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Meet Myrna and Melvin Rojo. A husband and wife team who only wanted to provide for their family’s needs. Both teachers by profession, they lived a simple life in Iloilo City, making sure that their three children are safe and sound. Melvin left his family in 2002 to work in an International School in Brunei Darussalam. It was not an easy choice but he had to do it. After five years, Myrna followed her husband and stayed in Brunei as well.

Myrnz Creation Cakes

Having finished a degree in Home Economics, Myrna has her baking skills intact. While she stayed at home, she baked goodies and cakes for Melvin’s co-workers at school. Shortly after, she made customized cakes for fellow Filipinos and foreigners in Brunei. Her cakes sold very well during weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. It was, then, that the couple saw a good opportunity in baking. They thought of doing the same thing -- only now, it will be done back home. And so, Myrna and Melvin went back to the Philippines in 2014 to start their own cake business.

They formalized their operations, and Myrnz Creation Cakes and Pastries was registered in DTI in July 2014. Their baking activities were done in their home in Mandurriao, Iloilo City with some help from their children.

Being former OFWs, they were encouraged by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to pursue the OFW Reintegration Program, a special loan program in partnership with government banks such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) to support enterprise development among OFWs and their families.

For this reason, they attended the Entrepreneurship Seminar at Negosyo Center Iloilo City in February 2015, which as required by OWWA and LBP. It introduced the couple to the basics of putting up a business and the groundwork needed by start-up entrepreneurs like them.

Within a month after the seminar, the couple worked closely with an NC business counsellor to package their business plan and submit all other documents to LBP. While waiting for the result, the couple underwent trainings at Negosyo Center such as Food Safety and Financing Forum. They also enrolled in the Labelling Consultancy for the Processed Food Sector under DTI’s SME Roving Academy. Label designs for their cake boxes and packaging were provided.

Their hard work paid off when LBP approved their business loan for Php 500,000.00 on September 2015. They further honed their entrepreneurial competencies by attending more trainings at Negosyo Center such as Effective Selling and Negotiation Skills, Marketing Fundamentals, Tax Education, Introduction to the Internet, and Manufacturing Management.

Now, Myrna and Melvin have opened their store where they could expand their market. From home-based baking to putting in place their production facilities in their new store, the Negosyo Center journeyed with them every step of the way.

It is interesting how their network of customers and partners widened because of the trainings, events and programs they have joined. They have met “special” people and accommodated learning visits from different agencies and companies fascinated by their story. They have also shared their story in a huge crowd during the 1st Negosyo Center Convention in Manila last December 2015. Melvin shared that the best thing that the Negosyo Center gave them is the chance to be back home with the family and be able to provide food for the table and send the children to school. Myrnz Creation Cakes and Pastries and Negosyo Center made it possible for them.

What was supposed to be a livelihood program intended to simply provide additional income to the community of farm workers turned out to be a global business venture for Christina Gaston’s Hacienda Crafts Company in Manapla, Negros Occidental.

“We know we could not employ everyone [in the hacienda]. We looked for something they could do at home or on a per piece work basis, something they can work at their own pace,” she recalled.

Established in 1991, the business pioneered in the production of table top items such as candle holders, trays, placemats and table runners using locally sourced materials such as coconut twigs, buri midrib, capiz shells, handwoven fabrics, abaca, raffia fibers and bamboo, among others.

Gaston said that the farm workers are all capable of making beautiful things.

With their crafts, the company participated in trade fairs supported by the DTI.

“Market access is the most important thing,” she emphasized.

Gaston said that her company availed of any DTI trainings that were available.

“It is very important to learn from the expert, and learn from other companies. We developed our product and took advantage of the BMBE (Barangay Micro Business Enterprise) to become a community-based manufacturer,” she said.

She said that it is important to be sustainable to the environment the reason why her company uses locally sourced materials mostly abundant here and in other communities that they were able to connect to.

“We accessed the grassroots communities for materials because they are the one needing market access the most. They don’t have as much opportunity to reach the market, we make that our strength,” she said.

The company started with five and has now 300 weavers/ families in different communities.

“You have to be aware of who you are going to sell it... what the clients want to buy,” she said.

Dee Gelisanga, 36, who does weaving works in the company for the past four years, said the additional income she gets from the company augments her profits by selling rice cakes.

“If there are bulk orders, we also have bigger income,” she said.

Josefina Portillano, 56, said that the income she gets has helped her send her two daughters to school. Portillano is one of the pioneer workers in the business and had been with the company for 23 years.

From the initial table top items, Hacienda Crafts Company has expanded its crafts to furniture (including small accent furniture such as side tables, side chairs and tools) and furnishings. It also started using scraps of fabric in its product line.

The company now exports 30 percent of its products, with 70 percent being sold domestically.

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