Citrus Alley

By Marilou A. Santos

Citrus Alley, owned by a young entrepreneur, Amante Esguerra, started with a homemade lemonade recipe back in 2013. After a trip abroad, the owner saw the potential of a freshly-squeezed lemonade juice stand as a stand-alone business. With the help of friends, and discussing tasting experiments for dinners, they tried numerous concoctions to perfect the taste of their product. They saw that lemon is the only fruit that was being marketed at the time, hence they came up with the idea of introducing other well-known citrus fruits as flavor bases. The original flavors were freshly squeezed lemon, lime and orange. 

Mr. Esguerra is single, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Nursing and formerly worked in Eduardo L. Joson Memorial Hospital. He resigned eventually to fully manage their businesses which were a pharmacy (drug store and medical equipment’s) and Citrus Alley. 

From its only outlet then at SM Megacenter in Cabanatuan City, it now has five (5) more branches located in SM City, Waltermart- Cabanatuan City and Talavera, NE Pacific Mall and the latest at the Citymall in Sta. Rosa. The owner was a participant of the DTI’s SME Roving Academy before becoming one of the Mentees in the Batch 1 of the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program in 2017. 

One time, while looking for an oxygen tank, Mr. Esguerra met some DTI Associates. He was introduced to the technical assistance which DTI provides to businesses. Since then, capability building activities and technical assistance were given to him in terms of training and consultancy. His enthusiasm to learn more and being a promising entrepreneur earned him a slot in the KMME program, a series of free mentoring sessions provided by experts. 

Mr. Esguerra graduated from KMME batch 1. The learning gained from the different business modules were implemented and resulted to better customer service and operation. In addition, increase in income was achieved with better management approaches particularly managing the human resources, storage and finance. Marketing strategy such as the use of e-commerce was likewise done and helped achieved better results for the business. According to him, he learned to work harder and never give up. He also learned to avoid micro managing, empowering the staff and apply delegation, work harmoniously with the staff, customer, and suppliers. Other lessons he applied because of the sessions were for him not be afraid to seek and ask assistance and deploy continuous research and development for product innovation.

At present, Mr. Esguerra is working on offering his business for franchise.

During the KMME batch 2 launched on March 7, 2018, Mr. Esguerra was one among three successful entrepreneurs who shared their journey to success during the Inspirational Forum.



Dealing with Construction Permits


Getting Electricity


Registering Property

Starting a Business

By Kate Bondoc | Office of the Undersecretary for Trade and Investments Promotion Group

04 April 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

In Photo: Zapateria is a cocreation hub where designers can create and attend shoemaking workshops.
THE Department of Trade and Industry’s Trade and Investments Promotion Group (DTI-TIPG) lauded the opening of a cocreation hub for shoemakers in Marikina City.

Zapateria is a cocreation hub for shoemakers, designers and hobbyists that intends to foster innovation and creativity in the shoe industry. DTI Trade and Investments Promotion Group Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado said the opening of Zapateria in Marikina is a significant step in reviving the shoe industry in the country.

“This initiative by the private sector plays an important part in expediting efforts to revive Marikina as a primary source of quality and truly world-class shoes. It means a lot for key players in the industry as we bring the community together to make Philippine-made shoes more attractive to buyers from across the world,” Terrado said.

Founded by Rico Sta. Ana and his daughter Unyx  Sta. Ana, the Zapateria serves as a workshop/playground for aspiring shoemakers and designers with the opportunity to get them connected with the market and vice-versa.

“This signals a stronger call for designers in tapping artisans and skilled Filipino shoe designers in making knowledge, facilities and resources accessible especially to small entrepreneurs and young designers,” Terrado said.

Zapateria officially opened its doors to the public on  February 24 in San Roque, Marikina City. During the simple opening ceremonies, designers and key players in the industry attended and showed their support to the establishment of the hub.

Unyx Sta. Ana said shoes played an important part in the growth and history of the Marikina community and the families living there.

“My father started as a shoeshine boy at age 13 working for his dad at their factory. He got involved in every production process and learned the ins and out of the business,” she added.

Sta. Ana said generations of shoemakers in Marikina City included her family’s business, which was then among the exporters of Marikina-made shoes abroad.

“The family shoe business was one of the successful companies during that time. We were the first shoe exporter to the United States,”  she added.

With Zapateria, the Sta. Ana father-daughter tandem wanted to put up a platform where the next generation of designers and artisans of the shoe industry can reconnect, gather, and cocreate new wave of Philippine-made shoes.

“The thought of Zapateria without the full concept yet came into mind when my dad got into accident in 2015. When he was at the hospital, shoes was still on his mind, he thought maybe the reason he got through it is because he’s still not done with shoes,” Sta. Ana said.

Zapateria calls for greater collaboration through its shared pooled resources and facilities, shared research and development, and knowledge exchange. It also calls for cocreation through design partnerships, crowdsourcing, personalization and mass customization. It also provides market facilitation and retail.

Sta. Ana said more than the platform that Zapateria provides for key players in the shoemaking industry in Marikina City, they also see the hub as a form of movement that focuses on fostering local artistry and craftsmanship.

“Celebrating the rich history of Marikina, we see Zapateria as a movement to increase awareness and appreciation together with all the members of the community,” Sta. Ana added.

For 2018 the DTI aggressively promotes Filipino creativity through support programs for the creative services sector. Terrado said Filipino ingenuity in design is highly evident to wearables, including shoes produced by Filipino artisans.

“Marikina-made shoes once made it to the world map as a source of top-notch shoes. As we promote more and more of passionately produced and design-driven Filipino products to the rest of the world, we see Zapateria as a contributor in further urging designers and makers to keep up with cool, modern and trendy products,” Terrado said.

