Ana Coritha Desamparado enjoyed playing the role of a sari-sari store vendor as a child. She would pretend she was the friendly tindera who sells chocolates and candies to her neighbors in barangay Labogon, Mandaue City.
More than 10 years after, Desamparado did become a sari-sari vendor with a twist.
At the University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP Cebu), where she is taking up a degree in mass communication, Desamparado is known as the ?mobile sari-sari store vendor.?
?I sell anything from candies, chocolates, cellphone load to dresses,? said 19-year-old Desamparado, who is president of the UP Cebu Student Council.
Desamparado was a high school senior in the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion when she first sold candy to classmates.
She used P100 from personal savings to buy six packs of candy, her first inventory, which were sold out in less than an hour.
?But when I entered UP (in 2006), I saw that my classmates needed something more, not just candies. They need food nga makabusog (which will fill their stomachs) especially with 7:30 a.m. classes,? she said.
Recognizing the need for another product, Desamparado sold biscuits and crackers, which immediately clicked with her classmates.
Peanuts and chocolate crinkles followed soon after. She also ventured into electronic load retailing, direct selling and ready-to-wear clothes.
It was from this wide variety of merchandise that Desamparado gained friends and networks around the campus. Desamparado uses the profit she earns from her small business for personal expenses.
For instance, she recently bought a P6,000 digital camera with her earnings. She has bought mobile phones with the aid of her micro-retail business.
While young people her age started their businesses by opening online shops, Desamparado's marketing strategy began with the basic?approaching people to sell her goods.
Her classmates initially became her captured market. Later on, she mastered the art of approaching students from other programs to sell products and earn more.
?My strategy is to check if the group has one person I know. I normally approach the group and my friend tells them 'Palit na mo.' I'll do the talking afterwards. Often times, they buy.?
But this strategy has its own setbacks, which include unpaid dues and the tedious process of collecting payment from customers.
Desamparado admitted that sales is slow since most of the products she sells can be paid two to three weeks from the date they were sold.
She keeps a notebook where she writes the names of those who have yet to pay her.
?There were times, however, when I forgot to list down the names so in the end, I end up with no profit. Sometimes, lugi pa gani (I incurred losses),? said Desamparado.
But keeping a positive and forward-looking attitude helps her survive in the business.
She started an online shop in February 2009, where she posted photos of items she was selling. This was also done to reach a wider range of prospective clients.
With students as her loyal patrons for now, Desamparado said she has learned that the week before final examinations and the finals week itself, are bad times to sell items and collect payments.
These are the times when students spend money on printing term papers or contribute for expenses in group projects.
Desamparado said discipline should be a primary value of any entrepreneur.
?If I consume anything from the things I buy, I see to it that I also pay,? she said.
Managing time between school and business duties, in addition to her responsibilities in student organizations, is a constant struggle for youth leaders like Desamparado.
She said finding time for everything is possible as long as priorities are set and plans are well-managed.
Desamparado said honesty remains the best policy in running any business.
?Ayaw gyud pagpato-ong og maayo kay makahibawo man na ang imong customers in the long run. It also pays to treat customers well.?
Because of her knack for business, Desamparado was once asked why she took up a mass communications course instead of management.
She would jokingly answer, ?Mass comm man ko. Major in management.?
Desamparado's childhood dream of operating her own sari-sari store has been partially fulfilled with her own version of a mobile tindahan.
Plans ahead include setting up a one-stop shop, which follows the concept of her first love, the ubiquitous sari-sari store.