The Sweet Taste of Success
Dr. Viel Popera Jose of Vjandep Pastel
Improvisation and innovation are important elements in entrepreneurship, which Dr. Viel Popera Jose knows so well.
Dr. Jose, the operations manager and second-generation owner of Vjandep Pastel, helped his parents start their company from its humble beginnings into what it is now in the island province of Camiguin.
Vjandep Pastel (pronounced with a silent J) is the acronym of his parents’ name: retired Lt. Col. Virgilio Jose and Eleanor Popera.
Now on its 27th year, Vjandep has been reaping recognitions and awards, and getting featured on national television and publications.
A traditional idea
Dr. Jose, the eldest of three children, related how his parents started their business.
“My dad was just a military officer with a meager income, a government employee,” Dr. Jose said.
“This was the dilemma of my parents, because if they wanted to fulfill our dreams, finances would be the biggest hurdle,” he added.
After several business failures, his mother Eleanor decided to set up a business making pastel, a traditional pastry famous in Camiguin composed of homemade buns with sweet custard fillings.
She usually baked this for family and friends during Christmas. But on January 8, 1990, she decided to buy ingredients using her husband’s remaining Christmas bonus, make the specialty pastel, and sell them across the island on foot.
The seed of ingenuity
This business soon grew due to his mother’s hard work. However, the family had to improvise and innovate a lot to sustain production due to the lack of capital.
For example, Dr. Jose related how he had to prepare and clean up the equipment. These included the molders made from the recycled tin cans of evaporated milk, and pastry brush from sanitized disposable rooster feathers for daubing the buns with butter that they got from a grandparent, who was the treasurer of a cockpit.
They also used coco husk for fuel, a winnower for transport, and makeshift drums for an oven.
Three years later, they were able to upgrade equipment through a loan from the Spanish Assistance for Integrated Livelihood (SAIL) in Camiguin in 1993.
Help from DTI
The Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Tulong sa Tao Loan further bolstered Vjandep’s production capacity. This was not the only time DTI helped Dr. Jose’s family.
The family received a bigger loan in 2009 to modernize their operations, amounting to P20 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), as part of DTI’s One-Town One-Product (OTOP) program.
“We started growing up with the DTI,” Eleanor said. DTI helped the family in making the business gain access to the appropriate credit facilities of lending institutions, the knowledge and competencies from seminars and training programs, and the market linkages from exhibits.
“From the start, DTI helped us on the marketing side—even up to now, including the nominations for awards, and the recognitions,” she said.
With a capitalization of over P50 million and receiving a whole host of awards like DTI Gawad Entrepreneur, Vjandep is now ranked among the country’s major players in the processed food industry.
AGUSAN DEL SUR
Creating a Livelihood from Coconut Coir
Maximo Robles Jr. of Kaagap Development Multipurpose Cooperative
For Maximo Robles Jr., general-manager of the Kaagap Development Multipurpose Cooperative (KaagapMuCo), there is livelihood to be derived from coconuts—but not from the usual copra.
Based in Hubang, San Francisco town in Agusan del Sur, this cooperative has found ways to earn by maximizing the coconut tree: coco vinegar, virgin oil, syrup, flour, charcoal briquettes, organic fertilizers, and coir woven into ground nets or geonets.
The last one is important as coconut husks—which are usually thrown away—can be used as geonets to stop soil erosion. The product has paved the way for the cooperative to acquire clients that range from mining firms in Surigao del Norte and Sur to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and tourism resorts.
An idea from coconut waste
From only 10 members about a decade ago, KaagapMuCo’s membership has increased to 678, with each making P200.00 a day thanks to these geonets. This totals to P4.06 million in aggregate monthly income, excluding those from other products.
The cooperative can produce up to 1,000 rolls of geonets, each measuring 50 meters long, a meter wide, and about 30 kilos in weight a month, and these nets can be used in ground rehabilitation and greening. Because of the material used, Robles said coir can also be used to fertilize the soil as it decomposes.
“Malaki talaga ang naitutulong ng pag-gawa ng geonets, pati na din ng iba pa naming (coconut-derived food and agro-industrial) products dito sa community namin,” Robles said
“Nakakatuwang isipin kasi na madami kaming natutulungang magkaroon ng marangal na trabaho na talagang maipagmamalaki nila. Partner in poverty alleviation talaga,” he added.
Giving various assistance
The cooperative’s production of the geonet became a huge success with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in getting KaagapMuCo various grants.
Likewise, the DTI provided the cooperative with a Shared Service Facility (SSF), a program that includes the provision of production equipment and machinery to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) under a shared use scheme.
The local DTI office also provided makeshift twiners made of bicycle rims to boost their production capacity.
But the cooperative is not limited to producing geonets. Robles said: “Yung iba ginagawang fish nets. Yung iba naman sa high-end decoration and upholstery ginagamit.”
Facing emerging competition
Due to the vast market potential for geonets, the cooperative faces a lot of competitors, including a Japanese version made of biodegradable plastic material that makes the product cost 20 percent less.
However, to the cooperative’s advantage, its products are made of fibers from the coconut husks, which make geonets more environmentally beneficial and sustainable than those of the Japanese.
Moreover, the cooperative is confident that it can overcome its competitors’ price advantage through cost-efficient production technologies without affecting margins.
For the latter, they are relying on the help of DTI in facilitating assistance from other government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its Technology Resource Center (TRC).
“Dito tulong-tulong kami. Walang malaki, walang maliit. Lahat masipag. Lahat sabay-sabay aasenso,” Robles said.