REGION 3 MSME SUCCESS STORIES
FLOFA ORGANIC: Harmonizing with Mother Nature and the Global Market
A long muddy road in Anon, Floridablanca, Pampanga led to the small barn where two Aeta farmers were staying. They were busy shovelling the organic fertilizer they were preparing just as the rain was about to come.
Maria Concepcion “Maricon” Arcega is the owner of the farm where the Aeta farmers stay. “Kaku no meragul at miasawa den,” (These farmers have grown and had their family here) she quips, citing the length of time and the extent of trust and care she places on the ingenuity and industry of indigenous people in farming. Maricon initially hired the Aeta couple as helpers since they were young up to the time they decided to have their own family.
While the world has made many advancements and innovations, Maricon still bears his father’s belief that for the world to care, we have to take care of it, naturally. Despite finishing a college degree in Psychology from the Far Eastern University, she chose to take care of her inheritance, a wide swath of productive farmland in Floridablanca. Her husband is an engineer, and initially helped her with what she does not call her livelihood but her advocacy – organic farming.
Maricon believes that people nowadays have too much fancy on fastfood chains and instant foods in the market - ready to order, ready to eat, and ready to put health at risk with preservatives.
Florida-Lubao Organic Farmers Association, known as FLOFA, is the advocacy group headed by Maricon. It is based in Floridablanca, Pampanga and was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October, 2012. The group has 92 members, some of whom are professionals, retirees who are now organic farmers and almost half are less fortunate indigenous people. FLOFA’s vision is to harmonize with Mother Nature and the Global Market. It aims to advocate living healthy and green, spreading the benefits of organic farming, uplifting the livelihood of farmers, uniting and sustaining the organic community locally and increasing the production of organic products in the market locally and globally.
FLOFA grow different commodities like sweet potato, raddish, peanuts, cassava, vegetables like pepper, squash, legumes, beans, cereals and organic rice. FLOFA also raise livestock – organic eggs and free range chicken, goats, sheep, rabbits and cows.
Maricon Arcega, head of FLOFA, talks with prospective clients at the FLOFA stall in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.
The association did not literally grow out of the organic soil where its products live. It grew with its members’ initiative, industry and persistence in asking for assistance from different agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, University of the Philippines Institute of Small Scale Industries, Japan Agriculture Exchange Council, Promoting Green Economic Development of GIZ Germany among others. It is also a beneficiary cooperator of DTI’S Shared Service Facility Project under the Organic Fertilizer Production.
Slowly but surely FLOFA is gaining recognition, market and audience not only in their locality but also in other areas. In 2012, during their first stint as exhibitor in the Likha ng Central Luzon, one of their booths was recognized as Best Design in the Food Sector. Later, they were also able to showcase their organic food products at Manila Pavilion. The association also supply their products to TARDO Filipinas Inc., a store based in Singapore. The latest foothold for the organization was establishing in January 2016 a stall at Salilungan, the Pasalubong Center of the Province of Pampanga, gaining at least Php 60, 000 in sales per week.
Recently, FLOFA was also awarded as the BEST Provincial SSF Cooperator in the province of Pampanga during the DTI – SSF Cooperators’ Summit held in Subic Freeport on May 4, 2016.
Looking back at how FLOFA has benefitted her fellow farmers especially her Aeta couple, Maricon insists that working with them was indeed like bringing herself in harmony with mother nature.
MPS Woodcraft used to be one of the subcontractors of a large exporter of furniture based in the Philippines during the 1990s. The enterprise is owned by Rufino Santos. The creative designs and sophisticated woodworks of MPS thrived in many countries abroad until it reached market saturation and gradually lost hold of its previous markets.
By the time its mother company – an exporting company - experienced financial difficulties, MPS eventually stopped its operation in 2006. MPS Woodcraft was reliant on its mother company, and was heavily affected by the said misfortune. After the loss, what was left were just a few savings, knowledge, skills and years of experience in furniture making.
Rufino Santos and the members of his family opted to rebuild their own furniture making company. Working hand in hand to raise enough capital to fund a new business venture, they were able to raise One Million Pesos (1,000,000.00). From MPS Woodcraft they established “Kahoy-an Furniture” which was later on registered as a corporation named “RF Santos Group of Companies” in 2007. However, since “Kahoy-an Furniture” already created a well-known name in wooden furniture and furnishings, they decided to keep it as their brand/trade name.
Kahoy-an Furniture is one of the advocates of environmental conservation. Their products are made up of reclaimed hard wood from old houses in the Philippines. These woods are renewed and perfected to bring comfort and satisfaction to clients.
After a few years, Rufino Santos gradually turned over the management of their business to his son, Ryan Santos as the General Manager, and his daughter Rosette, a registered nurse by profession, as Sales and Marketing Manager. His two other children assist in creating designs and layout, while the another child decided to study medicine.
