FILIPINO GUARDIAN |Deaf advocate entrepreneur Francis Reyes is TOYM finalist | An entrepreneur whose advocacy is to provide equal opportunities and professional growth to the Philippine Deaf Community is one of the 21 finalists in this year’s The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awards.
The TOYM honorees were announced during a gala night in Pasay City hosted by the award organizers Junior Chamber of Commerce (JCI) Philippines and the TOYM Foundation. Unlike previous iterations, the TOYM recognized 21 finalists for this year before disclosing the 10 awardees.
One of the finalists in the business, economics and entrepreneurship category was Francis Carl G. Reyes, founder of the Caravan Food Group Inc. (CFGI), a food and beverage company that aims to introduce new food concepts for the Philippine market as he believes that good is only as good as one’s overall experience.
Caravan Food Group carries three brands: Overdoughs, a homegrown pastry shop that offers the best-selling OD Mini Chonky Cookies and other pastries like Crinkles and donuts, among others; Elait!, which offers artisanal rolled ice cream and the first rolled yogurt; and RAW Natural Juice Bar, an all-natural juice that offers nutritionally designed cold-pressed juices.
Reyes’ advocacy was inspired by his experience when he was young. A deaf person assisted him while he was in a clothing store, and he was amazed by his sincere customer service. From then on, Reyes wanted to incorporate this in his food business.
This deaf-inclusive advocacy is made possible through partnerships with organizations like De La Salle College of San Benilde – School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies and Hand & Heart.
To date, Reyes has employed 30 deaf partners and counting. They comprise more than 50 percent of the overall employee count. He always believed in their capabilities to help the company improve its service, products, and food concepts.
Reyes believes in continually developing his people. Thus CFGI provides skills enhancement and leadership training programs for its employees. Soon he plans to promote his exemplary deaf partners to Team Leaders and Supervisors.
“It was one deaf guy who really showed me the epitome of customer service. I wanted to recreate the experience in this concept so I decided to hire deaf people. I wanted everyone to feel the warmth and realize how capable these deaf people are,” Reyes said.
Health Undersecretary Beverly Lorraine Ho and comics artist Manuel Luis “Manix” Abrera were among the 10 TOYM awardees.
Ho was named TOYM in the health and medicine category along with fellow physicians Ronnie Baticulon, a pediatric neurosurgeon, and Ramon Lorenzo Luis Guinto, a public health advocate.
Abrera was one of the three TOYM honorees for literature, culture, and the arts. Also awarded were Cordillera-based social entrepreneur Victor Mari Baguilat Jr. and Bicol Based writer and filmmaker Kristian Cordero.
Candon City councilor Joanne Ascension Valdez and Sustainability PH founder Shawntel Nicole Nieto received TOYMs for the humanitarian civil society or voluntary leadership category. Physician and medical anthropologist Paul Gideon Lasco and the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, School of Environmental Science and Management Dean Rico Ancog rounded out the honorees for education and the academe.