NIR MSME SUCCESS STORIES
Triumphant Chimes Of A Business In Flattened Glass
You can hear the tinkle of glass chimes as the wind passes through. These chimes, once medicine bottles now flattened and strung together, come from the factory of Yssa’s Crafts owned by Precy Perez.
A former Chemical Engineering professor at the University of Negros Occidental-Recolletos and University of St. La Salle, Precy Perez was working with the Department of Science and Technology where exposure to the programs at the department encouraged her to study ceramic-making and to put up her ceramic business with friends. To reach more buyers, she would attend trade fairs to showcase her products.
It was in 2001 when Precy became a member of the Association of Negros Producers as a seller of ceramic products. As an ANP producer, she continued attending trade fairs for exposure. One day, someone approached her with a photograph of a flattened bottle and asked her if she can make some. She readily said, “Yes”. Precy shares a dirty little secret: she had absolutely no idea how to do it.
That daring move to take on the task and learn along the way became the door to a more exciting venture. The encouragement of famous Bacolod interior decorator Gigi Campos is noteworthy in Precy’s transition from ceramic production to glass pressing. In 2012, at the SM Megamall, Precy displayed 20 bottle chimes at a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) trade fair. She was still unpacking her wares when her chimes were bought by one excited buyer who just happened to pass by. Then, as she was just taking out more, someone came along and asked to buy all of them. There was none to spare, of course, and told him that she can bring more “tomorrow”. At that trade fair, Precy sold 40 pieces of chimes because that was all she had.
But as fairy tales go, happiness is just around the corner. From the 40 pieces of chimes, her oven now produces 2,000 pieces a month.
The slumped bottles by Yssa’s Crafts come in various forms for various functions. Large flattened ones make unusual cheeseboards printed with uplifting biblical quotes. Smaller bottles become candle holders, vases, and, of course, the chimes. One may order the standard designs of the producer and also commission for a particular look for the bottles and ceramics. Don’t even think of looking for other suppliers; Yssa’s Crafts is the only one in the country that produces flattened bottles.
Fairy godmothers are a-plenty now and can be found even outside the Philippines. As of the moment, Yssa’s Crafts is filling orders for slumped bottles for the United States, Belgium and Switzerland. Who would have thought that recycled bottles would be the pot of gold after dismal rainy days for Precy Perez? This is what happens when one has great faith in God and believes in miracles. The proprietress availed of DTI services which included product development, trade fairs, skills and managerial trainings. The DTI is also an active partner of ANP in the development and promotion of micro, small and medium enterprises.
Negros Island has always been synonymous with sugar. This isn’t surprising considering that the biggest sugarcane plantations in the country are found in Negros.
For generations now, the economy of Negros has been depended on sugar. The sugar industry, tied to the vagaries of the international market, has been through booms and busts.
But one sugar planter in Negros Oriental manages to keep his head above water by going into niche marketing.
Alejandro Florian Alcantara, Chairman & President of Raw Brown Sugar Milling Co. Inc. (RBSMCI), has been selling “muscovado,” also known as “poor man’s sugar,” to Asian and European markets. His sugar milling company in Barangay Igbalanac, Pamplona has become the third company to penetrate the export market out of 300 muscovado producers in the country today.
Alcantara has always acknowledged the contribution of the government to the success of the company. “Although, we provided our corporate vision of becoming 'One of the World's Top Producers of High and Export Quality Muscovado', it was the government who made this vision possible. As a start-up company in 2010, we did not have the technology and capacity to access the international market as well as enough financial resources to make our vision a reality.”
Shortly after it started operating, RBSMCI participated in the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Manila sponsored by the Center for International Trade, Exposition and Mission (CITEM), an attached agency of the DTI.
Alcantara recalls: “Through the Food Safety experts of Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) and CITEM, we were given the opportunity to showcase our product at the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) in May 2010 in Manila. Before end of the year, CITEM gave us the opportunity to join two more international shows, the ASEAN Japan Center (AJC) Tokyo in October 2010 and at ASEAN Korea Center (AKC), Seoul in November 2010. Since then, every year thereafter, in partnership with CITEM we never fail to participate in all IFEX Manila food exhibitions, other international food shows like Anuga, Sial, Taipei Food, Foodex, Gulf Foods, San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Shows, and food exhibitions.”
Alcantara pointed out that the CITEM partnership gave them the opportunity to export 95% of their production to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, US, Australia, Germany, Russia, and HK while 5% is sold in the local markets, like S&R, Landmark Supermarkets, Gaisano Supermarkets and other local super and hyper markets.
Abroad, Alcantara learned that what most people here considered to be a “poor man’s sugar” was actually a special commodity in developed countries.
Unlike refined sugar, which is subject to fluctuating prices in the world market, the price of muscovado has been stable over the past several years.
Alcantara’s new contacts abroad enabled him to start exporting “organic certified” muscovado immediately after his products first rolled off the factory in February 2010. To date, exports to Japan, Korea, Russia and Taiwan account for 90 percent of RBSMCI’s production, while only 10 percent is distributed locally.
Alcantara says, “We maintain a healthy partnership with the government which continuously paves the way to more successes and our way to achieving our vision. As a matter of fact, we continue to partner with CITEM in marketing effectively our new products.”
Success stories like Alcantara’s may be an exception to the rule in the local sugar industry. But his story captures the effectiveness of DTI organized trade fairs which have already benefitted several SMEs in introducing new products, reaching customers cost effectively and generating sales.