Seaweed for a Better Life

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.)

Seaweed for a Better Life

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.

Seaweed for a Better Life

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.

Mama's Delight for Success

“Innovation is always the name of the game.” – Ellen Muros

Behind every success is a story of hardship, mishap, and determination. Ellen Muros, just like the other flourishing entrepreneurs, started her peanut butter business from small capitalization and extraordinary optimism.

Hailed from the island of Odiongan in the province of Romblon where peanuts abundantly grow, Ellen jumped into the peanut butter bandwagon when her direct selling business failed. Leaving her with large amount of money to pay for, her husband, Robert, prodded her to join the 7 Isles Progressive Entrepreneurs Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PEMPC) a cooperative established through the help of Department of Trade and Industry – Romblon Provincial Office to assist the budding micro entrepreneurs of Odiongan in product development and marketing.

Mama's Yami Peanut Butter

Ellen used the opportunity that the cooperative offered in providing raw materials in making peanut butter including the packaging materials. She also used the product labels that the cooperative provided at a minimal cost. While the rest of the cooperative members were hesitant to use the product labels due to fear of additional cost in making the peanut butter, it did not stop Ellen from improving her product.

Her first big break was when the wife of former Romblon Congressman Eduardo Firmalo bought peanut butter from her and gave them as gifts to friends and colleagues. Due to positive feedbacks and word-of-mouth, her peanut butter spreads throughout the town like a wildfire gaining her bulk orders from curious buyers. True enough, the creamy texture and luscious taste of Ellen’s peanut butter won the hearts of many Romblomanons.

Ellen admitted that delving in this kind of business was never easy but one should always look to the brighter side, “Ilang beses yung trial and error stage nito. Kapag binibigyan ko ng sample ang kapitbahay namin tapos tatanungin ko kung masarap ba, sasabihin nila oo, minsan hindi ako satisfied kasi baka ayaw lang nilang saktan feelings ko so nag-strive talaga ko na makuha yung perfect na peanut butter. (This peanut butter went through several trial and error stage. I gave out samples to my neighbors and whenever I ask them if it is delicious they would answer yes but I’m not satisfied because I thought they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So, I strive harder to achieve the perfect recipe for my peanut butter.)”

Seeing that her product could compete with other bigger brands in Metro Manila, she sought the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry – Romblon Provincial Office in 2006. She was then tapped as one of the beneficiaries of the One Town One Product (OTOP) Program.

During this period, Ellen established her own business apart from the cooperative’s activities. However, she still paid tribute to most of the members of the cooperative who are mostly mother, hence she called her product Mama’s Yami Deli Foods. Yami was used to attribute to the yummy taste of the peanut butter and Deli short for delight.

Her initial capital came from the loans that her husband sought from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Also, the DTI-Romblon Provincial Office under the leadership of then Provincial Caretaker and now Assistant Regional Director Rodolfo J. Mariposque introduced her to DTI assistance on production, market promotion and product development. With these, she was given different inputs on how she can make the peanut butter able to enter the mainstream of the market.

Mama's Yami Peanut Butter

Since there is a close relationship between DTI and other national agencies, DTI endorsed Mama’s Yami Deli Foods to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to avail the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP) and availed the provision for machineries and other equipment for the peanut butter production.

Due to numerous demands, from backyard cooking Mama’s YamiDeli Foods transferred to a bigger and wider place that broadens the production with four employees. Now, they distribute not only in Romblon but also in the provinces of Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro and Metro Manila.

When asked for her formula of success, Ellen simply says “innovation is the name of the game.” Mamasyami Deli Foods always checks the market segment before embarking on new products.

Presently, Mamasyami Deli Foods is an active participant of Trade Fairs and still a recipient of the Product Development. They were able to produce new varieties of peanut butter like plain, crunchy, double zero (no sugar, no salt), 100% Coco Sugar, choco-peanut. Also, new product lines were introduced such as Salamagi Paste (pure Sampaloc paste), sweetened Banana balls, and turmeric powder.

Indeed, Ellen has embarked on the secret of success by getting ready when the earliest opportunity comes.

Of Progress and Processed Meats: Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative Success Story

Lies in the southern part of Oriental Mindoro is the municipality of Bansud, it was once a quiet town with hog farming as the main source of the families’ income. Not until 2000 came, the simple lives of Bansud townfolks bound to change when Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative was established.

The Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative or BLMC was founded by Alfredo Majaba, Odelon Macalindog, Jimmy Alcala, and other fifteen founding members. Alfredo Majaba, President of BLMC, looked back on how superficial their goal was, “We just wanted to raise hogs since majority of people here were into this kind of livelihood, we established the cooperative and used our initial capital to sell feeds (hog pellets) and medicines.” He admitted that they were able to achieve their goal but they did not stop there.

Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative

Due to increasing volume of hogs raised in the town, they decided to supply fresh meats in the public market. Everything went well until the cooperative felt they’re losing more than gaining, “Price of feeds and medicines kept on pumping up and our middleman from Batangas bought meats in a very low price. In a short span of time, we would be bankrupt if we continue on dwelling in that kind of situation.” Appalled by the idea of losing the business, the cooperative considered making processed meats.

At first the cooperative was hesitant in venturing to processed meat business saying that it’s too risky but optimism prevails, they were able to produce their first products – Longganisa and Tocino. These processed meat products were supplied in the market and received positive feedbacks from the consumers. The cooperative’s name was making the rounds in the province and was seen as a potential in competing other big names with same line of products. This served as their go signal to push through with the newly found business.

However, BLMC encountered problems in productivity due to the rigorous process of making processed meats. They reached out to DTI-4B for assistance and they were granted PHP 150,000 for the upgrade of their equipment. “We asked DTI for assistance because we’re getting high demand from consumers, manual processing slows us down. We’re not disappointed because the agency was very eager to help us.”

The DTI-4B saw the progress of the cooperative thus tapping them as the beneficiary of Shared Service Facility project on upgrading of meat processing facility. The project amounting to PHP 1,368,600 was expected to increase BLMC’s annual sale by at least 10%. And true enough by the last quarter of 2015, the cooperative recorded a total sales of PHP 4,659,338 the highest since they start the business in 2002. There is also noticeable increase in production volume almost four times higher before the facilities were established.

As to date, the processed meats are delivered to the near-by provinces like Cavite, Laguna, Aklan, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro and some parts of Metro Manila. “It’s really overwhelming that our products are becoming a part of Mindoreno families’dining table.” said Macalindog when asked how do they feel about the progress of their longganisa and tocino. In addition to their growing variant of processed meats, they have recently introduced the BLMC hotdog.

With enthusiasm and pride, Majaba said that to be able to give back they are granting scholars to youths of Bansud, “Giving scholarship to the youths is our way of helping them become productive members of the community. It started with just a simple dream - to provide jobs and income to my compatriot but we’re receiving more than we asked for. DTI is a big part in achieving this success.”

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