Corporate Bulletins

ECHOStore presents business story

Posted on June 28, 2012

FOUR YEARS ago, Reena Francisco, Jeannie Javelosa and Chit Juan pitched a winning idea for a social enterprise called ECHOStore at the Business in Development Challenge in the Netherlands.

ECHO is the acronym for "Empowering Communities with Hope and Organization." They had a matching three-cornered vision to "nurture the self, the community and the environment" through their innovative enterprise.

What clinched the judges' nod was their business plan which stood firmly on three pillars. The first two consisted of ECHOStore, a now widely recognized outlet for sustainable lifestyle products; and ECHOmarket which sells natural and organic fresh produce any day of the week.

Recently, the full “ECHOsystem� was realized through its third pillar, ECHOcafé. The founders had actually been serving coffee in ECHOStores from the start, but those early days, their focus was on building up the store inventory of community-sourced products -- from home remedies and handbags to handicraft.

As more and more farm goods were added to their product mix, the decision to start a full-service café came almost naturally. What better way indeed to showcase locally made cheeses and guava-based salad dressings of the Tugdaan community? Or sun-dried tomatoes from Nueva Ecija women farmers? It was Reena, the chef among the founders, who put these ingredients on the menu of ECHOcafé through unique pasta, sandwich and breakfast recipes.

“Our customers had the chance to taste the product first before buying a whole lot of it,� Ms. Francisco says.

They realized early on that ECHOstore had to “walk the talk� regarding sustainability. “If you keep using natural materials and you’re not planting these, then you’re not really sustainable,� said advocate-in-residence Ms. Javelosa. Thus they began growing a steady supply of organic and natural arugula, romaine lettuce and other greens.

ECHOfarms was put under the reins of Ms. Juan, the long-time coffee farmer. She cultivated a wide variety of vegetables as well as guyabano, banana, pineapple and papaya alongside her coffee trees in Amadeo, Cavite.

Also among ECHOstore’s proudest achievements to date was a joint effort -- together with the Peace and Equity Foundation and Netherlands-based development organization ICCO -- that gave rise to seven ‘ECHOVillage Stores’ located in Baguio, General Santos, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa, Naga, Sorsogon and Loyola Heights in Quezon City.

The ECHOVillage Stores are looking to attain financial sustainability for the different NGOs who operate them.

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