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.


By Gesyl S. Dacanay
Lots of wood wastage and expertise in wood crafting and cottage industry are the main elements to create useful and functional artwork. This inspired the rural workers of Palayan City to organize an association, focusing on woodcrafts and cottage industry. They were called The Highlander Cottage Industries and Woodcraft Rural Worker’s Association (THCIWRWA). The group was registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on December 13, 2013. With the availability of resources and skills, the association started to make household furnishings like chopping boards, palo-palo, figurines, novelty and gift items, stools of various designs and shapes. They were able to sell it within the barangay and later, to the entire City of Palayan. This initial positive response encouraged the association to continue searching for improvement of the quality of their products.  Thus, they realized the need to acquire modern and sophisticated equipment.
In 2015, THCIWRWA qualified as one of the beneficiaries under the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Project of the Department of Trade and Industry. They were granted different machines and equipment such as Wood Lathe Machine, Bench Drill, Band Saw, Sliding Compound Miter Saw, and Combination Woodworking Machine worth P 467,040.00. Eventually, they started making good quality home and office furniture and fixtures.
They received numerous kinds of assistance and support from DTI. They were invited to participate in various trainings and seminars conducted through the SME Roving Academy (SMERA) program. These trainings and seminars include costing and pricing seminar, basic accounting seminar, and the likes. They were also able to join different trade fairs in Nueva Ecija organized by DTI, which helped them in the promotion of their products.
The launching of the Negosyo Center in Palayan City made it more convenient for THCIWRWA to access the business assistance they need. Their products were being displayed in the Negosyo Center  (NC) in Palayan and were promoted by the center to prospective clients. They supplied the office cabinets and tables of some of the NCs established in Nueva Ecija in 2017. As of now, they continue to supply office cabinets and tables in every NC to be launched in the province. They also sold to different professionals around Nueva Ecija who ordered household furnishings from them.
They are very grateful that DTI granted them the SSF equipments, which they considered a big help in the production of quality home furnitures and woodcrafts.♦


ABKO beaded bag
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”.

By Darwin Manumbali

The beginning of the story of Almira C. Beltran and Almira's Beadswork was not easy. It was a story of lessons and inspiration.
A woman who believes in the power of diligence and perseverance, Almira tested her fate in Saudi Arabia as a domestic helper. She thought she would uplift her family’s life but it turned out to be the biggest test of her life.
The pains that Almira suffered in the hands of her employers were not a joke. She was maltreated. She was not fed and her communication with her family was cut. Almira suffered illness and worse, she was put to jail for some allegations.
Almira did not lose hope while in jail. She forced herself to survive with the trials presented to her. She started teaching beadwork to other prisoners with the help of officials who trusted in her ability. From the beads she wore, her strength and dreams were rebuilt. In her eight month jail term, Almira decided to start a business of her own upon her return to the Philippines.
When Almira was released on February 24, 2016, she promised to raise herself up again for her family. She started to make beaded bags and accessories. The start of Almira's Beadworks was the turning point for the transformation of her colorful life. Through the local government unit, Almira’s Beadswork was introduced to the DTI-Nueva Ecija. DTI then offered its services and encouraged the registration of her business.
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.
In June 7, 2017, she was introduced as one of the Mentees under the Kapatid Mentor ME program of the DTI. Ms. Almira underwent the 10 business modules. She successfully passed the business improvement plan presentation which is a requirement of the program, and which earned her a slot in the KMME graduation.
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.
She also became a trainer of DTI-organized trainings on beaded items making.
Almira puts love and passion on every product she does. Together with her children and her siblings, they made a variety of designs to offer endless quality and quality. Each new design is named after the first buyer, a way to express the gratitude for the support the people giving to her beadworks.
Almira's simple view is simple, that is, “We must strive for whatever challenges we face with family support and strong faith and love for God”. Almira's dream is to know more about her creations. She wants to continue to enjoy it and support more people.
Almira believes that your fortitude does not measure the challenges you face if not on how you will arise from these trials. And like the fortitude of her beaded bags, Almira will remain firm and steady, an inspiration for all of us.♦ 
Almira's Beads 1 
Ms. Almira C. Beltran, KMME Batch 1 mentee while sharing her stories during KMME seminar.


 Almira's Beads 2
 Almira’s Beadswork, selling her adorable products at Likha ng Central Luzon 2017 at Megamall Trade Hall, Mandaluyong City on October 11-15, 2017.



SGE fashion accessories
SGE fashion accessories

It is a journey from childhood dream to reality. Childhood dreams never fail to inspire us to fulfill what we always want to be when we grow up. Most of us dream about having our dream job. Some of us want to be a successful businessman someday. As long as one believes, and put all your efforts in it, it will come true.

SGE Variety Store is located at the Façade portion, Royal Duty Free, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is currently producing handcrafted fashion accessories (e.g. bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and anklets), bamboo products, and wood products, (e.g. wood frame, wood pencil holder, coconut husk lamp).

Many years ago, Gladys Sharon Estes held a high position at a foreign company. The job required her to wear presentable attire from head to toe. Then an idea struck her – “why not make my own accessories?” From then on, she started making her own fashion accessories. Her interest grew as she envisioned her business to be recognized as a premier Philippines producer of simple elegant handcrafted fashion jewelry, fashion accessories and custom design souvenir items.

Together with her husband, Gerald Estes, she started to sell her handmade accessories at a beach resort near their residence, as people started to check on her products. Her husband also started to make woodcraft products and sell them along with her other accessories. As tourists pass by her stall, she chats with them. Word spread, her collection grew, and she added freshwater pearls, mother pearl shapes, chip stone turquoise, jade and gemstones. She wanted the name of her business as “Head 2 Toe”. However, during her registration of her Business Name Certificate “Head to Toe” is was verified as having been already registered under SEC. She gave numerous names, and fortunately, SGE Variety Store was approved.

She joined the Livelihood Program of Olongapo City - Gawang Gapo - a program to promote the homemade products of the local residents of Olongapo City. This program opened a new door for her business, as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Tourism approached her to assist her on trade fairs. As time went on, many opportunities followed.

Because of the good quality and service given to their customers and the continuous assistance of Department of Trade and Industry and its Negosyo Center, its sales continue to grow. With its starting capital of P 5,000 pesos, they are now earning 20,000 pesos to 30,000 pesos per month, excluding income from trade fair events.

Her business is growing gradually. The responsibility increases too. Like many businesses, there are ups and downs. Yet, she welcomes them with open arms because she knows that she will learn from those experiences.

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