Not just for start-ups: Singapore enterprise accelerator helps maids get tips off the floor again residence

SINGAPORE: Each individual early morning, Ms Armi Sampani wakes up at 6am to feed her 400 laying hens. She then carries h2o in gallon containers from her residence in the Philippines to her rooster farm just before getting breakfast. 

This is a significantly cry from what she envisioned when she wanted to set up an ice product confectionery in her home town of Iloilo City, but then, COVID-19 transpired.

Soon after working in Singapore as a domestic helper for 13 a long time, Ms Sampani returned to Iloilo City in August 2019 and began her ice cream business in March last calendar year – just as the pandemic hit Southeast Asia.

The need for cold desserts evaporated amid the coronavirus outbreak, even as nations commenced lockdowns that shuttered food stuff and beverage outlets, closed borders and limited actions.

She is even now functioning her ice product enterprise, but the pandemic prompted her to concentrate on the poultry farm she set up and offering the eggs.

Ms Sampani is an alumna of AIDHA, an organisation that runs courses, predominantly on money management, for foreign domestic personnel and decrease-money females in Singapore.

The organisation has a organization accelerator programme – a thought linked with start off-ups – and Ms Sampani is among 12 ladies who graduated from it in 2021 as she took lessons practically even immediately after returning to the Philippines.


In the start out-up globe, company accelerators help fledgling corporations get up to velocity by supporting them with assets, money and assistance from mentors. AIDHA aims to do the same, but for domestic helpers who will be returning to their household countries. 

The 6-thirty day period programme incorporates workshops on innovative business enterprise topics, committed mentoring and up to S$2,500 in funding for all those who are all set to begin their organizations – presented they satisfy milestones that are agreed on through the programme.

Just after expending the day running her chicken farm, as perfectly as offering eggs and ice product, Ms Sampani spends the evening logging her bills and income, and analysing how her small business is doing. This is all paperwork that she requirements to submit to AIDHA to secure her funding.

On top rated of this, she does the housework and can take treatment of her aged moms and dads, who are component of the cause why she moved back again home immediately after far more than a ten years in Singapore.

“I have no working day off. It really is from the time I wake up until eventually the time I snooze,” she instructed CNA in a Zoom job interview that was punctuated by the crows of roosters on her farm.

How did an aspiration to offer ice product transform into a chicken farm enterprise? 

Back again then, Ms Sampani essential contemporary eggs of fantastic high quality, but she would often get bad eggs from the industry. The former agricultural big in college then determined to get her own hens for eggs.

As COVID-19 stymied her ice cream enterprise, she began growing the farm and she now plans to maximize the selection of poultry to 1,000.


When asked if her income has improved from her time doing the job in Singapore, she stated: “I’m making much more, mainly because, you know what, I’m happy … in this article I’m my individual boss. 

“It’s truly great as you are surrounded by your household that you are near with.”

When she will get the resources from AIDHA, she will get an industrial ice cream maker that will make it a lot easier to produce the artisanal ice product she has in brain.

She explained to CNA she needs to make ice cream that preferences as very good as Haagen Daz or Ben & Jerry’s but at a fraction of the cost – as the western models are also pricey for her community. And she’s presently bought a brand name title – Armi’s ice product.

Ms Armi Sampani ingesting ice product at the AIDHA campus in Singapore in 2018. (Photo: AIDHA)

Making use of baking expertise that she picked up in Singapore though doing work for an American family members, she is experimenting with community elements together with avocado, mango, coconut, espresso, as perfectly as chocolate from local cacao. She has also been seeking out a new flavour – leche, a Philippine dessert that is designed from condensed milk.

Moreover COVID-19, there are a lot of other troubles – recurrent brownouts (a significant difficulty for a frozen dessert maker), unstable Net link and a deficiency of infrastructure. For case in point, as a substitute of finding her ingredients from just one grocery store or have suppliers supply them, she may well have to go to a number of locations to supply for them herself.

“It’s not quite productive. Mainly because you can do a single point or two or a few matters in a person day (right here). Contrary to in Singapore, you can do 6 points,” she mentioned.