1st photo: Ryan Santos (1leftmost. 2nd photo: Roselle Santos (leftmost) with the Officers of GHD Bulacan during the Negosyo Konsyumer ATBP IPO Seminar last July 21, 2016.
The company brand “Kahoy-an Furniture” built its first store outlet alongside the Caltex Mega station at the Norht Luzon Expressway in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. The company sought DTI Bulacan’s assistance, and since then, the Kahoy-an management and staff have attended various seminars and training programs to help them grow their business and increase their productivity.
Their participation in the Likha ng Central Luzon trade fair in 2007 was a one of the significant breakthroughs for Kahoy-an according to Rosette, Marketing Manager of Kahoy-an. The company was able to widen its network and was given the chance to display their products for one month, free-of-charge, in a prestigious mall like Rustan’s after thorough negotiations in 2009. This negotiatons were made possible with the intervention of DTI-Bulacan.
Kahoy-an continued to participate in DTI-trade fairs such as Sikat Pinoy, GTH Bazaar, regional and local fairs, among others. The perseverance and hard work of the people behind Kahoy-an paid off after its first shipment abroad of furniture export in 2012. It has since then sustained demand from Japan, Europe and Asian countries until today. On June 18 to19, 2016, Kahoy-an generated Y707,788.00 sales from their participation to Philippine Festival trade fair in Tokyo Japan, where they also got booked orders from Japanese buyers.
The company is now strengthening its efforts to expand its export by creating a wider network through trade fairs like Manila Fame, where it was chosen as one of the exhibitors to showcase its sophisticated woodworks in the One Town One Product (OTOP) Pavilion last March and October 2016 Manila Fame Edition.
In spite of the growing export market, Kahoy-an still believes that there is also a great opportunity in the local setting. Kahoy-an is looking forward to establish local outlets in prominent cities and municipalities in the country.
Kahoy-an had increased its number of workers to twenty five (25) and had graduated its asset size classification from Micro to Small. The products of Kahoy-an has even reached South Korea, United States, and the United Kingdom.
With all these successes, Rufino Santos and his family still believe in living a purposeful life with God, The family is helping a church foundation whose mission is the feeding of street children and sending them to school. Kahoy-an’s story is a great example of being proactive, persistent and opportunity-seeking - must-haves for every entrepreneurs to become successful.
E.M. Collado Furniture: Opening the Doors for Greater Opportunities
Emidio M. Collado has been in the furniture industry since February 2007. Operating in underground economy before, he finally formally registered his business with the Department of Trade and Industry – Nueva Ecija through the Negosyo Center – Cabiao only on June 21, 2016 and with Business Permit and Licensing Office of Cabiao.
Fortunately, he became a participant in the Design Mission held last May 12, 2016 at the Negosyo Center – Cabiao, an event organized by the Office of Senator Bam Aquino. His attendance in the activity taught him many techniques in creating designs. From then on, he became an active participant in the activities of the Negosyo Center, such as the Seminar on Entrepreneurship and Briefing on the Go Negosyo Act and the Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise Act of 2002 on June 14, 2016.
His business was by then registered as a BMBE under Certificate of Authority which was released by the DTI-Nueva Ecija on July 26, 2016. After this, he was able to secure a business TIN, and is currently one of the responsible taxpayers of the BIR.
After complying with the formal requirements in operating a business, Mr. Collado took bold steps in mark the existence of his business in the province. He now established a display area in front of his residence to further promote his business. He did this because prior to his business registration, his works were confined at the family’s activity hall and are exclusively seen by only a few people.
On September 20, 2016, after a series of consultation with the Negosyo Center - Cabiao, a flyer was designed for him by one of the Business Counselors. The flyers are now being distributed by the Negosyo Centers of Cabanatuan City, Cabiao and Gapan City. To draw more interest, the flyer was uploaded in the FB account of Negosyo Center – Cabiao.
According to Mr. Collado, he was able to generate a significant increase on his sales since the interventions were made by the Negosyo Center. He is grateful for all the assistance extended by the Negosyo Center and is looking forward to participating in its upcoming projects and activities.
Celine Nail Salon and Spa: Is it worth taking the risk?
Jocelyn O. Gracilla has been an employee all her life until she decided to take the risk of establishing her own business, after participating in a Seminar on Entrepreneurship and BMBE Orientation conducted by the Negosyo Center - Cabiao on June 14, 2016.
Subsequently, she registered with the Department of Trade and Industry through the Negosyo Center - Cabiao, and the Business Permit and Licensing Office of Cabiao. Her new business was registered under the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise category under BMBE Certificate of Authority issued by the DTI – Nueva Ecija on June 21, 2016.
On July 25, 2016, a business proposal was drafted after careful planning and counselling made with the Negosyo Center. With this, Ms. Gracilla was able to secure a financial assistance from a friend.
The capital she secured was used to rent a more spacious location for the business. Currently, she is able to cater more clients and realize more profits.
