Known as the only micro social enterprise in the country, Handcrafted by Harl’s (HHS Leathergoods Enterprises) in Laguna started its business only in 2014, but this homegrown brand is already getting its name known when it comes to craftmanship and innovative and unique genuine leather products.
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. The company continues to train aspiring artisans to be part of its growing team as it aims to produce products that would qualify in the international market.
Harl’s create bags, coin purses, cellphone cases, gadget organizers, clocks, stools, bow ties, belts, sandals, slippers, key chains, tags, wallets, and other customized items.
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 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 will not be produced again. These are all crafted proudly and dexterously by differently-abled workers who are either mute, deaf, or cripple.
Harl’s handcrafted items are a staple at the trade fairs and bazaars of the Department of Trade and Industry. Last 2018 at the DTI’s Sikat Pinoy National Trade Fair and National Arts and Crafts Fair, differently-abled workers from Harl’s conducted a leathercrafts workshop where guests can create their own wallet, coin purse, and other leather goods.
Owner Harley Dave Beltran is also a KAPATID Mentor Me (KMME) Mentor who specializes in Business Mindset. KMME is a coaching and mentoring program of the DTI that brings together experts and industry leaders who provide a series of free mentoring sessions on different aspects of business operations to assist small players scale up their businesses.
Furthermore, Harl’s is now part of San Pedro, Laguna’s backhouse tourism scene. With the assistance of the Department of Tourism, Harl’s will be included as one of the tourist destinations for all cruise ships passing through the Manila Port.
“Most of the time, people with disability are being left behind. But in our experience in business, these people are more productive because they are hardworking and positive. Providing sustainable opportunities such as livelihood and employment is a better solution to help them because it is what they need. We want them to be empowered,” said Harley Beltran.
A Success Story of Jhaz Footwear
Having a pair of quality shoes usually costs an arm and a leg, much more an entire collection. Some people even shop in the Metro or go abroad just to buy shoes. The thing is, not many people know that Liliw, a small town in Laguna and widely regarded as the Tsinelas (slippers) Capital of the Philippines and Footwear Capital of Laguna, has a wide array of durable and quality but low-priced shoe styles and designs. The footwear industry has been one of the town’s major industries for decades.
One of the famous footwear stores in Liliw known for its comfortable, durable, fashionable, and affordable shoes is Jhaz Footwear, which was established in 2004 by Nephtali and Elvie Moneda.
The Humble Beginnings
Jhaz rose from humble beginnings. The couple’s teenage love blossomed into marriage. He was 16, and she was 17. For four years, they borrowed shoe stocks from friends and relatives, reselling them to nearby provinces to support their family. At that time, they earned at least Php 3,000-4,000 by selling 100-200 pairs of shoes. However, because the couple were both studying while working, they realized the need for additional income to secure the needs of their growing family. That’s when Nephtali thought of having his own shoe business.
“I grew up in a family of shoemakers. My mother is the pioneer in Liliw to use abaca in shoes. Our family relied on shoemaking for a living. It was a skill that was passed on from generation to generation,” said Nephtali.
“In the first few months, I was alone making shoes at a small laundry area in my mother-in-law’s house. I worked day and night to craft shoes and sold them to acquaintances and other shoe stores.”
Because he didn’t have a physical store, Nephtali would lay down a banig (mat) and his crafted shoes outside other stores. Oftentimes, he was being driven away by security guards and store owners. For Nephtali, those difficult and sad moments became his motivation to not give up.
Nephtali began designing more slippers, sandals, and shoes and using more materials such as abaca, textiles, rubbers, synthetic leathers, plastic, etc. All his hard work paid off because he was able to save money and rent a shoe stall. He then started hiring his own workers and expanding his shoe business.
“As we received more orders from customers, my husband and I were able to save up money and build our own house, which we also used as our production house for quite some time. Thankfully, the business was doing well, so we decided to build a small factory made of bamboos beside our house,” said Elvie.
That small workshop made of bamboos became their factory for several years. It also became a showroom to their clients and guests who visited.
“Nakakahiya nga po sa mga clients namin na pumupunta sa production house namin kasi kapag maulan, sobrang maputik. Maliit din ang space kaya siksikan ang mga workers namin. Hirap din sila kapag summer kasi napakainit sa loob at kapag tag-ulan naman, halos mabasa na sila,” said Elvie nostalgically.
One of Jhaz’s biggest challenges, however, is other stores copying or imitating their shoes.
“Once we launch a new shoe design and it becomes an instant hit to customers, other shoe stores will follow suit by producing replicas of our shoes,” said Nephtali.
