Warren Floro Ebañez Oliva is the owner and operator of a neighbourhood hair and beauty salon in an urban poor community in Laguna, Philippines. The main income-earner in his household, Warren lives with his mother and supports a younger sibling to attend school.
Before setting up his own business, Warren was a salaried local government employee but he struggled to support his family on the low salary. He always had a passion for health and beauty but never had the confidence or means to pursue it as a career. After some persuasion from his aunt, he took his first steps towards realising his dream by completing a certification course in Beauty and Aesthetics and, in 2013, he left government service to open his own beauty salon. He set up a small salon to offer basic beauty treatments but after several years, was beginning to struggle to take his business to the next level. It was at this point that Warren discovered Grameen Pilipinas Microfinance Inc (GPMI), and applied for his first loan of PHP 15,000 (A$414) in November 2019, which enabled him to procure new equipment and stock to expand his salon service offering.
Just a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into confusion and when his area was placed under community quarantine, the beauty industry was brought to a standstill, meaning Warren was no longer able to operate his business. This could have meant disaster for Warren and his family: as the only income earner, they relied on his salon for everything. However, Warren tapped into his entrepreneurial spirit to change the direction of his business in order to survive the pandemic. With everyone in lockdown, Warren noticed members of his community were spending more time beautifying their homes and gardens. This gave him the idea to refocus his business towards meeting the increasing demand for ornamental plants. He renewed his GPMI loan for another PHP 15,000 (A$414) and started selling recycled plastic planters and ornamental plants, while he waited for restrictions on non-essential services to be lifted. Warren participated in the GPMI Entrepreneurship Learning Sessions, which gave him some important skills in launching his new business venture.
As he prepares his salon to meet the minimum health standards set forth by the government in preparation for reopening his beauty business, Warren continues to maintain his budding garden business, which he finds both financially rewarding and psychologically comforting. Having his own business has also enabled him to start saving money, which he was not able to do on his former government salary. This takes a lot of pressure off the family in paying for his sibling’s school costs and any unexpected medical bills.