Jocelyn constantly engages the services of the Negosyo Center – Cabiao as part of organizational strengthening.
Samahan ng mga Nananalig sa Pag-Angat ng Kabuhayan
On July 7, 2016, the group Samahan Ng Mga Nananalig Sa Pag-angat Ng Kabuhayan (SNAK) was organized right after a training on Peanut Butter making was conducted for members of the United Methodist Church coming from five (5) barangays of Moncada, Tarlac. Guided by the business counsellors from DTI, Leandro Juan dela Cruz and Marlon Apostol, the participants sat down to organize themselves into an association and started collecting membership fees. They planned to register their group with the Department of Labor and Employment under the Rural Workers Association (RWA) Program for lesser expenses and speedy registration. DOLE only charge P85 for the registration fee.
To further support the group in starting their business, they were invited to attend a seminar on Enterprise Development, which was held on the following day. Thereafter, the business counselors assisted the group further and were able to register them with the DOLE in a week’s time.
SNAK members again visited the Negosyo Center to seek assistance on labelling and packaging. Business Counselor Leandro Juan dela Cruz, who is also a designer, prepared the designs for their labels and scouted for a supplier of bottles to be used. After this, the business counselors coordinated with the Provincial Cooperative and Economic Development Office (PCEDO) of the Provincial Government of Tarlac for free printing of the initial production of their labels. PCEDO granted P5,000 worth of labels.
With the P100 each collected from the 15 members of the association and P5,000 invested by the president of the group, Gary Maghilom, they were able to start the business. Jocelyn Bautista, one of the member of the Board of Directors is in charge of the production and Rev. Antonio Pacheco serves as Marketing Officer of the association. They introduced and marketed their products within a cluster of 38 local churches of the United Methodist Church located in the municipalities of Moncada, Paniqui and Gerona. Currently, the group is able to sell around 200 bottles per month at P120 per bottle.
CGN Food Product
Ms. Nora Cuaresma used to simply be a member of the Amucao Women’s Association (AWA) which operates/uses the Shared Service Facility on Smoked Fish Processing of the Amucao Seed Growers Agro Industrial Coop. However, seeing the potential of the project, she registered her business, the CGN Food Product, with DTI. And after applying what she learned from the various seminars she attended, Ms. Cuaresma became more active in promoting her smoked fish products in various trade fairs. This resulted to an increase of 10% in her sales. Ms. Cuaresma, together with members of the AWA, are now conducting a series of trainings on fish deboning and smoked fish processing for those who are interested to learn the business. And gauging from the very satisfactory rating given by the participants, our mentee has now become an effective mentor.
Nora Cuaresma used to simply be a member of the Amucao Women’s Association, a local association in Tarlac City which operates the Shared Service Facility on Smoked Fish Processing of the Amucao Seed Growers Agro-Industrial Cooperative. She nevertheless saw the potential of the project, so she registered her business with the Department of Trade and Industry, under the name CGN Food Product.
After her business name registration, she increased her learnings from the different seminars she attended with DTI. Nora now became more active in promoting her smoked fish products in trade fairs. This resulted to a 10% increase in her sales.
Nora, together with members of the AWA, are now conducting a series of trainings on Fish Deboning and Smoked Fish Processing, especially for those interested to learn this type of business. Gauging from the Very Satisfactory rating given by the training participants, Nora Cuaresma has now become an effective mentor.
Unexpected Healing Turned Into a Blessing
Imilda Ocampo, popularly known as “Ate Mel” to her friends, is a local of Lambac Guagua Pampanga. At present, she is one of the successful and competitive entrepreneur of DTI- Pampanga.
Ate Mel’s victory started with humble beginnings. According to her, engaging in a business is not part of her initial plan. She was actually an Overseas Filipino Worker for several years. After her stint abroad, she opted to go back to the Philippines and saty with her family. According to Ate Mel, her journey to entrepreneurship started when one of her children got sick due to tonsillitis accompanied with high fever.
After a few days of taking medicines prescribed by the doctor, there was still no significant improvement in her child’s condition. Until she was advised by the doctor to buy ginger tea as part of her child’s medication.
On her way home from the doctor, Mel remembered her father’s ways of making ginger tea. With just two hundred pesos (Php 200.00) on hand, she immediately bought one (1) kilogram of ginger and sugar from the nearest public market. With her eagerness to make her child feel better, she asked her child to drink a cup of the ginger tea she personally prepared.
To her surprise, her child felt better after drinking the tea for a couple of days. After realizing its health benefit, Mel Ocampo kept the remaining powdered ginger. During one of her friends’ visit, she offered them ginger tea. One of her friends asked Ms. Mel if she is selling the tea. From then on, Ate Mel started accepting orders for ginger tea. The P200.00 initial capital prospered.