“It’s becoming a major problem for us because the copied shoes are cheaper. That’s why we always tell our buyers that the difference lies in the quality. Handcrafted by our skilled shoemakers, we use high-quality materials in our shoes to make our shoes durable. We assure our customers that our shoes will last them for years,” said Nephtali.
The process of handcrafting shoes is laborious. Each pair is shaped and designed fastidiously. Over the years, the couple has designed and produced more than a thousand shoe designs, taking inspiration from shoe designs they find on the Internet. Some are customized items requested by their clients here and abroad.
Jhaz was only a start-up business during that time and in order to survive in the footwear industry, Nephtali decided to take his business to another level by taking advantage of the programs offered by the Department of Trade and Industry.
“Before, we did not think about going outside Liliw to sell our shoes. Our focus was catering only to customers in Liliw and our neighboring towns. But after attending the DTI’s seminars and workshops, our mindset was changed. We realized that there are more opportunities waiting for us outside our town and that we can improve our products to make them more appealing to the market.”
“We therefore joined many small bazaars and local fairs. After a while, we expanded our customer base by taking part in national and international trade fairs. Through DTI’s fairs, we were able to gain our longtime buyers who also became our friends.”
Jhaz also joined the One Town, One Product (OTOP) Next Generation—DTI’s program offering a package of public-private assistance for MSMEs with minimum viable products to come up with new or better offerings with significant improvement and innovation in the areas of quality, product development, design, packaging, standards compliance, marketability, production capability, brand development, among others.
“After joining the OTOP, our products improved in terms of design, branding, and packaging. We underwent several training sessions and workshop on financial management, capacity building, and marketing platforms and promotion. We’re also able to promote our shoes through the OTOP Philippines Hub,” said Nephtali.
As another flagship market access program by the DTI, the OTOP Philippines Hub or OTOP.PH is a retail store or spaces where products from One Town One Product offerings can be found. It serves as a marketing vehicle and incubation platform to promote and champion OTOP products. The hub can be found mostly in airports, terminals, pasalubong centers, tourist spots, Negosyo Centers, public markets, and other consumer-frequented locations including malls.
Leadership and Loyalty
Jhaz caters to both local and international buyers. They are an expert in using jute-abaca and native materials for their shoes. Most of the buyers are traders, retailers, and wholesalers.
When asked about how he is as a boss, Nephtali answered, “I am a hands-on boss. I personally train my employees in shoemaking.”
Isabelo Royera, one of the first three employees Nephtali hired, has been with Jhaz for almost two decades now.
“Dahil sa paggawa ng mga sapatos, napagtapos ko po ng pag-aaral ang aking anak. Nabubuhay ko po ang aking pamilya. Maganda ang kita at nag-eenjoy po ako sa aking trabaho, nakakaipon pa po kami,” said Isabelo.
“Magaan ang trabaho pero minsan kapag malalaki ang orders ng kliyente, nag-oovertime kami para ma-meet ang targets.”
For Isabelo, it takes hard work, focus, and patience in shoemaking. He also mentioned the importance of building good relationship with coworkers and enjoying and loving one’s work.
Currently, Jhaz has employed 60 workers and is supporting the community by offering side jobs to families such as abaca braiding and embroidery. They are capable to produce 5,000 pairs per month of espadrilles and doll shoes, 2,000 to 3,000 pairs of wedge and clogs, and 5,000 pairs of flat slippers.
“From a shoe workshop at the laundry area, to a production area at the first floor of our house, to a small workshop made of bamboos beside our house, and now to a factory made from concrete materials that has an area of 140 square meters for production, 70 square meters for sole and clog production, and 110 square meters for warehouse, we have come a long way,” said Elvie proudly.
“Nang dahil sa paggawa ng mga sapatos, nakabili kami ng aming sariling bahay, lupa, at mga sasakyan. Nabibigyan din namin ng magandang buhay ang aming mga anak.”
Of course, they have a few failed attempts, but they didn’t allow those hindrances to keep them from going. According to Nephtali and Elvie, they have managed to secure a successful shoemaking business because they never give up on their goal and they continue to improve and innovate.
Nephtali and Elvie dream of seeing their own shoe stores at the malls all over the country. But for the meantime, their goal is to have a physical store outside Liliw so that it will be convenient for their customers to shop their shoes.
Advice to Aspiring and Existing Entrepreneurs
As for their advice to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, Nephtali and Elvie revealed that to remain competitive in the business, it is important to keep abreast of market trends through attending seminars and researching and to join government programs.
“Do not hesitate to seek help from government agencies like the DTI because they will help entrepreneurs like us to get to the place where we want to be,” Elvie concluded.
Presently, Jhaz lives true to its company motto that “for every footwear that you need, they have it Jhaz for you.”
