Perla Almaden never forgot her grandmother's peanuts.
As a child growing up in Mindanao, Philippines, she couldn't wait for her grandmother's visits and the delicious home-roasted peanuts she would bring along with her. One day, noticing Perla's love for the nuts, her grandmother decided to teach Perla her secret recipe to roast crispy peanuts without grease. Perla forever held the memory close to her heart.
Decades later in 1987, when she was a young woman, Perla married a worker from the biggest industrial company in Iligan City, the National Steel Corporation. Together they had three children, and Perla's life revolved around taking care of her family and her home.
But around 2000, everything changed.
The National Steel Corporation was shut down, devastating the local economy. The sudden loss drove the city into chaos with conflict erupting and thousands without work, including Perla's husband.
As he looked for full-time employment, Perla began taking cooking jobs to make ends meet. And in the meantime, she made home-roasted peanuts from her grandmother's recipe as an inexpensive way to feed her family.
Word of Perla's amazing peanuts spread. Neighbors who tasted them began encouraging her to sell them, and before she knew it, Perla had begun her own business, selling the special greaseless roasted peanuts that she had loved so much as a child.
And with that, Perla became an entrepreneur.
As she sold her peanuts locally, she caught the attention of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, an organization that works to empower Filipino migrant entrepreneurs. They believed in Perla and her product and gave her the skills training she needed to effectively run and manage a business. They also gave her a loan to help the business grow.
Armed with the loan and new skills, she formally launched Fem-Fem Delicious Crispy Peanuts in 2003, and the company quickly became successful, earning placement on store shelves and in malls in city after city.
Ultimately, the income from Perla's successful business helped her send all three of her children to college.
But that's not all. Her work also empowered her during a dark period in her life: living through domestic violence.
Perla spoke openly to the Global Fund for Women about the experience and the role financial independence played in her survival:
"For me, if a woman is without economic empowerment, it is very difficult for women without any income. ... I experienced [domestic] violence ... [and] my husband had another girl. This really didn’t affect me because I have work and I can send my children [to school] without my husband. Then I realized if women [are] without work or [if they are] not empowered, it is really difficult for women."
Today, 13 years after launching her company, Perla understands the power of her story to help other women.
Her husband now runs the day-to-day operations of the business while she works with Unlad offering financial guidance to other female entrepreneurs, sharing her skills and her story. Her reasoning for that work is simple:
"If a woman have income, she can support her family and herself. It is very important that the woman has income for herself. ... And she can also help other women. For me, I can really help other women through my skills and my experiences. I really enjoy helping other women because I can relate my experience to them. Actual experience is important … because I experienced it not only in theory but personally."
Those experiences became especially valuable in 2012 and 2013 when major typhoons rocked the tiny islands of the Philippines. Perla volunteered to help those displaced by the natural disaster and took particular interest in the female coconut farmers who had lost their livelihoods due to the destruction of the coconut trees. She worked with those women to help them develop the financial management and entrepreneurial skills necessary to get them back on their feet and earn a living.
Perla said that it was in those moments of helping her fellow women that she felt most like a strong woman herself. Her strength comes not from her own success, but in her ability to make others be successful, too.
All around the world, women and girls are regularly denied opportunities to control their own financial stability, security, and well-being.
Injustices like unequal access to education, the inability to open bank accounts and apply for jobs, and unequal pay are just a few of the barriers that hold women back.
But stories like Perla's — of women using the skills and resources they have to take charge of their economic well-being — are a reminder of what can happen when an investment is made in women and their work. Not only can her life be changed, but so can the lives of countless others.
Her story proves that for women, entrepreneurship — like her grandmother's peanut recipe — is the gift that just keeps on giving.