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.
By Darwin Manumbali
With the help of seminars offered by the Department of Trade and Industry, Almira's knowledge was upgraded. The business was able to participate in various trade fairs, not only in Nueva Ecija, but also in other provinces and Metro Manila. She participated in the Likha ng Central Luzon Trade Fair at SM Megamall on October 11-15, 2017 and in the CARP Regional Trade Fair at Robinson Starmills, San Fernando Pampanga on November 13-16, 2017.
With the learning from KMME which she adopted, her business operations improved and her market started to grow. Almira now sells her products online. Many of her beaded bags have been ordered not only in Nueva Ecija but also in the different parts of the Philippines and abroad. Additionally, she sells her products to her friends and buyers where they could also buy raw materials and her handmade precious beaded bags. Starting the business with her children as workers, she now has one additional worker. Her booth sales increased by 50 percent, as well as sales through orders. She also now has a market outlet of her own in San Jose City.
|Ms. Almira C. Beltran, KMME Batch 1 mentee while sharing her stories during KMME seminar.|
|Almira’s Beadswork, selling her adorable products at Likha ng Central Luzon 2017 at Megamall Trade Hall, Mandaluyong City on October 11-15, 2017.|
|ABKO beaded bag|
Ako Babaeng Katutubo ng Olongapo (ABKO) started in 2014 as a group of indigenous marginalized women and their families. They reside in Sitio Mampueng-Limuran, Iram, Sitio Tralala and New Cabalan in Olongapo City. Being economically disadvantaged made these women participate in providing for the basic needs of their families. Indigenous women individually produce the traditional handicraft in their tribal communities. The handicrafts are made of indigenous materials gathered in the forest, like rattan, bamboo, cogon grass, tree barks. They also source materials from refused waste fabrics (coming from the waste materials of Subic Bay Freeport Zone). To market these handicraft products, ABKO members sell house to house or in markets, malls, offices, schools and inside the Freeport zone. Among the their products are baskets, hunting weapons and tools, musical instruments, mats, wood carvings, doormat, pot holders and hammocks.
The group was accredited by the local government unit of Olongapo City as a Civil Society Organization (CSO). Through the Bottom up Budgeting (BuB) funds, they were able to propose the project “Sustainable Livelihood Project of Handicraft Making for Indigenous Women. ” This was approved, providing the group Php 1 Million worth of project funds for their handicraft making. This was supplemented with a counterpart fund from Olongapo City amounting to Php 666,666.67.
With the funds given to them, the group purchased sewing machines, hand tools & equipment and raw materials. Aside from that, the group was trained to produce other kinds of products. Later on, their handicrafts underwent product development to be more competitive in the market. With the assistance of DTI Zambales, the group was able to join trade fairs and exhibits, attend market forum, attend training and seminars to further enhance their capacities and to explore other markets.
The group ventured into other products like eco bags, jewelries, quilts, cooking utensils and jewelries. From 300 pieces of eco bags, they are now producing 2,000 pieces of eco bags per month; while their quilts, from 50 pieces a week, they now produce 70 pieces a week. Before, they can not even pay the salaries of their workers on time. Now, they adapted the per piece remuneration for products produced by the workers. To be more competitive in the market, they have registered as a BMBE accredited enterprise, with the registered name “JOTS Souvenir Products by ABKO”.