Sta. Ana also shared the important role of the government in sustaining these initiatives made by the private sector for the shoe industry.

“[The] Government’s role is to create an environment where entrepreneurs have easier ways to thrive to a more convenient access to shared services facilities for the processing of materials and development of tools like shoe lasts. Community development programs and marketing would also help to bring everyone closer together and attract more talents,” Terrado said.

Zapateria is located in 56 Midtown Subdivision, San Roque, Marikina City.

ONE TOWN, ONE PRODUCT (OTOP) PHILIPPINES is a priority stimulus program for Micro, Small and Medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) as government’s customized intervention to drive inclusive local economic growth. The program enables localities and communities to determine, develop, support, and promote products or services that are rooted in its local culture, community resource, creativity, connection, and competitive advantage. As their own ‘pride-of-place,’ these are offerings where they can be the best at or best renowned for. It endeavors to capacitate our ‘OTOPreneurs’ to innovate and produce market-ready products and services.

OTOP is an international program that originated from Japan’s One Village, One Product. Its various versions and iterations in numerous countries are proofs that it is a viable branding and stimulus program for MSMEs. Here in the Philippines, it has been in existence since 2002. This was further powered through the promulgation of Executive Order 176 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in February 2003. After a decade and a half of combined gains and challenges, OTOP remains to be a strategic tool that provides an ecosystem of assistance from local government units, national government agencies, and the private sector. It is now transitioning to a convergent effort to its next phase of execution in the form of OTOP Next Gen.


The program has two major components and are generally defined below:

  1. OTOP Next Gen – as the SUPPLY side of the program, it refers to the package of assistance provided to capacitate the MSMEs. This component is primarily the product development initiatives, training, referral, and others with the goal of leveling up the products in the areas of design, quality, volume, among others. This component addresses MINDSET CHANGE and MASTERY of entrepreneurship.
  2. OTOP.PH or OTOP Philippines Hub – as the DEMAND side of the program, this provides the physical and online channels and market access platform where OTOP products – especially those which has been assisted via product development – are showcased on a day-to-day basis. This addresses the MARKETS side of entrepreneurship.



OTOP Next Gen is DTI’s program to LEVEL UP these products and services. Building from the gains of OTOP first generation, this initiative aims to offer a package of public-private assistance in order 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.

The reboot in 2017 allows communities to have more than one OTOP offering and has transitioned to being more market-oriented and innovation-driven. Market preference ultimately dictates the OTOP offerings and the business direction that OTOPreneurs should take.

In its relaunch in 2017, the program was able to assist 6,519 MSMEs and developed or improved a total of 4,960 products and prototypes. Several of these products are now found on supermarkets, weekend bazaars, Go Lokal! outlets, and other market platforms including soon-to-open OTOP.PH or OTOP Philippines Hub.




OTOP covers only tangible products and skills-based services. Experiences, tourism activities, festivals are not covered. OTOP includes the following: OTOP Tableya

Processed Food : processed fruits and nuts, delicacies and ‘kakanins’. juices and beverage, pastries and bakery goods, preserved food, sauces, cakes and desserts, wine, tea, food supplements, culinary-based specialty products

Agri-based Products: coffee, cacao, agricultural produce, agri-processing (processed meats, coconut oil, etc), seafood (preserved and processed)

Arts and Crafts : coco coir, weaves, bamboo, paper artistry, wood

Home & Fashion/ Creative Artisanal : gifts, souvenir items, furniture, décor, houseware, fabrics, garments, toys, textiles

Services (skills-based) and Others: hilot, sculpting, wellness products (essential oils, etc), industrial products, personal care (soaps, etc), cosmetics



The program is composed of four phases: ACT Sessions , Service, Showcase, and Sell, Sell, Sell.


OTOP Philippines is part of an ecosystem of current entrepreneurship programs

intended as a branding and marketing platform and with product development as its primary instrument of assistance. It offers a comprehensive assistance package through a convergence of services from local government units (LGUs), national government agencies (NGAs), and the private sector with the end of mind of alleviating poverty and promoting profitable goods and services thereby developing MSMEs, creating jobs, and stimulating both local and international trade. This includes:

  • Product Development
    • Design Services and Intervention
    • Packaging and Labeling
    • FDA, Nutrifacts, and Testing Assistance
  • Technology Updating
  • Capacity-Building
  • Brand Equity and Development
  • Intellectual Property Assistance
  • Access to Finance
  • Marketing Platforms and Promotion


OTOP Philippines Hub or OTOP.PH is a retail store or spaces where products from One Town One Product offerings can be found. Catering to the general mainstream market of both local buyers and tourists, these one-stop shops offer a general outlet for quality OTOP merchandise before they level up to the premium market catered to by Go Lokal and other high-end market platforms.

As a one-stop shot, the OTOP Philippines Hub can be a redesigned pasalubong center showcasing mostly OTOP products including OTOP from other regions. The hub can be found in mostly in airports, terminals, pasalubong centers, tourist spots, Negosyo Centers, public markets, and other consumer-frequented locations including malls. As another flagship market access program by the Department of Trade and Industry, this serves as a marketing vehicle and incubation platform to promote and champion OTOP products.


OTOP Philippines is a convergent program involving DTI and other agencies of government. At DTI, the program is managed by the Regional Operations Group under the leadership of Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya.

The Assistant Secretary in charge of the program is Asst. Sec. Demphna Du-Naga (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The Program Management Office is headed by Program Manager Leon Flores III (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For any inquiries, you may contact your DTI local offices near you or email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Landline: +63 2 751 3307

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