One day, a staff from DTI Pampanga met her during their conduct of SMERA (SME Roving Academy) at Lambac Guagua, Pampanga. She was then advised to register her business to avail of all the possible assistance government agencies could provide. With her hard work and dedication, she was able to come up with her own product packaging and label with the assistance of DTI and DOST.
She then started joining local trade fairs. Her first exposure was at Walter Mart Mall Weekend Bazaar. From there, she gained regular customers who increased significantly in the succeeding months.
LGP Food Products’ path to success was never easy. Like any business, it was not eady. According to Ate Mel, there were instances when she was not hitting her target sales. She never stopped from developing her products and she was not discouraged in joining trade fairs, especially those organized by DTI-Pampanga.
Even from the start, Ate Mel has been, producing ginger tea manually. She was very hands-on from the purchase of carefully selected quality raw materials, down to the tedious extraction and cooking of ginger extract to eventually turn it into powder. She worked on every process with all her efforts.
Now, due to increasing demands, she has engaged with her own supplier of raw materials. Her loan application for business expansion with DOST was approved. Lambac MPCI, where she is a member, was also provided with a machine and stainless table from DTI through its “Shared Service Facility Project” or SSF.
With the provision of the facility, her production increased from 20kg per month to 400 kg per month and her employees increased from two (2) to four (4). Her starting capital of Php 200.00 has reached Php 650,000.00. Sales has tremendously increased as the volume of orders is continuously coming.
Recently, she launched her new variants of tea. These are ginger tea with lemongrass, unsweetened turmeric tea, turmeric powder with lemongrass and lastly, malunggay powder. The introduction of the new variants is part of her expansion strategy to penetrate another market segment, in order to fit with the preferences of her current and potential customers.
To date, she is one of the active members of PAMSE (Pampanga Association of Micro and Small Enterprises) and a consistent top grosser in both local and national trade fairs. She also has a permanent stall at Waltermart together with some of the members of PAMSE. Another outlet is the Salilungan Pasalubong Center of the Provincial Government located in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Moreover, she is one of DTI’s top attendees in trainings and seminars under the Small and Medium Enterprises Roving Academy (SMERA).
Ate Mel is an epitome of a great businesswoman, an individual whom in spite of her success, never stopped from seeking opportunities and continuously improving her entrepreneurial skills. No doubt, her success is the fruit of her persistence, dedication and love for business and her child.
Alshe's Bayong and Native Craft: A Promising SME in Nueva Ecija
Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft registered its Business Name with the Department of Trade and Industry on February 19, 2013. The business is owned by Shiela Costales and is located at Villa Rosenda, Talugtug, Nueva Ecija. Alshe’s Bayong and Native Crafts produces bags, toys, trays, lampshade and placemat using Cogon and Buli as materials. Sheila and her husband used work with Lina’s Cogon Native Craft, her mother-in-law’s business. Lina’s Cogon is a family enterprise that has been operating since 2004. The estimated amount of income generated by the family business from 2004 to 2013 is P212, 000.00.
Realizing the limited capacity of the old family business, Shiela and her husband finally decided to take over the management of the family enterprise and went on to set up a new business entity. They secured business permits and licenses such as the BIR and Mayor’s permit. Despite the limited capital of the business, persistence and the proactive thinking of Ms. Costales drove her to pursue and continue the business, thus Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft was born. The DTI then saw an opportunity to assist the SME. From then on, several interventions were done - from the conduct of trainings and seminars, facilitation of market matching and financing linkages, invitation to participate to trade fairs and provision of consultancy services.
Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft generated incomes of P 40,000.00 and P 84,000.00 in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Nine members of the family worked in the business and were paid on a per piece basis. Salaries were paid after every sale. At the start, only around 150 pieces of native crafts are produced. Production increased in 2016, and starting September, 1,000 pieces of assorted native crafts are produced on a monthly basis.
Seeing its growth, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) - Nueva Ecija Provincial Office intensified its support to Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft. In February 2016, Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft was enrolled in the Gender Responsive Economic Action for the Transformation of Women Project 2 (GGRVCA). Ms. Costales participated further in the different capability building activities of DTI such as trainings and seminars on entrepreneurship and productivity. This helped her develop her managerial and marketing skills. The DTI supported the enterprise, both in the social and in the technical aspects of the business, by inspiring the entrepreneur to have a clear vision for her company. This drove her to work harder. In September 22, 2016, she was also able to avail of a loan from the Small Business Corporation for additional capital amounting to P200.000.00 with the help of the DTI.
The year 2016 was a great opportunity for the business as Ms. Costales was able to participate in Likha ng Central Luzon and the National Trade Fairs. Through the fairs, she was able to establish market linkages with institutional buyers such as Central Luzon State University –Agriculture and Food Technology Business Incubators, College of Home Science and Industry and different SMES from Manila, Vigan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan. During the National Trade Fair, she was able to get 10,000 orders for cogon oval and round placemat for export amounting to P650,000.00. Likewise, SM Kultura negotiated with her for possible orders of not less than P50,000.00 worth of native crafts on a monthly basis. Mr. Lao’s shop also conveyed also intention to buy her products. While the transactions from these two buyers are still under negotiation, Ms. Costales is optimistic that they will push through.