Learn more about the programs and services of the Department of Trade and Industry Region 4-A on www.dti.gov.ph/regions/region4a. To receive updates, follow the DTI 4-A on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
RTFARM SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS or popularly known as “The Garden Kitchen” was started in 2009 by Ms. Andrea Karina Alforte. It was registered as sole proprietorship in 2016 thru the Negosyo Center Los Baños (NCLB).
The Garden Kitchen first started out as a weekend cooking hobby. Her healthy dishes were being sold in Manila. However, traumatized by an unthinkable disaster brought by Typhoon Ondoy, the family decided to leave their life in the city and move to a simpler lifestyle beneath the legendary Mt. Makiling in Los Baños, Laguna. Quitting their jobs, the couple invested their pay checks to put up a hydroponic farm, which was later converted to an organic farm. It was a family-run operation. “We do everything ourselves, from constructing the greenhouse, to planting, harvesting, and delivery. Even the kids help out in sowing seeds and their cute little faces help us market our produce.” Specializing in lettuces, salad vegetables and herbs, ARTFARM now produces the ingredients for The Garden Kitchen’s processed food products, and supplies fresh vegetables to local organic stores, food businesses and restaurants.
The development of good products using ingredients that are sustainably sourced and produced is one of their strengths. Clients are able to differentiate ARTFARM’s products and are sure the quality of products are grown and processed with personal touch. Like any farming enterprise, their weaknesses include production-related risks, pests, droughts, storms that affect the quality and quantity of farm harvest.
One of the major achievements in their business is finding partners who can help bring their products closer to their target markets. They joined bazaars however, it’s a bit costly and inefficient. They then started to work with a small network of businesses, and organizations. Now, they are able to reach households, organic stores and organic farms not only in north and south Luzon, but also in Visayas and Mindanao.
She shared her experience at the Negosyo Center Los Baños. “We first walked into the Negosyo Center just to inquire about the process of registering our business. But we left already having a Certificate of Business Name registration. It was a very efficient transaction and it motivated us to take our business to the next level, to make it a legal and legitimate business entity. We are lucky to have the Negosyo Center as our partner as we grow our business. This is also our first business venture, but through the networking, marketing and learning opportunities offered by NC, we are more confident to move forward, with product registration and licensing, and acquiring certification from various bodies. We already know that we have good products, but Negosyo Center is supporting us so we can offer products that are guaranteed, registered and certified so consumers will be assured of our products' quality, and so that our products can reach a bigger market, not just locally, but perhaps globally.”
Name of Owner: Clarisse A. Quimio
Name of Business: Mini Moo Ice Cream
Line of Business: Frozen Desserts
When The Business Started: February 12, 2014
How long the business is operating: 4 years
Clarisse has always loved ice cream since childhood. She believes that ice cream is the most integral part of any celebration—not cake or balloons. In fact, her ideal job has always been to be an ice cream taste tester. When she grew, she studied hard and received a degree in BS Biology major in Microbiology from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Years later, with the help of her network of Microbiologists and other professionals, she finally was able to create her own ice cream business—Mini Moo Ice Cream.
Mini Moo Ice Cream first started selling their ice cream along the streets of F.O. Santos near UPLB gate in February 2014. She shouted “Free Taste! Ice Cream!” to the passers-by going to UPLB’s Feb Fair. Word-of-mouth from satisfied customers grew Mini Moo’s customer base.
As a fresh entrepreneur, Clarisse stuggled in managing her business. In the first two weeks, the new shop was talked about as the “ice cream-an sa F.O.” for there was no logotype made for the her business name yet. However, she slowly get the hang of managing her business and made it grow.
Mini Moo have had their share of failures. They opened a branch in front of Letran University in 2015 but closed it down after only three months. The Letran branch served ice cream as well as rice meals. Clarisse was not able to manage two branches simultaneously. Being a sole proprietor without her own vehicle, managing the two branches was putting too much strain on her health. She decided to close down the Letran branch and planned for a more stable growth strategy. Clarisse then enrolled in UPLB’s Master of Management program to have
formal education in managing a business. She finished her management degree last February 2018. Now in its fourth year, Mini Moo is set for a real growth phase.
Mini Moo Ice Cream serves almost a dozen of unique ice cream flavors that customers could try again and again. They are considered “LOYAL CUSTOMERS.” The company is dependent on one-market at present- The UPLB Community that exhibits seasonality. Significantly smaller market during summer and school vacations. Proper management of capital specifically cash has to be done in order to survive and keep the operation going.
Apart from achieving four successful years of operations, they have recently opened a new branch that is nearer their customers. This new branch reduces the walking distance of customers by 50% and has higher visibility to potential new customers.
