Businessman, chairman, manpower: these words, without a doubt, show how everything in this world has been pro-male by default. The history of entrepreneurship has long been monopolized and dominated by men, thus making economic opportunities and activities to be intentionally enjoyed only by them and on the other hand leaving women and young girls deprived on purpose. Most social institutions, like the business sector, are too impossible for women to pervade. Even if they did enter these exclusive patriarchal spaces, they are most likely to be assigned to non-leadership roles like secretaries and clerical workers.
However, this is not the case in this day and age as many empowered women have been set free from the abyss of their obsolete gender roles, conservative position in the society and economy, and exclusion from decision-making spaces. Gone are the days when there are uneven material conditions for male and female entrepreneurs. Juin and Mich, business partners and owners of Café Ancha, have been breaking the bias and have challenged gender norms since they opened up their coffee shop in Naga City, Camarines Sur last year. Along with other women entrepreneurs worldwide, business owners like them have made economic rebuilding, job generation, and progress possible at a time of a global health crisis.
Christelle Juin Ancha’s gender studies expertise coupled with Michelle Lapiz’ background in social forestry and sustainability were critical factors in setting the directions for Café Ancha as a pioneer zero waste coffee shop and as one of the few women-led businesses in the city. In a country that has long been dependent on plastics and tingi-tingi economy, this advocacy-driven coffee place is indeed a game-changer.
“We have witnessed how many coffee shops thrived amidst the pandemic. Everywhere you see a coffee shop and I’m happy about it, but at the same time, I’m reasonably worried about how many plastic cups we are using just to satisfy our craving for coffee,” Juin said during the online interview.
The Bicol Region, where Café Ancha is located, has always been frequented by typhoons every year. Many communities in this region have also been at the receiving end of extreme weather conditions such as flash floods, cyclones, storm surges, loss of biodiversity, among others. Moreover, many development experts have realized the many risks and irreversible impacts of environmental degradation on the long-term health of businesses.
For Juin and Mich, ushering in small yet impactful sustainable practices can co-exist with making a profit. Although they admit that implementing zero waste practices in their coffee shop through the use of biodegradable cups, eco-friendly straw, and bio-based packaging posed a challenge at first and have made their value proposition too novel for their customers. These business partners also envision influencing their adjacent shops to go zero-waste in the future. “If small shops like ours can do it, definitely other restaurants and stores can also go green,” Mich added.
Environmental awareness from consumers grew organically side-by-side with the sprouting interest and confidence of Café Ancha’s patrons in their coffee products. “We are in a high-footfall location in Pacol where most stores and markets are in. There are also bikers passing through from and to the mountain barangays of Naga,” Juin said.
Café Ancha sources its raw materials and supplies from other local businesses in Camarines Sur and Laguna helping the community’s microeconomy thrive instead of mainstream coffee giants dominating the coffee market. Juin and Mich constantly engage with local coffee growers and tablea producers from time to time to know how they can extend mutual support by extending their existing market. “For us, these coffee farmers have not had the opportunity and resources to be accorded with the support they need so we in Café Ancha have embarked on a mission to give such support as the best we can do,” Juin shared.
The café offers a variety of coffee, frappe, and non-caffeinated drinks. Just recently they launched ‘greeny dreamy’ which is a combination of espresso, milk, and matcha served in a 100% biodegradable cup. For to-go orders, customers have an option to buy a tampipi package (handwoven palm leaves) where they can conveniently lodge their orders.
For Café Ancha, there is still a lot of work to do in achieving environmental sustainability but advocates and partners for a green economy like them will continue to challenge significant impediments to systemic change. A whole-of-community approach where all stakeholders like enterprise owners, policymakers, environmentalists, and people in general, are involved in creating the right conditions and propelling this much-need shift to sustainability.
To visit their physical store, just head over to KM 9, Zone 1, Main Street, Urban Pacol, Naga City, Camarines Sur 4400. The café is open every day, from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM. Café Ancha is also on social media! Follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cafeancha2021 and on Instagram @cafeancha.
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