THOUGHTS of home are never far from the mind of Philippines-born small businesswoman Erica Urquiaga.
The Singleton resident has for the past two years funded a Christmas party in her home region of Sipulan in Zamboanga del Norte for children living in poverty through her online cookie business Baked by Erica.
Next week she will take part in the inaugural Pitch for Good in Perth, a live crowdfunding event, in the hopes of achieving her ultimate goal of building a community cafe in the Philippines, with profits going into education and training of locals.
“Many people leave the region to work, often leaving young children behind, as they feel it is the only way to make a good income and improve the quality of life for their family,” Ms Urquiaga said. “My hope is that we can change the mindset and teach people the skills to improve their day-to-day lives, like sustainable gardening, art or cooking, so they don’t have to uproot to have a good life.
“I have had many wonderful opportunities living in Melbourne and Perth over the past 18 years, including being able to start my own businesses, and I want to use that experience to help people in Simpulan create a future at home.”
The Christmas parties have already proven a success, with up to 200 children and parents enjoying a sit-down lunch and gifts, organised by friends and family of Ms Urquiaga. Gifts include practical items such as gumboots, umbrellas and raincoats for the rainy season ahead, as well as colouring books, crayons and more.
“We wanted it to be a mix of things that are practical and fun,” Ms Urquiaga said.
She launched Baked by Erica just two years ago, baking soft cookies for delivery and sale at markets such as the Perth Makers Market, to rapid acclaim. She was named one of the Top 50 Small Business Leaders in Australia by Inside Small Business magazine, made Kenwood’s Cooks Collective Top 10, won gold for her cookies at the Perth Royal Show and silver at the Araluen Avocado and Chilli Festival.
The Pitch for Good will take place on October 11 at Perth Town Hall, with tickets including three $10 voting chips for the 250 guests to put towards their favourite project, matched by the City of Perth. A 30-day online crowdfunding campaign will then follow, with all projects seeking to reach their target goal.
“It’s not competing against these other worthy projects, it’s working together to create more visibility around each project and reach our goals,” Ms Urquiaga said. “My goal is to raise $10,000, which will make a big difference to the lives of people in need.”