PRE-PANDEMIC, life for Karen Alparce-Villanueva was a flurry of activities. While she didn’t have a regular office to go to as she was doing consulting work and devoting a lot of time on patient advocacy, she was hardly home.
Villanueva, who worked in the healthcare sector, was surprised when the new coronavirus disease was not yet being called out by the World Health Organization and the country has yet to close its borders to foreigners.
“I was scheduled to attend the Geneva Health Forum in March as a panel speaker. When they cancelled it, I remember thinking this is going to be big and unprecedented,” she said.
“It was a scary thought, like a movie you once saw and never thought would happen.”
With the onset of the pandemic and community lockdown, Villanueva, who has been absent from her kitchen for the past 30 years, began baking and cooking initially for her family and friends.
Her “The Nutty Baker” business offers savory dishes such as Roast Pork, Roast Beef, Baked Stuffed Chicken, Baked Macaroni, and Salmon-Kani Sushi Bake, as well as sweets like Carrot Cake and Chocolate Cake.
“They are popular because they are comfort food and not your everyday fare,” she related, noting that most of her customers are friends, family, and repeat customers who either celebrate a special occasion or just want to eat well.
“I still have a lot of dishes not on the menu which I offer occasionally upon request like lasagna, bacon truffle pasta, and chicken lollipop,” she added as she eyes to expand her list of dishes.
However, she makes very little profit and does not increase the prices despite the higher costs last December.
Villanueva said as going out was not an option, she found time to digitize her mom’s recipes. In fact, all her offerings are from her mom, aunts and sisters’ recipes.
Her micro-business, which she began last June, is built on social media platforms such as Facebook, Viber, and Instagram to become feasible and viable.
“It can be a time to unleash your creativity into something productive and helpful,” Villanueva said. She also advises having multiple income streams to be better prepared for a crisis, as well as learning to save, invest, and live below the means.
Her husband, Joey, works in the airline industry which was badly affected by the pandemic and he suffered a huge pay cut. “It is good we have set aside funds to augment the reduced income,” said Villanueva, whose consulting business picked up while her baking business helps pay some of the bills.
“I always say that if you know how to sell, you will never go hungry. I even decluttered my things and sold them in our community online platform,” she said, adding that one should not feel ashamed to sell or “rumaket” as there is dignity in hard and honest work.
Villanueva believes in constant innovation, noting that people can learn and relearn skills.
After she retired from her corporate job five years ago, she attended a workshop on “Finding Your Second Wind” which helped her refocus and plan her next steps.
“Health Prx, my healthcare consulting business, and my involvement in patient advocacy were borne out of that workshop,” she pointed out.
“We need to evolve to stay relevant and productive, and think of others and not just ourselves since we are just passing through,” she added.
She also noted how the pandemic has accelerated digital technology and the acceptance of cashless transactions. “I was so pleased to discover, for example, that many of our government agencies have accepted online applications and processes,” she said.
New technologies will be the future. Post-pandemic, Villanueva said things will not likely go back to the way they were.
The trend will also be towards more independent consultants which means companies hire outside expertise to deliver some of the work they need. Hiring will be across borders, Villanueva said, because the pandemic has shown that people can work from anywhere in the world and deliver the output.