Success did not come instantly to the members of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Balatasan or SAMASABALATASAN when they venture in seaweed products business.
Marife dela Torre, one of the pioneer members of SAMASABALATASAN, recounts that before delving into seaweed business, farming and fishing are the sources of the families’ income in Balatasan, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. The association which started with 17 members in 2005 came up with the seaweed noodles and pickled seaweed as their initial products. “Seaweed ang pinili namin na gawing produkto dahil wala namang ibang producer nito dito sa Oriental Mindoro kumbaga kami ang mauuna, walang kompetensya. (We chose seaweed as the material for our products because there were no other manufacturers of this kind here in Oriental Mindoro, meaning to say we will be the frontrunner, no competitors.)
Every business stories have its own ups and downs and SAMASABALATASAN is not an exception. Marife admitted that they struggle in the first year of manufacturing seaweed products, “Mahirap kasi limited lang kaalaman namin pati budget. Lumapit kami sa Department of Agrarian Reform-4B, tinulungan nila kami pati sa pag refer sa ibang agencies tulad ng Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, at Department of Science and Technology. (It was hard because we have limited knowledge and budget for the production. We approached DAR-4B for assistance and they even referred us to other government agencies like DTI, DOLE, and DOST.)
With the help of the Department of Trade and Industry-Oriental Mindoro, the association has rendered various assistance such as Product Development training, Trade fair participation, Basic Computer Literacy Training, and Product Packaging and Labeling. They are also a frequent client in Negosyo Center located in Calapan City and a beneficiary of Shared Service Facility program.
“Talagang malaki ang naitulong sa amin ng Negosyo Center, sila ang nagbigay ng designs para sa aming produkto pati ang logo ng asosasyon sila ang nag-design. Palagi kaming bumabalik duon para sa business consultancy. (The Negosyo Center is indeed a big help to our association, they provided the designs for our product, they even designed the association’s logo. We always visit the center for business consultancy purposes.)” Marife said, adding that incremental sales were generated from new products developed and continuous marketing interventions such as trade fair participation and local market matching.
The Negosyo Center recorded 1, 710 clients assisted since it started operating in November 2014. It is a one stop-shop for the entrepreneurs and those who like to dwell in business, offering services like facilitation of business name registration, product development, entrepreneurship trainings and seminars.
“We can say that we’re far from what we were 11 years ago but our hard work will not stop here. We will aim for bigger opportunities.” Now with 90 members, SAMASABALATASAN has expanded their products from pickles and noodles to seaweed instant cup noodles, crackers, seaweed shampoo bar, and soap. It also reaches the markets in Iloilo and Occidental Mindoro. They are now complying with Food and Drugs Administration’s requirement for License To Operate to access more markets in Metro Manila.