From nine (9) workers then, Alshe’s Bayong and Native Craft now has 30 employees, 18 of whom are working at the production site while the remaining 12 weavers work at home and are being paid weekly. Around 26.2% increase in income was realized at the end of November 2016.
Shiela was also able to secure some support from the local government of Talugtug. Aside from managing the business, she also serves as trainer on Cogon and Buli weaving for women’s association and cooperatives in Talavera, Bongabon, Gabaldon, Carranglan, Gen. Natividad and Science City of Munoz.
Family Bonding Activity Turned Into Business
Milagros Hipolito is a former High School teacher at St. Joseph School in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija. For almost 12 years she taqught subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Computer and Techology Livelihood Education.
By 2009, Mila decided to give up her teaching profession and stayed in Cabiao with her husband Engineer Jose Hipolito and their children. Being a long time teacher, she got bored doing household chores, watching TV, waiting for her daughter from school and her husband from the office.
One day, Mila looked for something to keep her busy. She found a dress of her mother-in-law. She sewed and reconstructed the old dresses and converted it into her daughter’s dresses. From then on, she kept a keen interest in sewing. As a TLE teacher, she also has a talent in crocheting. She became more aggressive to learn more on how to master her talent in crocheting by looking at Internet posts on the subject. With her persistence and perseverance, Mila created cellphone cases, coin purses, baby booties and swim suits as her initial crocheted products.
One time, Mila’s son showed a picture of a crocheted cartoon character and asked - “Eto mommy kaya mong gawin sa gantsilyo?“ Mila accepted the challenge and tried working on it. Mila realized that it was not easy to do. Nevertheless, her eagerness in crocheting pushed her to finish it. Mila called it “AMIGURUMI” a popular Japanese crocheted doll.
By 2015, Mila decided to name her crafts as Gawang Kabyawenyo because she loves the town of her residence - Cabiao. Mila’s husband saw the potential of crocheting so they decided to display their crafts during the Kabyawan Festival in February 2015. A big surprise came to the Hipolito couple as they cornered the biggest crowd in the festival. Almost all their crafts were sold out and they earned ₱5,000 in one day. In addition, Mila’s daughter posted pictures of their crafts in social media like Facebook purposely not to sell, but just to show the family hobby to their friends and get some appreciation from them. But what made them happier and excited was when their friends in social media started making orders for their personal collections, birthdays and christening souvenirs.
Gawang Kabyawenyo started as a hobby, even a bonding time for the family. Making it as a business was out of Mila’s wildest dream, because she did not have enough money to invest in her own business and there is a lot of things to consider in managing a business. Mila in fact had no idea at first on how and when she will start the business. Her worries and questions were answered when Mila received an invitation inviting her to attend the launching of Negosyo Center in the Municipality of Cabiao, a program of Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino purposely to help those aspiring entrepreneurs like Mila. At the Negosyo Center - Cabiao, Mila met the people behind the success of establishing the Center in the municipality - DTI Provincial Director Brigida T. Pili, Dr. Ricky Simangan (NC Coordinator for NE) and DC Eladio Duran of the SME Development Division and other DTI associates.
For Mila and other Kabyawenyo entrepreneurs, the Negosyo Center Cabiao is a big help. She was able to get encouragement in pursuing her interest as entrepreneur. Mila is now displaying some of her handmade products in the center to promote them.
Mila has attended several seminars and briefings organized by the Negocenter – Cabiao. These include Design Mission, How to Start a Small Business, Go Negosyo Act, Barangay Micro Business Enterprise Law, Developing Mindset of Successful Entrepreneurs and Product Labeling and Packaging. Through these seminars, her concerns and questions were answered> They also created a big impact on her by boosting her interest to make her hobby a business. With the encouragement from the Center personnel, Mila finally registered her business with the DTI with the approved business name of Gawang Kabyaweño-Handicrafts. So far, Mila is now earning a minimum of ₱1,000 a month, not bad for a starting hobby business.
According to Mila, “Sa ngayon, nakakatanaw ako ng malaking pag asa na. At my age na malapit na maging senior citizen ay magtagumpay ako bilang nagsisimulang entrepreneur at nangangarap din na maibahagi ko ang aking kaalaman at kakayahan balang araw na mabigyan ng hanap buhay ang mga katulad kong isang maybahay na nagnanais na makatulong sa kabuhayan ng kani-kanilang pamilya.”
“Hindi matatawaran ang malaking ambag ng Negosyo Center sa akin upang mahikayat ang mga katulad kong nagnanais gawing negosyo ang kani-kanilang kaalaman, tulad ko sa pag-gagantsilyo, pananahi, at iba pang bagay na gamit ang sinulid at karayom.”
