Massive job losses and the economic slump due to Covid-19 led this manpower executive to seek a new opportunity for displaced workers. He found it in a new, food-centered delivery app that promotes homemade products and natural talent for whipping up meals “just like mom made it.”
Bright ideas are getting harder to come by in these challenging times, especially those promising a positive impact.
Fortunately, there are entrepreneurs like Jay-ar D. Sta. Ana, 36, who tirelessly try to find innovative ways to improve the lives of others. This he expects to do with Sparkle, a food-centered delivery app designed to provide income for workers displaced by the coronavirus pandemic-induced recession and authentic meals for the new stay-at-home population.
Comfort in food
Prior to the pandemic, Jay-Ar ran a successful recruitment firm, 7-Star Manpower Services of the Philippines, whose clients included major fast-food chains, like Jollibee. Massive retrenchment and company closures in recent months, however, dictated that he find another platform in order to survive in the so-called new normal. Taking a page from logistics companies, which had beefed up their food delivery services, he decided to follow in their footsteps, but focusing on serving up homecooked items and catering to lockdown residents’ craving for comfort food. Think sinigang (sour soup), papaitan (Ilocano delicacy with cow or goat’s innards) and turon (deep fried bananas in spring roll wrappers).
A true-blue Kapampangan with a voracious appetite and keen palate, Jay-Ar understands what people are going through in this difficult time. He, too, has turned to food to cope: “I’m into fresh, organic and natural products. That’s why I find earing homemade products healthier. This is the promise of Sparkle.”
The app, which will soon be available for download from the Apple Store and Google Play, was developed and rolled out in a matter of weeks after his latest company, SparkleStar, was launched in June. It is now being tested and will go live in October.
Jay-Ar grew up in Paniqui town, Tarlac province, with his parents and two sisters, Gizel and Chelly. His rice-trader father Zaldy and homemaker-mother Gloria raised their children as best they could despite tight resources.
Jay-Ar recalls a pivotal moment in third grade when the family’s financial situation began to dawn on him. It happened at the public market, where he and his friends would sometimes hang out. “I noticed that they and their kasambahay [househelpers] would go home with their baskets full of produce. I went home with only one-fourth kilo of meat and P5 worth of monggo beans. Why couldn’t we afford more?” he says.
Arriving home, he immediately asked his mother about the disparity. She responded by saying they were indeed hard up, but once he completed his schooling, he would be able to buy whatever he desired.
“From that moment, I never asked my mother again about our situation,” Jay-Ar says. “But I didn’t feel sad. I just realized that I needed to study hard in order to provide for my parents and two sisters.”
“My childhood [anyway] was filled with so many happy memories. Despite our poverty, my parents were able to teach us to always see the good in things. There is always a lesson in every challenging situation,” he adds.
Urge to serve
Jay-Ar then committed himself to getting an education. “Knowledge is power,” he declares. He maintained his scholar status from grade school to college at Far Eastern University (FEU), where he enrolled in nursing. He was active in several organizations and spearheaded a number of community programs. He graduated as the first summa cum laude of FEU’s Institute of Nursing and became one of the national finalists of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines.
Despite completing a nursing degree, Jay-Ar knew his future lay elsewhere. He says: “I successfully passed all the requirements necessary to practice, and was even ready to join a postgraduate program in New York. However, I felt the need to stay and give back to the country.”
“I don’t regret taking up nursing,” he adds. “It helped me become more systematic and able to predict specific behavioral outcomes.” Training in psychiatric nursing has deepened his understanding of consumer behavior, an essential quality in running an enterprise.
Today, Jay-Ar continues to be involved in the community. He is a member of the Philippine Association of Legitimate Service Contractors and Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and a mentor in Go Negosyo.
In addition to employment and income-generation offered to jobseekers, Jay-Ar has also provided scholarships and interest-free loans to students. “We also opened a Tesda (Technical, Educational and Skills Development Authority) school for our people. Hundreds, we are proud to say, have successfully graduated from this program.”
The leap from manpower and skills enhancement to app development that will promote a novel food service may seem quite a stretch. But Jay-Ar believes these fields are interrelated as they contribute to the betterment of the Filipino.
That being his life’s purpose, for sure, he will keep on searching for that elusive bright idea.
Jesus Christ for being a servant leader; my dad Zaldy for his being maabilidad (resourceful); my mom Gloria for being caring and passionate about helping people; and Bill Gates for his “Be what’s next” philosophy.”
To help each Sparkle merchant progress from homemade to full-scale restaurants. To spur Filipinos to invest in technological breakthroughs and make the Philippines a pioneering technohub.
FIRST PAYING JOB
A nurse in the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Philippine General Hospital
I talk to God through my morning prayers, after which I exercise
I may not be a (fantastic) musician or lyricist, but I think I can create good compositions.
TIME SPENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Two hours or more daily, since I need to study current technological patterns and trends.