La Trinidad, Philippines
A Filipino couple who are both pastors have become accidental entrepreneurs after their daughter’s search for body care products for her allergy-sensitive skin led to the creation of a home-based industry, which the family sees as its ministry. “With this evolving business, poor parishioners can earn extra income, which can sustain their local churches,” Pastor Robinson Ayupan told Ecumenical News International. “With more income, parishioners can give tithes, support their pastor, and sustain their ministries.”Ayupan’s wife, Lorna Jane, says many of the 100 dealers, who retail the family’s bath soap and other body care products, are poor parishioners, some of whom are students working their way to college, others unemployed housewives. Describing how the Ayupan family business started, the pastors said that their daughter, Melody, found during her teens that her body was ultra-sensitive to chemically-based and scented soaps. So Melody, then studying science at high school, researched and experimented on how to make alternative soaps and other body care products for her personal use. In 2000 Melody, then barely 14, succeeded in making her own bath soap using strawberry and vegetable oil.Since then, aided by her parents, Melody has been making bath soap, using not only strawberries, but fruit such as papaya and others depending on the season. For Christmas, or at weddings and birthday celebrations, Melody and her parents were able to offer their products as gifts. It was not long until those who received soap as gifts, began making orders.Melody and her parents then had to produce and deliver the goods. Now the goods were no longer free gifts, but for sale. The Ayupans launched their business in 2003.”We never intended to go into business,” Lorna Jane told ENI. “But we had to respond to the orders. This business emerged only after consumers created the demand. We see this as God working in strange, miraculous ways.”Aided by her parents and a chemist consultant, Melody now makes an average of 2,000 pieces of 150-gramme bath soap each month at their home in this northern Philippine town 255 kilometres north of Manila. Retailed at 100 Philippine pesos each, the soaps alone can gross 200,000 pesos (about US$4,420) a month. “We actually share this income with our 100 dealers, who have their own distributors,” said Lorna Jane. The Ayupans belong to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, but the two pastors also minister to other Protestant and evangelical groups, where they tell people they can combine their “Christian faith with enterprising ventures”.