“Sa tulong ng DTI Negosyo Center, nagkaroon na ako ng lakas ng loob na harapin ang hamon ng pagnenegosyo sapagkat naniniwala ako na kaya natin ang lahat ng bagay basta’t matuto lamang tayong manalig sa ating mga kakayahan at sa ating sarili.”
Coco Coir: A Story Entwined In Hope
When Jayson G. Simon thought about the opportunities of coconut fiber way back in 1997, he never realized he would be the main actor in bringing these opportunities to his community. Back then, there were already initial ventures into the coco fiber business being developed in Aurora, a province that produces 350 million coconuts a year. “Dati po yung pinagbalatan sinusunog lang yan, ngayon binibili na namin,” (Before, the coconut husk was just thrown away, now we buy it), he says.
Development of the coco coir industry among the coconut farmer community was initiated through cooperatives including Jayson’s group. In 2008, the Department of Science and Technology provided a micro decorticating machine for their group in Maria Aurora. Jayson remembered that these projects, while full of potential, were never fully productive. A recurring reason, he avers, was the lack of willingness by many of the group leaders. For him, he maintained, “hindi ako nawalan ng pag-asa” (I never lost hope).
His hope was well-founded. In 2009, his group in Maria Aurora contacted a buyer of coconut fiber. The opportunity came but they have to process the coco with what they have, a small decorticating machine that heavily relies on manual labor. This did not produce the kind and quality of coco coir that buyers want.
In 2012, Jayson and his other partners from different professions met to organize themselves formally into a cooperative. Their group, Aurora Agri- Ventures Producers Cooperative (AAVPC) registered with the Cooperative Development Authority on March 22, 2012. At that time, his group has heard that another organization from Baler, Aurora, St. Francis Multi-Purpose Cooperative was intended to be a beneficiary of a decorticating machine for coco coir production from the Department of Trade and Industry under its Shared Service Facility project. As if history was repeating, the project almost did not materialize because the Baler group leaders had little interest in the project. As if opportunity was indeed recurring, St. Francis canceled its project proposal and AAVPC moved to be the cooperator for the upcoming SSF project.
While waiting for the SSF delivery, the cooperative opted to buy its raw materials (coco coir) from a local decorticating plant and then distributed these to trained workers. The end product was then delivered to Manila and sold to local contractors. An initial sale value of Php 270,000.00 was realized within just 4 months. However, as operations went by, some purchased raw materials were found to be damaged or spoiled. Coco net production became difficult and weavers complained of fiber quality. Operations stopped as cooperative members found the venture financially non-viable. In addition, most of the equipment delivered did not meet the desired production quality and volume.
It took a year before the coco coir processing equipment from DTI was delivered. In the meantime, some weavers have already decided to stop working while others decided to work elsewhere. For Jayson, encouraging them to work again was one of the biggest challenges as head of the cooperative.
Their patience, determination and hope paid off when big, stable and ready markets opened up just as the SSF was completed. Among these are the National Irrigation Administration and the Department of Public Works and Highways which use Geo Nets for erosion control and other public work projects. The cooperative also developed other products such as coco peat and house decors made from coco coir.
The cooperative buys waste coconut husk at 20 centavos per piece as additional income for Aurora coconut planters. The production capacity of AAVPC’s plant is 1.2 tons of Coco Coir per day operation. From this coconut peat is estimated at 3.6 tons derived from 12, 000 coconut husk per day. Coco Peat is also sold as organic fertilizer. The operations also provide an average income of Php 160 to 250 per day for trained twiners/weavers in the community. For 2015, the cooperative earned a total sales on Coco Geo Nets and Coconut Peat of Php 500,000 pesos.
At present, the Aurora Agri-Ventures Producers Cooperative employs 6 plant workers and 80 twiners//weavers. The cooperative has initial arrangements with the DPWH Aurora Engineering District in providing Soil Erosion Control Technology for eroded and critical areas along the Nueva Ecija-Maria Aurora road worth Php 5,000,000.00. The National Irrigation Administration also intends to buy the Cooperatives Coco Geo Nets in their soil erosion control program which is estimated at Php 25 million pesos for 2016 alone.
Many coconut farmers in Maria Aurora see coco coir as an ecologically sound and profitable product that enhances erosion control capacity. For Jayson and AAVPC, the former waste material is an additional livelihood for the community, an added hope entwined with their life.
SMZ Turnip Delicacies Of Sea-K Group
Zambales residents turn turnips into unique delicacies
In 2008, 15 residents from San Marcelino, Zambales, mostly unemployed housewives, were organized by the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) to form an association under their Self-Emplyment Assistance – Kaunlaran (SEA-K) Program.
