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Overcoming adversity, embracing innovation: Filipino entrepreneur “flips” her businesses

ILO’s Flip Your Biz programme taught Cathy Turvill to look beyond her passion and evaluate the financial viability of her business, which she nearly lost during the pandemic.

Feature | 01 March 2023

Cathy Turvill is a woman entrepreneur in the Philippines, who decided to embark on an entrepreneurial journey 21 years ago after a challenging phase in her personal life.

Wanting to be surrounded by nature for peace and prayer, but also needing to generate an income, Ms Turvill decided to start her own business in the health and wellness industry - Nature Wellness Village. Based in Barangay Maitim, Amadeo, Cavite, what began as an 1800 sqm spa with four employees has, over time, grown into a thriving enterprise occupying more than one hectare, and encompassing two additional businesses. Before COVID-19 the business had 130 staff members. While the pandemic forced Ms Turvill to lay-off many of her staff, they are now back at about 60 employees and growing.

Healthier, Happier, Better

Ms Turvill describes her business as a passion project embracing the values of ‘Proudly Filipino’,’ Health & Wellness’, ‘Inclusive Growth’, and ‘Sustainability’. Over the past 21 years Ms Turvill has expanded her business vision beyond just a spa and into a greater range of holistic wellness activities. Today guests visiting the Nature Wellness Village will enter an expansive garden and choose a specific eco-therapy package, which includes meals, massages, activities, spa treatments and more.

Nurture Wellness Village is a recipient of Trip Advisor's 2019 Travelers Choice and Certificates of Excellence Awards and was a nominee for the World Spa Award. Nurture Wellness uses Filipino traditional massage called “hilot.”

Enduring Natural Disasters & a Global Pandemic

2020 was particularly tough for the Nature Wellness Village, starting with the eruption of Taal Volcano in late January, which forced a two-week closure. Right after that the pandemic struck, and she had to shut down her services completely. Ms Turvill recalls: “Income dropped almost 100 per cent, and there were still loans to pay and food to put on the table. Pre-pandemic everything was looking very positive with projected growth, until one day it all seemed to be lost.”

“I felt terrified, anxious, depressed, and so worried. We actually thought we were going to close the business,” said Ms Turvill. “The worst aspect was having to let go of staff, many of whom were deeply involved in the business and had been there for years. The pandemic was earth-shaking, we had to put up a brave front. Everyone was looking to us.”

Building Back Better

Cathy Turvill, CEO of Nature Wellness Village, joined the ILO-Great Women Flip your Biz Peer Programme in January 2022. The Flip your Biz Peer Programme is part of the ILO Rebuilding Better Programme, with the support of J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation. ”
Fast forward to 2021 when Ms Turvill was invited by a friend to attend the “Flip Your Biz” programme, delivered by GREAT Women in partnership with J.P. Morgan Philippines under the ILO’s Rebuilding Better Project.

Ms Turvill says that from the start of the programme, “I really felt like I was a part of a community of business owners… I realized I was not alone and that there is hope.” She was able to expand her technical knowledge of finance, digital marketing and resilience strategies, while also building a network of supportive, like-minded women across the country.

“Women are forever juggling different roles. We understand what it is like to have to balance family commitments, preparing meals and running a business all at the same time. It was great to be in the company of women who were in the same boat,” said Ms Turvill.

When asked about her favourite part of the training, Ms Turvill said: “All of it!” However, she highlighted two aspects: the emphasis placed on business viability, and the mentorship she received regarding her finances. There was an early session she attended that focused on the importance of mindset and perspective as an entrepreneur. Participants were encouraged to look beyond their passions and evaluate whether their operations were financially viable, which Ms Turvill felt was very practical given her deep commitment to her mission. Secondly, she found the emphasis on finance, led by mentors from J.P. Morgan, was incredibly helpful. Ms Turvill recalled sitting down with the mentors, who walked her through her financial statements, and feeling like she could really understand them for the first time. Ms Turvill said: “It was perfect timing because I was about to present to investors!” Her only wish is that she could have participated in this programme earlier and saved herself many past mistakes.

Overall, Ms Turvill appreciated the emphasis that was placed on innovation and technology. She was inspired to embrace the post-COVID ‘new normal’ and think outside of the box. The session on mental health also played a big role in shifting her mindset. She learned some simple coping techniques that she believes will support her in focusing on her business goals and help her develop the fortitude necessary to face future entrepreneurial challenges.

Looking Forward with Hope

Along with 30 other women entrepreneurs, Ms Turvill participates in online technical learning sessions and peer sessions on finance, marketing, business communication, and strategic networking for women entrepreneurs.
After attending the Flip Your Biz programme, Ms Turvill has worked to develop a new strategy for her business with a broader approach to wellness. To diversify income streams, she has switched her focus from the wellness centre to expanding her food branch, Nature Farmacy. This part of the business sells healthier products such as juices, vegetable chips and organic produce. The expansion has required her to build the capacity of her current team, who now work for both sides of the business. She has also expanded the team’s age diversity, and is actively learning from younger employees about the power of digital marketing and social media.

“We love our team. They are almost like family. It is very important to see them develop dignity and self-esteem because they have a proper job. When you help a woman, you help the family, the community and society,” said Ms Turvill.

Ms Turvill is now cultivating more land and choosing what food to grow based on market demand. She has also won some new contracts with hotels in the area. Excited to embrace challenges and opportunities, and armed with new tools from the Flip Your Biz programme, she is optimistic about the future.