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It was in 2010 when Angelina Figueroa decided to join the Skills Training on Bag Making organized by the DTI-CARP of the Province of Tarlac. 
 
As one of the trainees who expressed their willingness to pursue the business, she received P5,000 under the Self-Employment Assistant – Kaunlaran (SEA-K) program of the DSWD.  Together with 15 SEA-K beneficiaries, they registered their business, AV Figueroa Enterprise, with DTI-Tarlac, also in 2010. Unfortunately, due to various problems, the group decided to close the business after only three (3) years of operations.
 
After a year of hiatus, Angelina decided to put up L & J Enterprises in 2014. Learning from her previous business, she made sure that she has now enough raw materials, which she sourced from Malolos, Bulacan and Mariveles, Bataan. She became an active participant of various local fairs, sponsored by DSWD and DTI, to promote her products and find new market/clients. 
 
To ensure the quality of her products, she even hired the previous members of her SEA-K group who opted to become her employees rather than her business partners.
 
Angelina sought the help of DTI-Tarlac in the design of her new logo.  This, she believes, was the first step in introducing her products to her target market.  She admitted that she conducted research and solicited the help of designers to come up with attractive yet functional bags and wallets.
 
Angelina was a regular participant of the different trainings under the SME Roving Academy.  She was also a graduate mentee of the second batch of the Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprises (KMME) of Tarlac.
 
Supported by her sons Abraham, Joseph, Anthony and Jonathan, who served as  the cutter and staff of the company, Angelina feels she made the right decision in putting up her own business.
 
Even if she had any doubts before, these were dispelled by her  recognition as the first placer for the Outstanding SEA-K beneficiary of DSWD Region 3 in 2015 and a grant of 6 sewing machines and 1 cutting machine worth 100,000 from DOST.

Intervention
 
Angelina Figueroa, after her initial meeting with DTI-Tarlac more than 7 years ago, made it a point to regularly attend the numerous training sessions conducted by the agency.  Under the SME Roving Academy, she joined the seminars on Marketing through Trade Fairs and even Doing Business On-Line, Visual Merchandising, Branding, Entrepreneurial Accounting, Handling Customer Complaints, Trends and Updates and Quality and Productivity-related topics.
 
As one of the 2nd batch of 20 graduate mentees under the KMME project, she says that the counselling and mentoring helped her take a closer look at her plans and strategies in expanding her business.
 
Product development with focus on her new logo and new designs of her bags and wallets increased her confidence in attracting new and maintaining her existing buyers.
She also participated in the BDTP Fair in 2017. This helped her observe and learn the feedback of Makati buyers on her new products.
 
The market matching and trade fair activities which she joined from 2014 to present generated regular orders for her bags and wallets. 
 
Outcome
 
L & J Enterprises enjoyed 40% increase in sales from 2014 to 2017. Angelina Figueroa proudly shared that her loyal clients include the military Training Doctrines Command (TRADOC) of Camp O’Donnell, Tarlac and Isabela,  DTI-Tarlac, Phil. Pedagogical Institute; the local government units of Capas, Tarlac and Taytay, Rizal.
 
The company has grown from an initial complement of eight (8) employees in 2014 to a total of 15 workers in 2017.
 
Angelina still does the purchasing of raw materials, marketing of products and collection of payments.  Nevertheless, she has slowly entrusted to Jonathan, her son, the conceptualization of new designs and assigned a floor manager to monitor the production schedule. The latter receives a certain percentage in the earnings as an incentive.
 
The owner conducts a regular meeting with the employees to encourage them and monitor the progress of the production.

Lessons Learned
 
The decision of Angelina Figueroa to again venture into the bag making business, sans the 14 members of her SEA-K group, was not an easy one.  It took her more than a year to finally have her new business registered.
 
Taking into account the challenges encountered by their group in the previous years, she tried her best not to repeat the same mistakes she saw in the past.
 
She puts a premium on research on the latest trends and updates to come up with products which will sell in the market. Angelina underscores the need to innovate not only the designs but also on the raw materials to be used, since this is one of the keys for a business to survive the increasingly stiff competition.
 
Initially hesitant on putting her business on-line, she now accepts the fact that this is an effective way of marketing her products. She stressed that she will come up with control measures to avoid not getting paid as she had experienced in the past.
 
Maintaining the quality and timely delivery of her products are still her top priorities so as to maintain her loyal clients and attract new ones.
 
Indeed, if we put our hearts and minds in any endeavor, we will definitely enjoy a bagful of blessings like those big-time orders and even recognitions for a job well done. Ask Angelina Figueroa and she surely will agree.♦
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