An Entrepreneur’s Bounce Back Story amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Harl's crafted face mask

The coronavirus disease or COVID-19 has greatly affected many lives and the country’s economy. As entrepreneurs struggle to adjust their business strategies, it has become a challenging situation for them, most especially the micro and small enterprises. Nonetheless, for Harley Dave Beltran, owner of Handcrafted by Harl’s, every cloud has a silver lining.

Known as the only micro social enterprise in the country, Handcrafted by Harl’s in San Pedro, Laguna started its business in 2014. This homegrown brand is known in their innovative and unique genuine leather products such as bags, coin purses, cellphone cases, gadget organizers, clocks, stools, bow ties, belts, sandals, slippers, key chains, tags, wallets, and other customized items.

With the aim to promote local artistry, Harl’s produces crafts valuable to the community, coinciding with its social responsibility to provide employment to people with disability and underprivileged craftsmen. They train aspiring artisans to produce products that would qualify in the international market.

While some companies use machines in certain phases of the manufacturing process, Harl’s takes pride with their products that are purely and skillfully handmade. What sets them apart from other leather brands is how they use waste materials and genuine “rugged” type full grain leather to create upcycled products. Their products have visible natural leather markings on them such as a few scratches, discoloration, or burn marks to give more character and uniqueness to the products. They do not use linings and make only one of each product, especially with their bags. Every batch produced has different sets of leather choices and, these same items are not produced again. All these are crafted proudly and dexterously by differently-abled workers who are either mute, deaf, or cripple.

For the past years, Harl’s handcrafted items are staple products at the regional and national trade fairs and bazaars of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). In 2018 at the DTI’s Sikat Pinoy National Trade Fair and National Arts and Crafts Fair, differentlyabled workers from Harl’s conducted a leathercrafts workshop where guests can create their own wallet, coin purse, and other leather goods.

Harley Dave Beltran

But like any other businesses, Harl’s was caught off guard when the pandemic happened. “I had to unload the ship for it to sail further. To put it simply, I needed to let go one of my stores. I needed to prioritize what’s best for the company and for my employees,” said Harley.

“We were not prepared for the pandemic, but what can we do about it? Instead of constantly thinking of problems and feeling dejected, I use my time during this quarantine period to become more productive by thinking of new ways for my business to survive and to sustain the needs of my employees,” added Harley.

With these in mind, Harl’s started crafting face masks made from leather and ticog mat, and they call it maska. Ticog is harvested by an Abre Linea weaving community in San Miguel, Leyte.

According to Harley, maska doesn’t just provide safety but also comfort and durability because of the materials used. One purchase of maska will not only feed one PWD family but will also support San Miguel’s weaving community.

Moreover, through the donations of customers and friends, Harley conducted the “Harl’s COVID-19 Response” by distributing relief packages to several underprivileged and PWD families in their area.

“Harl’s bounce back story is very remarkable. We hope that his experience will help our MSMEs to be inspired to move forward and start the process of putting their businesses back on track. We, in the DTI, and with our programs and activities for our MSMEs want them to be ready to embrace the new normal,” said DTI CALABARZON Director Marilou Q. Toledo.

DTI, through the Regional Operations Group headed by Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona, has been responsive to help MSMEs across the regions cope with the pandemic through provision of various programs that will gear them up as they face the new normal.

“Harl’s is here not to have business; we’re here to inspire and survive. We continue to serve our purpose by helping others,” said Harley.

Harley believes that your action matters, so act now. ♦

Date of Release: 14 July 2020