Every day, we see a growing number of entrepreneurs taking the leap and starting their own businesses. For many, this is a lifelong dream that they’ve finally been able to turn into reality. But what does it really take to be a successful entrepreneur? Is it simply having a great idea? Or is there more to it than that?

In truth, there are many different qualities that go into making a successful entrepreneur. But one of the most important is having the ability to see opportunities where others only see challenges. This was certainly the case for Alexandro Condat, a local resident of Tiwi, Albay.

When most people looked at the bamboo and coconut shells that were abundant in his town, they saw nothing more than waste material. But Alexandro saw an opportunity to create something beautiful and useful out of these natural resources.

From Fishing to Crafting

Alexandro is a humble man who started his journey as a local fisherman who toiled under the grueling heat of the sun. It was a tough life, but he managed to get by. One day, he was given the opportunity to attend the Skills Enhancement Training on Bamboo Crafts by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Albay Provincial Office.

He saw this as a chance to improve his life and took it with both hands. After the training, he immediately received orders for his products which were bamboo candle holders. From that day on, he was motivated to pursue bamboo crafts making.

With the Bamboo Crafts Starter Kit he received from DTI, he started his own business and registered it through DTI Albay in 2014 with the name Alexandro Arts and Crafts Manufacturing.

His main products were lamps, pots, and novelty items made from bamboo and coconut shells.

At his first trade fair, he notably remembers selling only 1 item, which cost PhP1,000, while other MSMEs more established than him were sold out. Instead of feeling down, this experience only fueled him more to develop his creations.

“There are instances when your products will be criticized but don’t take it negatively, don’t let it bother you. You should be inspired to improve and make your product’s quality better,” he quipped.

When he started his business, it was just a one-man show. He was responsible for everything — from design conceptualization to production. Eventually, he was able to hire three workers who were responsible for the preparation of materials and the production of the items he designed. He made sure to train them well and impart the skills he was able to develop in bamboo and coco crafts making.

Establishing the ABC-Tiwi in 2016 was a turning point for Alex and his business. Realizing that the bamboo and coconut shell crafting industry was picking up and that the number of workers kept growing, he saw the potential in establishing an association that would bring together coconut farmers, ceramic makers, and other indigenous people from Joroan, Bawiis, Lourdes and Putsan.

The organization’s main goal was to keep the bamboo industry alive and thriving in its locality. By working together, they could achieve this goal and create a sustainable industry that will benefit all members of the association.

Sticking with the DTI

In the first few years of his operations, Alex’s sales weren’t stable. But this did not deter him.

In business, don’t be dismayed whether or not you’re making a profit all the time. There will be instances that the sales aren’t good. You have to bide your time and be patient. Your turn will come, don’t give up easily,” he would say to his workers and peers.

He pushed through and focused on developing his craftsmanship by attending more DTI-facilitated activities focused on bamboo crafts and coco shell products. These included skills enhancement activities and product development programs.

DTI Albay helped Alex and ABC Tiwi by inviting them to participate in several major market promotion activities and trade fairs such as Tibay Tiwi Fair, Orgullo Kan Bikol, Bishop Gainza Trade Fair, and Saod Trade Fair.

One thing Alex learned from these events was to always benchmark his products against competitors. He consistently asks himself, “What are they doing that I can incorporate into my design? What can I still do to improve and make my products the best in the market?”

By analyzing the market and looking into nature for inspiration, Alex was able to create innovative products with aesthetically [1] pleasing designs.

The COVID-19 Effect on the Crafts Industry

In 2020, the pandemic hit the country’s economy hard, leading to some of the sharpest declines in recent times. Many industries were greatly affected, especially MSMEs. Alexandro Arts and Crafts and ABC Tiwi were among these enterprises.

But Alex’s growing enterprise was able to bounce back through the loan assistance from the P3 CARES program of DTI. The program offers low-interest loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic to help them restart and recover.

The business is now regaining its foothold in the market now that restrictions have eased.

Brighter and Craftier Future Ahead

Today, Alex’s business is doing well, allowing him to provide for his family with two children still studying. From an initial investment of Php 26, his fare going to the first DTI training he attended, Alexandro Arts and Crafts Manufacturing now earns PhP180,000 annually.

Since it was a simple training that changed Alex’s life, he makes it a point to do the same for his community. He shares his knowledge of crafting from bamboo and coconut shells with students and anyone else willing to learn.

Through his business, Alex ensures that his workers earn a decent living to support their families.

Alexandro Condat is a true inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs who are hoping to improve their lives. He advises to always seize opportunities when they come your way, as these may just be the means to help you accomplish the impossible! ♦