Perla's peanut recipe helped support her family. Now her story is helping others.

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.


Image via Jellaluna/Flickr.

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.

Images from the Global Fund for Women, used with permission.

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.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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