Teacher Virginia Fernandez-Tapay (Contributed photo)

MANILA – It was not until lockdowns were imposed last year when Virginia Fernandez-Tapay decided she would be a hands-on mother to her three-year-old son. Prior to the pandemic, she was not as involved with their child’s learning as she had a full-time job.

Despite being a teacher by profession, Tapay, 24, admitted that teaching and parenting are two different activities. But being a teacher, she said, has definitely helped her learn to become a better mother.

“For the past two years hindi ako naging (I wasn’t very) hands-on, pero (but) the pandemic is an opportunity na turuan ang anak ko (for me to be involved in my child’s learning). In a short period of time, marami siyang natutunan. Mas lalo ako na-excite na why not magbenta din ako ng mga materials para sa same age ng anak ko (My son learned a lot. I got excited and thought, why not sell materials for kids the same age as my son)?” she told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.

While assuming a full-time role of educating her son, Tapay came up with the idea to produce and sell personalized learning kits for toddlers and school-age children to spread the word to parents about her own teaching approach.

The learning kit, which costs PHP178 each, contains over a hundred pages of activities necessary to improve children’s fine motor skills, language, memory, and concentration such as letter, number, and word tracing, coloring, connect the dots, naming shapes, colors, body parts, and the like.

Personalized learning kits are motivating parents to be more hands-on in their children's learning. (Contributed photo)

For older kids, the kit could help sharpen their reading (vocabulary and completing sentences) and math skills (additional and subtraction).

Parents can also ask her to have the kits customized to include activities they request.

“Nile-layout ko yung activities, pini-print namin (I lay out the activities and then print them). We make sure kapag may special request depending dun sa gusto ng parents na activities na papagawa ginagawa namin. Maganda siya kasi natututo yung mga bata (that if parents have special requests, we include them. It’s great because it helps kids learn),” she said.

If there’s anything good that came out of the pandemic, Tapay said it’s that she has been more engaged in her child’s early education compared to before lockdown.

Afterall, she said women have always demonstrated that they can thrive in their careers and be mothers at the same time.

Everything personalized

Tapay’s learning kits became hit with parents, but the money she got from them wasn’t enough to sustain her family’s needs. She and her husband Raymart were also planning to save up for a rent-to-own house.

She eventually started selling another personalized items such as alcohol spray bottle keychains with initials or names, kitchen canisters, heat-changing mugs, and calendars with photos and other designs.

Next to her learning kits, alcohol spray bottle keychains are the second best-selling item in her online shop, “Essentials by Miss V.”

These waterproof decals help make sure you never lose your alcohol dispensers ever again. (Contributed photo)

“Pinapakita ko na these things are essentials na talagang hindi lang siya para lang makabenta, pero ito kasi yung kailangan (I want to show people that these things are essential that are not just items I want to sell, but I sell them because they’re necessary),” she said.

True to her goal of offering an array of essential personalized items, Tapay said that she has made it a point to incorporate customers’ requests for specific products as well.

“Nag-a-accommodate kami ng mga product as long as tingin namin kaya namin gawin (We accommodate requests for products as long as we think we can pull it off),” she said.

Inherited enterprising

Being enterprising is a trait she inherited from two important women in her life -- her mother and grandmother -- who both started their own businesses during their younger years.

“Kahit nasa elementary pa lang ako tumutulong na ako sa lola ko sa pagbebenta ng toge. Tapos yung mama ko nagtitinda din siya ng damit. Kaya from the very start talaga yung passion sa pagtitinda nandoon na pero eventually mas nago-grow ka as time passed by (I started helping my grandmother sell mung bean sprouts in my elementary days. Then my mother used to sell clothes. From the very start, my passion for business was always there and eventually grew as time passed by),” she said.

Never mistake salt for sugar ever again. (Contributed photo)

She makes the designs herself while her husband Raymart delivers them to their customers. Before she knew it, they started having resellers.

“Una sa mga kaibigan lang naming binibenta, Eventually may mga naging reseller. Talagang kailangan din ng tao ang sprayer (At first, we sold them to our friends. Eventually, we had resellers. People really need sprayers),” she added.

Just like being a mother and teacher, Tapay said being an entrepreneur is a “continuous process” of improvement.

“Kailangan mo aralin kung anong meron sa business. Naga-a-attend ako ng seminar, nanonood sa YouTube (You need to study about business. I attended seminars, watched YouTube),” she said. (PNA)