If there is anything good that came out from the Pandemic, it is the increase of home-based businesses. The limited supplies, suspension of public transport and the strict quarantine policies made it hard for families to acquire/buy their needs in supermarkets. Housewives, teens, and families filled this gap (specially for food items) by preparing and selling home-made meals, snacks, fruits, vegetables and others. They started marketing their products using social media (mostly thru Facebook). They started selling in their subdivisions and communities.
On March 16, 2020, the President of the Philippines declared the whole Island of Luzon including Metro Manila under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to prevent the spread of COVID 19 infection. The ECQ is the highest form of quarantine. It was extended several times and up to May 30, 2020. The ECQ lasted for almost two and a half months. It was downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ) and later last year to modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Quarantine Policies were implemented strictly in all communities.
People stuck in their homes are desperately looking for news specially about what is happening within their communities. Most people relied to Social Media for local news and activities. There is an increase in the formation of Facebook group chats wherein people in the community can interact with each other without the risk of being infected (physical face to face). These group chats served as a venue for marketing and selling home made products. Because people during the quarantine have the time and are active in social media, it became an effective medium, a great marketplace.
There are so many different products being sold in the group chats. Home-made local specialties like what your grandmother used to cook (local Philippine dishes and delicacies), barbeques, rice meals, pizzas, milkteas, snacks and nuts and even raw meats and vegetables are being delivered in your doorstep. The delivery decreases the risk of people getting infected by the virus specially if they go to crowded places like markets and grocery stores. It also gave motorcycle owners (riders) short-term livelihood by delivering different products (orders) in the community.
I will share a good and personal example of my observation. My wife and I are both working as city government employees. We are both full time employees and do not own a business. When the government declared the quarantine we were forced to work from home. Because of the scarcity of loaf breads that time, my wife thought of baking different type of breads for the family. She loves to bake but doesn’t have time before the quarantine. With the help of Youtube videos and the small oven I gave to her as a Christmas gift in 2013, she started baking different kind of pastries. Most of her baked goods turned out great and some are good (I cannot say “bad” because I might get into trouble when she reads this!). Sometimes we have excess baked pastries which we share with our friends. Our friends convinced her to sell the product and market it in the different group chats in our village.
Hence, Derek’s Delight Cakes and Pastries was born (named after our youngest son). People started ordering her products, specially her baked Soft and Fluffy Ensaymada. She also started getting cake orders. In a way, the side income modestly helped in our finances.
I saw many stories similar to her story. The Pandemic provided a short-term opportunity to small businesses to level the field with big corporations and capture their community market. Social media became a Free tool to market local home-based products. The local (community) economy adapted and developed in its unique way.
The economy and activities are now beginning to normalize. I observed a decrease in activities (marketing/selling) in the groupchats. Probably because the micro entrepreneurs are now back in their full-time jobs (employment) and don’t have the anymore time to prepare/sell their products. Probably the people grew tired of the group chats (instead of community news, the group chats are now full of product advertisements). After being forced to stay at home, people are also excited to go out of their houses to eat at restaurants or visit supermarkets. Another possible reason is that the big corporations are taking back their clients after a very long quarantine period.
As for Derek’s Delight, we got a lot of orders last Christmas and New Year. My wife that time didn’t sleep for 24-36 hours – baking! We do not know how the small business will perform this 2021. Nevertheless, we thank 2020 for the opportunity. I just hope and pray that we can sustain the gains we got from 2020.
I hope that more small businesses survive and apply their experience and learnings from 2020. I hope that many become big businesses with a good story to tell.
As an urban planner, I see this as a good thing. A thriving local (community) economy promotes social interaction, cohesion, and cooperation; job availability; and diverse and expanded product choices (quality and affordable) for the consumers; among others. As for big corporations, I hope they partner with the small businesses so they can sell their products in their establishments. Both of them will earn this way. Partnering instead of competition.
I always make it a point to order regularly from different sellers in the group chat. In my small way I support/encourage them to continue their businesses and in return I get access to their tasty and delicious local products (watch the diet!).