Our impact, their voices

Glass half-full: Social entrepreneur embodies optimism & hope through COVID-19

Susan Zamora Olarte is the co-owner of Vino Arsan Enterprises, a small agribusiness producing local wine in the Philippines. Determined to take her 100% Filipino handcrafted wines and spirits to the next level, Susan is promoting the livelihood of local farmers and pushing the market towards environmental sustainability in the post-pandemic, ‘new normal”.

Article | 31 October 2022
Susan Zamora Olarte, Owner of Vino Arsan Enterprises joined the ILO-Great Women-J.P.Morgan Flip your Biz Peer Programme in 2022.

Internationally Recognized, Locally Produced

Vino Arsan is a small, family-run business started out of Susan and Arturo Olarte’s garage in 2009. The company produces internationally recognized, wines and spirits using fruit indigenous to the Philippines such as bignay, lipote, mango, calamansi, and dragon fruit.

Over the years, Vino Arsan has participated in a variety of international wine competitions through which they have experienced notable success, particularly with their Libug & Malibug Red Wine. In 2016, they won two silver and one bronze medal in Vermont, USA and in 2018 they won the gold medal in San Diego California, USA at the Wine Maker International Competition. Additionally, they also distil spirits and their Lolo Art Marnier Brandy took home the silver medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition in June, 2019.

As a social entrepreneur, Susan works closely with local farmers, giving them seedlings to propagate the berry-bearing trees she needs. The supplier communities see the immense value in growing the trees both as a sustainable source of income and as means to cultivate local produce.

“As part of our advocacy of raising awareness on the unique qualities and health benefits of the Philippines – we make wine. We make 100% Filipino, handcrafted wines and spirits that make each Filipino proud, and that support our local farmers.”
In 2018, Vino Arsan took home the gold medal at the 2018 Wine Maker International Competition in San Diego, California.

Impact of COVID-19

Like many small businesses around the world, the pandemic forced Susan to readjust her business strategy. Manila experienced extensive lock-downs which cancelled all of the expos Vino Arsan planned to participate in, making their wines and liquors virtually invisible to traditional buyers. Additionally, the pandemic also limited the supply of many raw materials and ingredients due to also travel and health restrictions.

Despite this, Susan and her small team pivoted to marketing and selling primarily online and were in the end able to keep the business running. “We were able to manage quite well during COVID-19. People still wanted to drink wine, even if they were just sitting at home!”

Rebuilding Better

Susan was one of the selected female entrepreneurs who participated in the “Flip Your Biz” programme, delivered by GREAT Women in partnership with J.P. Morgan Philippines under the ILO’s Rebuilding Better Project. The programme gave women entrepreneurs access to training, mentoring and peer-networking over the course of four months in 2022. As a participant, Susan joined nine different sessions covering topics such as accounting, budgeting, access to finance, digital marketing and sales. She was highly committed to the programme and in return benefited from new relationships and technical skills. According to Susan, the programme helped her re-establish her purpose, goals and direction as well as gain a more solid understanding of her financial accounting.

“I benefited a lot from being a participant of Flip your Biz. The speakers were highly knowledgeable and experienced. My key learning is to focus on my business, believe in myself, learn from past mistakes, and always keep progressing.“

Business resilience and adaptation were key themes of the Flip Your Biz programme and after participating, Susan feels more confident and equipped to face future challenges. She also thoroughly enjoyed the support network of other women entrepreneurs who she can now look to for advice and knowledge.

Moving forward, Susan is excited about the future of her business. She has a lifelong learning attitude and wants to continue to see her own business and the other wine makers in the Philippines continue to “level up” in order to be recognized internationally.