Juliana “Julie” Freal, a kindergarten teacher, was the head of the association. She fondly remembers, “Nagsimula kami sa wala…walang kapital, walang kaalaman sa negoyso. Ang meron lang kami ay ang kagustuhan na baguhin ang katayuan namin para sa aming pamilya.” (We started with nothing….zero capital, zero knowledge about the business. All we got is the will and spirit to change our lives for the future of our families)
At that time, Mayor Jose F. Rodriguez pushed for “singkamas” (turnip) as their main product under the One Town One Product (OTOP) Program. Turnip was a valuable crop during the dry season. Realizing their lack of capital, the local government then referred them to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which provided them a zero interest loan amounting to Php 50,000 as initial working capital. Other agencies supported the group through different programs. Training and seminars on Business Planning and Management were provided by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The much needed technology on Food Processing was taught by the the Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The local government also provided a vacant space for production in the Barangay Plaza of Linasin, San Marcelino, Zambales.
Using a portable Oven, SMZ SEA-K group prepared their unique delicacy – turnip pie. At first, they packaged the pie with an improvised unlabelled box. Other members were assigned to market and sell the product. Processing of turnips was only done upon sure product orders only. At that time, members did not receive any compensation, they were just provided food and fare.
Seeing the promise for the group’s venture, the local government provided – free of charge - a space at the San Marcelino Public Market’s food area. This provided for a place for processing and at the same time served as their store outlet. “August 2009 pa yon, hanggang ngayon, di kami sinisingil ni Mayor.” (That was August 2009, and up to now, we have not been charged with rent). Other agencies further helped, with DOST providing an oven and dough mixer to be utilized in food processing. DTI also helped in developing their packaging and labelling. This included adding nutritional facts and shelf life testing of the products. By this time they have now three main products out of turnips - singkamas pie, pickled singkamas and fresh and fried singkamas lumpia.
Under the leadership of Julie Freal, the association registered with DTI under her name. For her, the venture enabled them to achieve community goals – job creation for those engaged in the production of selling of delicacies, and also increase the production of singkamas for the benefit of the singkamas farmers. Being a tuber crop, turnips have a particular season for growing. However, Julie enthused “Hindi naman kami nag-aaalala na mauubusan ng raw materials, kasi napapatagal naman naming ng anim na buwan ang singkamas, kaya tuloy-tuloy lang ang pag-proseso ng pie buong taon,” (We are not worried running out of raw materials because we store matured singkamas up to six months, so we can continuously process our product the whole year round.)
By 2012, the turnips of San Marcelino, Zambales have turned into many different products like singkamas boat tarts and yema balls with singkamas bits. These varieties were not Julie’s alone. Other members like the late Roselyn Mandap were also helpful in thinking of new product lines. The group’s joint effort and initiative, she further notes, are key to making their venture successful.
The group, wanting to graduate from the traditional “mano-mano” preparation of their products still sought to improve their production facilities and further add variety to their products. The three varieties they have made are now starting to fill the shelves of the Zambales Pasalubong Center. In 2015, their proposal to DTI was approved and they were provided with stainless working table, heavy duty gas stove, electric foot sealer, mechanical slicer, electric dough mixer and an upright chiller. With this their production rose from 30 to 50 boxes of Singkamas Pie, from 15 to 30 pieces of Singkamas Tart and from 20 to 100 packs of Singkamas Yema. In time, the group are still looking to produce products like singkamas vinegar, singkamas wine, singkamas chips, candies and biscuits. For this they not only depend on the assistance and technology transfer from government, but also on the ingenuity, effort and resourcefulness of the people of San Marcelino, Zambales.
Julie Freal sums their commitment in saying “Rest assured that we are doing our best to be successful in this endeavour so that all the resources and effort of the government who helped us will not go into waste.”
Maria's White Coco Restaurant
On August 26, 2015, Jocelyn Roman Domingo, with her daughter Crizel, visited the Negosyo Center to inquire about the services given by the center. Before, they were not aware of it since they just came from the United States of America. Jocelyn Domingo shared that they are planning to put up a restaurant business in her home province of Bataan since she was planning to stay here for good. She was given a one-on–one business consultancy by the center counsellor and assisted her in processing her business name registration – White Coco Restaurant.
While its business permits were being processed, Jocelyn and her daughter studied what kind of Filipino food will they serve in their restaurant. In 2015, the Negosyo Center personnel invited them to participate in the Current Good Manufacturing Practises (CGMP) Seminar on September 23, 2015 and in the Winning Strategy for a World Class Customer Service Experience (WOW) Seminar on October 13, 2015. Both seminars left good impressions and learnings on mother and daughter.
On July 8, 2016, Mrs. Domingo decided to have a soft opening of their restaurant, strategically located at Poblacion, Pilar, Bataan, to survey and get feedback from customers on what they will like best. They had a sales of P2, 000.00 that day and the dishes which customers preferred to order were Kare-kare, Bulalo, Pinakbet and Spring Chicken. The restaurant opens at 12 noon and closes at 10:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. As the day went on, the restaurant’s sales stabilized at an average of P800.00 a day.
