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Agriculture and Influencers – Meet Melvene

Helping the rural farming community

Melvene Holly Celeste had a business idea after her travels around the Philippines. “I travelled to a lot of rural communities in the country. And I met many of the farmers and they've shared their struggles and challenges both in the communities and in farming. I realized that many of the things that they planted, with a little processing, could be sold as tea. And tea being one of my passions, I thought of developing a brand that will support the farmers and also support myself.”

Established in October 2018 and with $100 in starting capital, she brought this idea to life with Celestea, a company focused on bringing locally made and affordable tea to Filipinos.

Leveraging social media channels

Months after its inception, Melvene took to social media, specifically Instagram, to bring Celestea to greater heights. “In May 2019, we went online on Facebook and Instagram. And about a month later, we started leaning towards Instagram as the main platform. I would say that the first major milestone of Celestea is in August 2019, when we attracted the attention of a few foodie bloggers – we were offered collaborations. And for many, many weeks, we were sending multiple stories and multiple feeds to these bloggers. We ended 2019 with 3000 followers, and there were really a lot of orders.”

Pushing through the pandemic

Whilst Celestea has been affected by COVID-19, Melvene’s determination to succeed hasn’t been hampered. Celestea has been offered to work with big companies such as Grab, which has featured them on its app several times, and bloggers who help to market SMEs in Metro Manila.

The latest win came from a big female-owned blog, which ran a campaign and wrote an article about Celestea – driving traffic to the website, increasing the number of orders, and subsequently enabling Celestea to continue supporting smallholder farmers.

Three core values that help the business thrive

Ultimately, Melvene believes that three core values have helped her business thrive: sustainable sourcing, customer service and collaboration. Celestea’s farmer partners are equitably remunerated for their produce. Melvene and her team also place a great deal of importance on customer satisfaction, making sure that their customers are happy and satisfied with their service and products. Lastly, collaborations have been an integral part of the business growth story, from the early partnerships with influencers to the commercial relationships with female-led home bakers and gifting studios.

This story was first published on LinkedIn by WOMAG. You can watch her video, part of the “Where are the Women: Stories from Agripreneurs in Southeast Asia” series, here.

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