Remember that time last year, at the height of the pandemic, when our local news was filled with headlines screaming “there is a shortage of PPEs” or “some hospitals have reached full capacity?” That was also the exact moment when I e-met Katinko CEO Melissa Yeung Yap for a story about the rare entrepreneurs who quickly responded to the people’s needs, especially of our healthcare frontliners.
In March 2020, when Melissa found out that their Katinko factory’s “bunny suits” can be an ideal personal protective equipment (PPE), their team started donating their remaining bunny suits to several hospitals at the height of a shortage. The bunny suits are the go-to gear Katinko workers have to wear inside the company’s factory. Each PPE suit is said to be washable, reusable, and made with anti-static material.
Aside from being the CEO of Greenstone Pharmaceutical Inc.—best known for Katinko—Melissa, a Development Studies graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University, is also the founder and executive director of the social enterprise Got Heart Foundation which aims to help indigenous farmers grow organic produce. At the same time, the Got Heart Shop creates opportunities for local farmers to market their products.
My encounter with Melissa has inspired me to reach out to her again this month to know more about her social initiatives and share them with our CHiNOY TV readers. In this exclusive interview, learn more about Earth Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant by Melissa which takes pride in using fresh local produce from indigenous farmers.
What is Earth Kitchen? How did the brand come about?
“Earth Kitchen is a farmer-supportive restaurant that prioritizes the harvest of grassroots communities. It started with the Got Heart Shop—a shop that sells products made by micro-entrepreneurs. Then, as we had more vegetables coming in, our customers recommended that we open a restaurant, so we sent the product to our chef friends and came up with Earth Kitchen.”
Given the current situation, how did Earth kitchen adapt to the times?
“It was really tough during the first lockdown. Then we went on an upward trajectory until the second lockdown. We’re currently trying to recover again. We opened it up to delivery services, small weddings, and tray meal packs for small family events.”
What are you most proud of about Earth Kitchen?
“Our menu is centered on the produce of our local farmers. We strive to provide our customers with delicious and healthy meals. We’re happy to pull off this concept and have it run for eight years now. We’re also delighted to have recently received the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ Essence of Asia Award.”
For you, what’s the most fulfilling part of being a social entrepreneur? What keeps you inspired?
“It’s fulfilling to have been able to carry out our objectives of promoting farmers’ produce, providing jobs, and [that it] is recognized internationally. I work with several teams and keep myself inspired with objectives/purpose that goes beyond myself. I also continually work on the things that make me happy and inspired and delegate stuff I’m not good at to people who can do things better than me.”
To those who look up to you as a social entrepreneur, what piece of advice can you give?
“First, get to know yourself better—what makes you inspired, what gives meaning to your life, and work towards that. Second, always strive to learn and be better. Third, concentrate and focus on your own enterprise instead of comparing yourself with others. Finally, always give thanks and glory to God.”
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