She provides her eggs on a bicycle and carries with her modest orders of ice cream. “Sometimes I have on my bicycle 5 trays on a single side and 5 trays on the other facet, so I carry 10 trays to supply,” she included.


Her mentor in the AIDHA accelerator programme, Mr Paolo Adragna, reported that Ms Sampani has revealed “extreme resilience” by switching from promoting the product she had in brain to offer the raw component instead.

“She had the strategy of, for the time currently being, working with some of the capabilities that she had realized from the small business accelerator and component of the company as she had currently started to develop the vary of products and solutions that she was selling,” he instructed CNA in a different job interview.

“That was an fantastic concept to hold the enterprise afloat … it is really a testomony to her resilience and to her toughness.”

Paolo Adragna mentor at AIDHA

Mr Paolo Adragna, Ms Armi Sampani’s mentor during AIDHA’s small business accelerator programme. (Picture: AIDHA)

Her strengths, stated Mr Adragna, had been her commitment and know-how of the neighborhood market place but the accelerator helped her hone her fiscal and company administration skills.

“At the commencing, she was a little bit wobbly on the balance sheets … so which is a little something we actually labored hard at,” he mentioned.

Mr Adragna, a senior developer at financial software program company Fidessa, also shared with Ms Sampani his encounter and guidelines from when his family members ran a butcher store in Viareggio, Italy.

Coincidentally, his sister now manages an artisanal ice product shop in Italy and it was also effortless for him to grasp the whole ice product-making method when talking about the manufacturing with Ms Sampani, he reported. 

“(My family’s store) was truly pretty very similar to most of the organizations that these women will end up functioning … A great deal of them open possibly modest retailers or smaller farms. I occur from a loved ones of farmers as very well,” he reported.


Eli Nur Fadilah

Ms Eli Nur Fadilah, a graduate of AIDHA. (Image: AIDHA)

Another AIDHA company accelerator graduate, Eli Nur Fadilah, is at present doing work in Singapore as a domestic helper but her business enterprise program is established for when she returns to Indonesia, potentially when her contract ends following 12 months.

She will be part of her spouse and children trade and provide rooster porridge with gizzard satay for breakfast.

Eli, whose mother and brother are hawkers, would like to convey the common taste of her mother’s food items to her local community in Cilacap, in Indonesia’s Central Java.

Eli Nur Fadilah hawker stall

Ms Eli Nur Fadilah’s loved ones runs a hawker stall in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia.

It will necessarily mean waking up in the wee several hours of the early morning to simmer the porridge above a charcoal hearth for 3 to 4 hours, she claimed.

“Being in the food business is always exciting since any time we’re worn out and hungry, we try to eat,” she explained with enthusiasm.

After the programme, she has a much better idea of in which to get funding for tiny firms in Indonesia, she explained. To do that, she first demands a sound small business strategy, which she has currently drawn up.


The mentors at AIDHA quizzed her on all elements of her small business program, Ms Eli said, from pricing and promoting to the place of her foodstuff stall and the competition she will face. This produced her do study and prepare significantly additional for the organization, she reported.

“AIDHA truly allows me to know what to do,” she stated in an job interview carried out in English. “How do I established the selling price, how do I introduce the item … all the things, so that I will have earnings, and lower the risk of failing.”

The fact that other graduates from AIDHA have gone on to start out corporations in their home nations around the world has impressed her, Ms Eli claimed.

“It is wonderful to be impartial and, as a woman, financially impartial,” she included.

She will start tiny, with less than S$500 of capital. But with the organization, laptop and accounting skills she has figured out from the accelerator, she hopes to extend the organization in time.

Like Ms Eli, Ms Sampani also has bigger plans once the pandemic is more than. For the reason that she has been religiously logging her finances, she knows that her ice cream small business has not turned a financial gain, but she carries on to get the job done on advertising and marketing it. 

“I know that I’ve been investing also substantially on ice cream like devote, commit, expend,” she explained. “But I actually want this ice cream to be successful … I want this to be identified in my spot, and then broaden to the metropolis. And I’m genuinely pretty ambitious, I want to be acknowledged in the Philippines.”