Big dreams start small. The truth in this saying can be seen in the journey of Dubduban family and their sari-sari store that serves as a testament of resilience and inspiration for 39 years now.

Taking a leap from farming in the mountains to building a sari-sari store in the city

The journey of being a sari-sari store entrepreneur or “sari-preneur” started with Florencio Jumaran Dubduban, when he decided to leave the farming life in the mountain province of Zamboanga to keep his family safe from possible harm. In November 1983, he took the risk of starting a new life in the city with his family due to the increase in terrorist activity at that time.

Unsure of what was waiting for them, Florencio started a small sari-sari store where he only sold sugar and soap. When the business bloomed in the following years, he used his savings as capital to expand the variety of the commodities he sold.

With a steady income, his children were able to graduate from school by only depending on the store’s sales. The Dubduban family was also able to buy some land and build their own home in the province.

Next generation sari-preneur

In 2017, Florencio handed the baton to his daughter Ana Liza Dubduban — someone he knew would uphold the values and vision that made their sari-sari store stand the test of time.

After 34 years, Ana Liza became her parents’ successor and brought the sari-sari store business forward. Upon inheriting the store, she became the breadwinner in her family. It is a role that keeps her committed to providing for her family, all while maintaining the business, keeping it up and running until today.

Ana Liza has also shared her fair share of difficulties in manning the sari-sari store.

“Nang nanalanta ang bagyong Vinta noong 2017, nakakalungkot dahil ‘yung mga pansit, harina, at iba pa naming paninda ay nabasa. Hindi na rin naman namin maaring ibalik sa supplier kaya ang laki ng aming nalugi.”

Ana Liza had to shell out capital to buy new supplies for her store. Out of her former army husband’s retirement fee, she purchased new stocks in order for her store to continue operating.

With everyday expenses becoming a challenge for her, the higher prices and limited supplies have also introduced new obstacles for her small business.

However, she shared that suppliers and buying wholesale help her save and increase her revenue, primarily when the agents of huge companies like Unilever directly transact with them for supplies.

“Hindi na kami nalulugi ngayon dahil nakakabawi na kami sa mga volume offer ng mga supplier. Katulad ng Unilever, may binibigay silang prizes kapag sa kanila kami kumukuha ng supply. Minsan may P1,500 na ibibigay sa amin. Dagdag na po ‘yun sa kita namin o pandagdag na rin sa aming kapital. Minsan may mga freebies pa po,” she added.

During the pandemic, she also allowed her trusted and loyal customers to avail of “pautang” or a get-now-pay-later scheme. The store also offered door-to-door delivery of groceries, which their customers could pay for through GCash, Maya, and Cebuana Lhuiller.

Ditching the old-fashioned pen and paper way of doing business

In 2019, she discovered The Pack: SuperStore App, an all-in-one store management app designed by Packworks specifically for sari-sari store entrepreneurs. The app allows easy processing of customer orders, keeping track of transactions, managing store inventory, and even facilitating customer deliveries.

She was open about her difficulties understanding how the application worked in the early months after downloading it. But after practicing vigorously, she now uses the SuperStore app in her everyday business — from managing inventories, to scanning her supplies and products, and even tracking her customers’ spending. She appreciates that the app is free of use, but has just about everything she needs for her business.

“Kapag umaalis ako, pwede kong ma-track ang benta ko sa tindahan gamit ang application. Mamo- monitor ko rin kung ano na ‘yung mga products na need kong i-restock through the inventory,” she added.

The application can also be used like a POS machine, a device that adds up purchases and facilitates payment. Ana Liza said she was able to save since a POS machine costs roughly P20,000 — with the SuperStore app, she needed only to buy a scanner and printer and connect it to her tablet.

She also shared that the app provides significant help in tracking her customers’ orders. She can accommodate them for a refund of damaged goods by checking the transactions through the app, even if the receipts are misplaced.

As the SuperStore app made her life easy, Ana Liza is grateful to Packworks for developing an all-in-one app that is inclusive and accessible to sari-preneurs, who are in danger of being left behind by rapid digitalization.

According to Ana Liza, to succeed in a sari-sari store business, sari-preneurs should have the patience to save and invest in the store’s capital.

She also advises that sari-preneurs like her should not be afraid of trying new things to improve their businesses, like using The Pack: SuperStore app powered by Packworks, whose goal is to shift the millions of sari-sari stores in the Philippines from using pen and paper to using technology for them to monitor their business transactions easily.