How one mother’s dream is helping many other mothers achieve dreams of their own
WFH. This three-letter acronym has risen to instant global popularity in probably just a span of two months due to the current global crisis brought about by the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. The acronym WFH I am referring to here stands for “work-from-home,” which now seems to be how most of the working population worldwide describes what they do—working remotely or outside their offices, also known as freelancing or doing online work.
Maria Korina “MK” Bertulfo, 26, chief executive officer and founder of FHMoms (Filipina Homebased Moms), had a simple dream, and that was to work from home. Little did she know that achieving her dream would inspire and pave the way for more than 200,000 other Filipinas all over the world to achieve their own.
A blessing in disguise
Three years ago, MK was a young mom working as a business process outsourcing employee. The daily work routine was grueling. “It started with queuing unbelievably long lines to get on a public transport to get to the office, to hours in horrendous traffic, working an eight-hour shift, then the same chaotic commute.”She wanted to be like her mom who worked overseas for two years just to provide for her family, before sadly losing her battle to ovarian cancer. She says, “I envisioned myself as a working mom just like her, but I wanted to make sure I would be able to stay home to take care of my son and my husband while earning money as a work-at-home mom.” She knew she needed to do something, “I dreamed of making the transition to working from home.”
Her husband, Jimver “Jim” Bertulfo, then 30 years old, left the same company in which they were working together to pursue an online job. Months later, MK followed suit and applied for an online job herself. “I came across onlinejobs.ph, one of the biggest and known online home-based job portals,” she recounts. “I tried creating a profile for the first time. After only a few hours, someone had sent me an invite to work.” She and Jimver worked in the same company as email support. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The biggest challenge was the transitioning from being a corporate employee into a full-time work-at-home mom. “It was a combination of emotional, physical, and mental struggles, plus the negative feedback and continuous questions from the society was really not helping out,” recalls MK. “The confusion, the doubt, the worries, the pressure—all of these shook me to the core over and over again.”
Everything happened because she decided to take that leap of faith. “If I did not take that risk of leaving everything behind, especially the job and financial security that came with it, and overcoming all the struggles, to try my luck in the freelancing industry, I would not be the person I am and where I am now.” With guts, and her son as her inspiration, she just kept going.
Today, MK and Jim get to spend as much time as they want with their five-year old son Luke Jeshua. In fact, they get to “bring him to work” every single day. She says, “In just three years of WFH, we were able to travel and buy our dream house. I can say that I’m the happiest mom and wife because I can take care of my family while fulfilling my dreams.”
More to be done
When MK landed her first online job, she simply wanted to share the good news with her friends. “Unable to contain my happiness, I gloriously shared my experience to my mom-friends who, eventually, I had helped land online jobs, too,” she says.
Since she was new in the world of online work, she felt the need to have a support group. She built a small community on Facebook for moms where fellow moms could support one another in treading the WFH path. In 2017, the Facebook community, Filipina Homebased Moms, better known as FHMoms, was born. “The response from Pinay moms was overwhelming. I didn’t expect that there were so many moms like me who had a common dream of having an opportunity to earn while staying at home. That gave me the inspiration to do more to help them achieve their dreams,” says MK.
FHMoms is still a growing community exclusive for Pinay Moms, regardless of age, location, and civil status, whose common dream is to have an opportunity to be financially secure by earning while staying home to spend more time with their families.
MK observed that the common factors among the members were feelings of intimidation and lacking confidence to pursue WFH. And it all stems from their limited knowledge about the industry. “Aside from the livelihood opportunities, they really need a support system and a confidant. They needed to see that being a mom is not their end game—that it is a step to an exciting adventure.”
She took things seriously. “My vision jumped a hundred levels up from just a community simply offering support to a community of empowered women who have valuable contributions to the world. Women who live fulfilling family lives because they are confident and secure no matter what lies ahead,” she says.
The journey hasn’t been a walk in the park. It was hard work for MK as she set herself out on a mission to help these moms—all by herself. “When the demand for advice from real freelance moms increased, that was when the real hard work started,” she recounts. “I had to equip myself with knowledge and skills, and then taught them myself. I did it all online.” Eventually, the demand grew far and wide, MK had to seek the help of other freelancers and experts with different skills in specific fields to provide the members the information and training they needed. What the community was doing received such good feedback that word got around real quick. “The next thing I knew, the community was already in the hundred thousands. I was overwhelmed but really pumped up!” she beams.
Dreams come true
With the current economic crisis, and restrictions on working out of our homes, the group now averages 100-200 new member requests every day. Instead of backing down, MK wants to work harder for the community. She gets inspired whenever she reaches more moms and gets to guide them in their pursuit of excellence. FHMoms provides free webinars and paid online courses about freelancing, parenting, and entrepreneurship. Aside from e-learning, the community also supports its members in having the necessary tools to start WFH, through its computer rent-to-own program, and e-commerce. For members enrolled in the courses, internship and job-matching support are also offered.
“We cannot stop growing and improving,” MK says. “We need to supply the demand for knowledge and skills. And whenever we see our students show off the fruit of their efforts, you will be more and more inspired and driven. We learn about their stories about how they are now earning well enough to help their families. Some have fulfilled their dreams of buying their own houses or moving into their own homes, being able to come home and not needing to work overseas anymore, encouraging even their husbands to WFH.” Jim also has his own community called Pinoy Homebased Dads (PHDads). It caters to Filipino men who want to go into or are already WFH.
Because of one woman’s simple dream for herself, this growing community continues to empower countless women and their families. MK’s drive and determination have truly made a mark, and a number of institutions have taken notice. FHMoms has been invited and featured in countless news programs, publications, podcasts, and international summits. MK and the group have also been noticed and awarded the Community of the Year in Freelancer Fair 2018, AIM-Dado Banatao Incubatee, Innovation for Social Impact and Partnership 2020, and Facebook Accelerator Program Cohort 2020, to name a few. Aside from the support that they give to the members, they are also able to assist local and international companies in terms of talent sourcing, advertising, and market research services. This way, they are also able to help members in getting more opportunities to earn.
More dreams to fulfill
MK is nowhere close to stopping right now. From her own personal dream, she is making thousands of dreams a reality. She has big plans for the FHMoms. “We are planning to focus on the basic foundation of an organization, policies, systems, procedures, and everything needed to keep us running,” she enthuses. Many moms look up to us as having a huge influence in shaping their career paths and lives. We are continuously developing projects and programs to accommodate their needs. We are also putting everything into its rightful place in terms of comprehensive procedures for our programs.” MK wants to grow the community even bigger, so they can reach as many Pinay moms as they can wherever part of the world they are. She hopes they can inspire and empower more women, and that the members they have helped through their initiatives would pay it forward to other women too.
Does she have any more dreams to fulfill? MK has this to say, “Let us change the world, one mom at a time.”
*Angel studied Political Economy but found more satisfaction working in the fashion and advertising industries as a professional fashion stylist since 2000. She took time off from work for a few years to be a stay-at-home-mom to her son Rocco. She is now back pursuing her passion as a Personal Brand and Image Consultant, and as a Certified Self-Confidence Coach. Follow her at Style Angel Manila on Facebook and @style_angelph on IG.