The Negosyo Center has helped the business owners meet fellow business owners around Laguna. This has opened new possibilities for Mini Moo in terms of collaborations, and sharing of ideas.
The Negosyo Center provided seminars that are highly relevant to the growth of Mini Moo. In particular, the most useful seminars for Mini Moo are 1) Packaging & Product Labeling, and 2) FDA Licensing Process & Documentation. The former is very helpful because they have the plans of applying for the business Trademark soon. The latter is very helpful in the planning for the development of new product lines like ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cakes, and other types of ice cream. These seminars have helped them create a more solid plan for the business.
Aside from filing their logo as a Trademark, they intend to put up more branches outside Los Baños. They are also developing new product lines that are still related to the current set of products (frozen desserts) to keep their customers interested.
As a BS Microbiology graduate, Clarisse realized that can it be useful for product development but not so much in growing a business. She enrolled her Master of Management in 2015 to have a formal education on business management. This year, she will be finishing her Master’s degree and has a holistic and professional understanding in the proper management of a small business.
Her final words. “Never stop learning”. Every business is unique so take all the opportunities possible that will help you learn more about everything that can affect your business. Read books. Enroll to classes, trainings and seminars to keep your mind sharp.
Talking costs zero pesos so talk to your customers to understand how you can serve them better. Talk to your employees; they will always have good suggestions on how to improve your operations. Talk to your suppliers; your feedback to them will help improve their offerings to you. Talk to your neighboring businesses; in dire times, they will be the first ones to be on your aid. Talk to government agencies; they always have programs that assist growth of SMEs.
Don’t skimp on communication. The only expensive advertisement is the one that did not generate a sale.
Treat your employees fairly and with respect. They spend more time in the business than you do. They face more of your customers than you do. If they feel valued, they will love your business. If they love your business, they will perform well and do honest work.
MS. CLARISSE A. QUIMIO
F.O. Santos, Batong Malake,
Los Baños, Laguna
With only Php250.00 as a capital in 2009, who would have thought that Sarilikha Handicrafts can now offer a range of pandan and water hyacinth bags, gowns, crafts, and slippers?
Mr. Cesar Pasco, the owner, who once used to live in a slum, paves its way to success in his craft as a designer and an entrepreneur because of his perseverance, willingness to learn, and love for his community and especially to his family. Without having a formal education in managing a business, he always says that his business “Sarilikha Handicrafts” only started by accident, starting with just a Php250.00 fund. He did not even expect that his business is able to sustain its operation up to now.
In addition to, Mr. Pasco shared that, during the beginning of his entrepreneurial career, he thought that making a good sale was the only goal in order to grow his business. His previous practice was to only buy raw materials, produce a product, and finally sell the product. He was not giving so much consideration on other aspects of his business such us managing his finances, product development, operations, and human resources.
Then there came a time when the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Go Negosyo of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship launched the “Kapatid Angat Langat” where he became one of the mentees. According to him, the program gave him a sense of direction for his business. He also mentioned that the DTI has not only helped him change his demeanor toward his business and personal goals but also opened doors for opportunities with the help of other government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology and the local government units. He was also invited to showcase his products to different exhibits and trade fairs sponsored by the DTI, American Women, Manila FAME, and many more. Mr. Pasco is very grateful with these opportunities because it became an avenue for him to enter the market and get closer to potential partners and loyal customers. By participating to these exhibits and trade fairs, he was able to close a contract with high-end stores such as Balikbayan Handicrafts, Rustan’s, and Robinsons.
At present, “mentee turned mentor” Mr. Pasco is always tapped to conduct training for Product Development in some provinces all over the Philippines. Not only beneficiaries of the local government units do receive trainings from him, but also he supports them by buying their finish products and selling them in his handicraft shop or showcasing them at exhibits where he joins and participates. He also looks forward in growing his adopted communities by making pandan and water hyacinth products to be well-known all over the world because it can greatly help in creating sustainable livelihood for Filipinos where the abundance of such indigenous materials is very evident.
To end, the owner of Sarilikha Handicrafts leaves a message to those who want to start a business, “For you to be successful, always remember these three recipes for success: (1) quality of products, may it be food or handicrafts; (2) price should always be competitive; and (3) be responsible and committed not only to your clients but also to your suppliers and [do not] ever be afraid to start a business even if it is small. Challenges may come along the way but the sweet taste of success is everlasting, especially if you’re already able to help create jobs to your fellow Filipino.”?
| MR. CESAR PASCO, Owner
Address: Brgy. San Antonio, Pila, Laguna, 4010
Mobile No.: 09199753335