On August 15, 2016, the center invited them again to participate in the Seminar on Basic Bookkeeping. The center assisted them to register their new business – Maria’s White Coco Restaurant. Mrs. Domingo is hoping that their business will bloom in the succeeding days.
Bagging Success: Orient Sports Gear
Just when factories in the Bataan Export Processing Zone in Mariveles, Bataan were closing in the late 1990s, young couple Jane Gasoso and Disocoro “Jun” Manansala were in a dilemma as Jun was about to lose his otherwise stable job in the ecozone while Jane thought of resigning to take care of her three (3) growing children. Barely finishing high school and marrying at ages 16 and 20, the couple lost no time in looking for a better livelihood to sustain their family.
Thinking of moving out of their jobs, the Manansalas barely had capital for their new venture – garments. In 1996, 11,000 pesos was not a big amount to start a home business in garments. Jane bought a sewing machine and started producing short pants at the side of their house. The resourceful young mother bought discarded raw materials from nearby garment manufacturers. Thread was free and abundant as factories threw away their excess threads or rejects. Her husband went to the factories dumpsites in search of excess threads for their venture.
A year into their garment making business, a client ordered bags, so the couple diversified into the bag and garments sewing business. In 1997, they decided to go full time in bag making. At this point, Jane, who was almost a one-woman show, had to hire expert sewers to fill in the demand and increase the production of bags. Eventually, her husband did resign from the Export Zone factories to join her in running the growing business, handling deliveries, maintaining the machines, even trimming and cutting.
A business breakthrough was achieved by Jane and her bag makers when the Department of Trade and Industry Bataan Provincial Office invited them to participate in trade fairs and other trade exhibits. The exposure expanded the market for their brand – Orients Sports Gear and filled their garage with bags to be sewed.
Despite business being brisk, it was not without difficulties. Three main problems they had was cost of raw materials, branding and quality embroidery. One of the reasons Jane regularly approached Nora Reclosado of DTI Bataan was to consult her on this, as she rightfully thought that these three areas of her business provided added value and distinction.
In 2006, Jane joined 29 of her fellow former BEPZ workers in organizing the Mariveles Bag Makers Multipurpose Cooperative (MBMPC). Shelling out Php 1,500.00 each as initial capital, the cooperative sought to unite the bag makers who were already contributing significantly to the economy of the municipality. The cooperative united them in requesting for assistance in addressing the same problems Jane was experiencing.
The few numbers of the new cooperative did not deter them from being entertained by government agencies and financial institutions. Land Bank of the Philippines lent the cooperative a seed amount for the purchase of raw materials for reselling to members at affordable prices. Before, each bag maker had to find and haggle their materials in Manila. Now, the cooperative purchases the materials for them. DTI also helped in improving the product design and branding of their bags, through seminars, product development and design assistance. The cooperative was also a recipient of a 12-pin Computerized Embroidery Machine which does the brand patches much faster and enables a significant number of computer drawn designs of the bags. DTI also assisted the bag makers like Jane Manansala’s Orient Sports Gear in registering their trade name with the Intellectual Property Office.
For Lina Marcos, General Manager of the MBMMPC, the assistance of the different government agencies combined with their resilience, determination and professionalism helped them move up despite their humble beginnings. She noted that membership has now grown to 524, and the assets of the cooperative have now grown to PHp 25 Million. The cooperative now has a presentable four-storey building in the town proper, and they have 17 full time personnel.
For Jane Manansala, her humble beginnings were the inspiration for her to succeed. Her business now employs her neighbors - twelve regular sewers and one full time helper. During peak season, especially before the start of school season and before Christmas season, additional manpower from Mariveles and nearby areas are called upon to work and meet the demand. Orient Sports Gear has acquired 12 high speed sewing machines, 2 double needle, and a cutting machine. The equipment can produce 2,500 to 3,000 bags a month.
Demand for bags are not just local for the quality of Mariveles bag makers. In November 2014, Todd Inouye, a businessman from Canada inquired about local bag manufacturers at the DTI Head Office in Makati. He was referred to DTI Bataan for market matching. A visit to the factory of Orient Sports Gear in Mariveles, was then arranged. With the presence of the SSF Computerized Embroidery machine, Ms. Jane Manansala was confident to fill the requirements of Mr. Inouye. In three months, 4,000 bags were exported to Canada amounting to Php 4.5 Million.
Jane remains unfazed by competition. For her, “the market is huge”. At present, she is completing the delivery of 8,000 pcs bags with bookstore chain Pandayan Store for distribution nationwide. Furthermore, there is an on-going negotiation/ arrangement of an export buyer from Australia.
She advises potential entrepreneurs to be patient and thrifty, and maintain the trust of customers by fulfilling commitments. Finally, she shares Orient Sports Gear’s secret - teamwork with her best asset –her family. For her, this is the most important factor in bagging her success.