In this women's month special, we speak to Maan Sicam, President and Co-founder, Happy Helpers, about her entrepreneurial journey and her thoughts on Gender Equity – the IWD 2023 theme.
NN: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started Happy Helpers.
Maan: I am Maan Sicam, a mother of, 2 boys and 2 girls, ages 5-18 years. I am the Co-founder and President of Happy Helpers. I hold a Master's Degree in Entrepreneurship in Social Enterprise Development. I am also an adjunct professor in the Ateneo Graduate School of Business for the Master's program that I took, and I also teach a Social Entrepreneurship course at Bayan Academy.
I started working in multinational companies after graduating from the University. However, I gave up my career in 2008 when my husband was expatriated to London, UK. We lived there for 4 years and another 2 years in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with our two girls. I became a full-time mom and full-time wife for 6 years living abroad. When we came back to the Philippines in 2014, I was thinking of living the expat life and not have a full-time helper anymore – as it was the norm in the Philippines. 8 years ago, I was looking for a company that can provide me with part-time helpers/cleaners anytime I needed and I couldn’t find one. That’s when I realized maybe I could start a company that does so. I asked my good friend, Joanne Endaya to start Happy Helpers with me as I knew she would be the perfect partner to start this business with.
NN: How do you feel about Gender Equity? How can it be applied to help women entrepreneurs?
Maan: For women entrepreneurs in the Philippines, Gender equity remains to be an issue. Not because there are less opportunities or less chances for women to start a business, but because the bias against women running a business is still there. Women entrepreneurs are not treated as professionally as men because there is a bias that women are – emotional, less skilled, less qualified, or even not committed because of their responsibilities at home.
Gender equity can help society view women entrepreneurs with the same skills, professionalism and determination, in spite of the responsibilities that they have as women, as mothers.
NN: How has Happy Helpers contributed to Gender Equity? What has been the impact?
Maan: Since 2015, Happy Helpers has been giving opportunities not just to women but to mothers who have no opportunity for employment and livelihood. We train these mothers to be professional cleaners and give them the financial reward that can help them in their homes as well. We provide flexible and part-time work that does not compromise their role as mothers.
NN: Your message to all women entrepreneurs for Women's Month. Or What are your hopes for women's empowerment in the year 2023?
Maan: For this year, I hope that there could be more platforms for women to share their inspirational journeys as entrepreneurs. This is so that women could see, that we can be more than mothers, more than wives and that we can make a difference in changing people's lives.