Ilaw Llanza Rosimo started her specialty store, Munting Ligaya, in Baguio City at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a way to earn extra income and keep herself occupied during the long lockdowns became a full-blown business, with both a physical store and online presence. Ilaw did not let the threat of COVID-19 and the difficulty of registering her business deter her from her goals.
“I initially started selling ceramics because I wanted to make some extra money on the side, but I was motivated to sell crystals because I was a passive collector who thought that crystals should be available to anyone who wants to start collecting or those who just appreciated the ‘shiny rocks.’ My first crystal collection started with only three crystals that I posted on my Instagram story because that was all I could afford to source. Now, our collections have gotten a lot bigger, from one small basket at the shop to a whole spread.
“The initial capital I used was from my own pocket and my partner/boyfriend wanted to help me with the business so we now manage Munting Ligaya as a team. The business permits were a little difficult to process due to new requirements. One of the challenges for me in running a small business is having to balance the time between my full-time job and the business. Luckily, I now have help with that.
“I started during the pandemic and I honestly don’t think I’d have Munting Ligaya if I didn’t get stuck in my hometown for the duration of the lockdown. Usually, the location of the shop, Ili-Likha Artists Wateringhole, has a lot of foot traffic from tourists, but due to the travel restrictions, it has been a lot harder to get walk-ins. Luckily, the business also thrives online and the steady flow of tourists in Baguio is helping, with increasing numbers of walk-ins again. I think this is applicable to all the shops at Ili-Likha and Baguio in general.
“I used to make a lot less when I was selling ceramics. They moved a lot slower than the crystals. I actually started selling the crystals while I was in between jobs and it really helped me stay afloat. It also helps that I really, really love what I do and I’m just grateful I found something I love doing. From learning more about the crystals, how they form, their properties and different varieties, to shooting them for the collection and getting them to their homes.
“Currently, the only help I get are from my partner, the other shop owners, and occasionally, my sister. Munting Ligaya’s physical shop is housed in a bigger shop called the Living Room located at Ili-Likha Artists Wateringhole. The Living Room houses four other shops (Champagne and Trinkets, Pinsel, Grow Room, and Highland Plants.co) and we (the shop owners) all take turns in watching the shop during the week. We are only now considering hiring part time staff who will be getting paid per day and will also get commission on a certain number of sales.
“I hope to further scale-up Munting Ligaya with bigger collections, more stocks, and hopefully, one day, a crystal showroom for bigger and more unique pieces. I also hope that one day it will be steady enough for me to put all my focus on, if you know what I mean.
“I have a lot of plans in play but I have to remember to take it one step at a time. As for government assistance needed for small businesses like mine, it would be great if the requirements weren’t so bizarre. For example, one of the requirements is having a parking space which isn’t possible for us small businesses. Another example is taho (sweet silken tofu) vendors needing a fire safety permit. Clearer guidelines from the government would be highly appreciated.”
Interviewed by Mary Kathleen Quiano-Castro. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity. The views and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the interviewee and do not reflect the official policy or position of ASEAN.