Operations is the heart of a business. Like a sophisticatedly designed engine, it provides the awesome power a business has. And for Operations, you need a good driver. Thank God that this lady has been at the heart of our business. Minding the store, sweating the small stuff, because Jeannie and I love to go out, and she remains in the office or in the store.
Reena Francisco actually wanted to be a full-time artist. A graphic artist by day, a craftswoman at night. When she was diagnosed with Rapidly Progressive Glomerulo Nephritis (RPGN) some 23 years ago, she had to undergo a kidney transplant after a few months of dialysis. But Reena went through it all with a smile and a steady resolve to use her life for others. She thought of the victims of kidney failure who did not have as much blessings as she has and would even think of how she could help them get a life.
For a few years she went into designing bags and selling them to a buyer who took the bags to Macy’s and Nordstroms back in the day when she was just doing stuff at home. But she liked to learn. She would take lessons in bag design, manufacturing and lately even gluten-free baking. She likes to learn a new skill every year, and has learned even how to make ice cream!
She does all our packaging designs for ECHOstore and also does our Research and Development for our café recipes. Lately, she has been roasting our coffee, too. Her lessons given to our employees? Always seek to learn. If you don’t know the answer, ASK! And do not be afraid to ask. Her lessons to Jeannie and me: Always think things through! She means, “think of operations”, how will your idea work until execution?
She is our grounder. When Jeannie and I allow our minds to travel, she can shoot us down to reality. Which is a good balance. Where we spend, she saves. Where we overdo things, she conserves. She is our gem who we love and sometimes not love too much. Only because she is a realist. And she can burst one’s bubble all too easily. But in a good and realistic way.
ECHOstore, ECHOcafe and ECHOmarket is Reena’s playground. She takes stuff from the market, turns it into a new dish to be served at our café. She approves the stuff to be sold, down to size and variants ,prices and terms, while Jeannie and I work and play outside.
That is our Reena. She is the secret sauce to all our ventures. Today, she still dabbles in art on her Samsung note—she colors and designs on photos, and once in a while still draws and doodles for our next product or a next project. She is an artist with a left brain. She can critique our financial plans and prevail over Finance because she also took Accounting lessons after college. She understands her Math and her Balance Sheet.
Her only frustration? Finding people like her. She gets frustrated in training young people from scratch. But everyone who has trained with her only has the best words working for a boss like Reena. They learn through her reprimands, they learn very hard lessons in her “school of operations”.
But Reena has her soft side, too. Despite her reputation as a strict teacher, her heart softens when she goes out to teach in our communities. She teaches costing, product design and practical product development to many beneficiaries of the ECHOsi Foundation. She also lectures on Sustainable Eating, Restaurant Management and the like.
And this is the part of our work that she loves best. To be able to share what she knows with the underprivileged. She has been to Sulu and Benguet, Coron and Camiguin, to name a few places where we “work” on social enterprises, cooperatives and underserved communities.
But Reena gets her inspiration not only from helping others but also from watching others. She loves to travel to new places and eat their food, drink their wine and imbibe their culture. There were months she was totally Korean, and a few months she was Catalunian after enjoying Barcelona. She even watches telenovelas of Korean culture or even Chinese and Indian soaps. She is one who can cry watching a silent movie (no subtitles).
That’s our Reena. We only hope she still finds the patience to create more students and more protégés who can make this world a better place to be in. Watch her at work in our newest store ECHOstore in Salcedo Village, Makati City which opens July 25.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall and Davao City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org