental wellness and to widen her product reach outside Cagayan de Oro. To women who are thinking of or have just started their business, she says, “Struggles and challenges are part of our lives. But these make us stronger and wiser every time. Don’t be afraid to start. Just starting is a win! Trust yourself. If you fail, okay lang! Bangon ulit and try again. 

“We will never appreciate the true meaning of success without experiencing failure. If you are unsure of what business to start, go to your community and fill their needs or provide a solution to their problems. Start small but dream big!”

These are beautiful stories from Madiskarte Moms PH (MMPH), an online community of mothers that got together during the pandemic three years ago to help each other find alternative sources of income, and to grow the businesses that some had already started in their homes. 


Check out Cami Candles on Facebook and Instagram; Kapekoh on Facebook and Instagram.  And be inspired by the entrepreneurial moms of  Madiskarte Moms PH community.