Renato Madrideo, owner of RLM Products, holding up a hand-crafted lampWhen super Typhoon Reming hit Albay province in 2007, thousands were left homeless and stripped of their livelihood.

Renato Madrideo, a resident of Daraga, Albay, was among those affected whose house was destroyed by the super typhoon. He lost everything except his hope. So instead of wallowing in despair, he looked for opportunities on how to pick up the pieces and build back a better house.

He was among the attendees of the business training conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the affected residents. The business training targeted residents who wanted to venture into a business to be able to get back on their feet after the disaster.

Renato, who was selling homemade fans before the typhoon’s onslaught, formed a business idea after DTI’s training. Renato and his family decided to establish RLM Native Products, an enterprise that sells home furnishing and houseware items such as fans, lamps, and Christmas decors. RLM Products creates products made of nito (a climbing fern) buri, abaca, and anahaw.

“These came from the forests here in Albay and DTI helped us to take advantage of these local resources. They gave us product development seminars and helped us until we could get back on our feet,” Renato said.

He focused on the business and made sure all the lessons and insights gained from the trainings and seminars attended were applied in his business—and doing so paid off well.

Quality Craft

Each product of RLM spells craftmanship and creativity. Their bestseller, RLM lamps, require several steps to finish—from fabricating the wire frame, forming the design, varnishing, placing the china cloth, and adding the wiring. One worker needs to spend a whole day to finish a single lamp. Crafting was carefully to avoid compromising the quality of each product. Each lamp is checked well before it goes out to the market.

The good feedback about RLM Native Products spread fast like fire, and the business has also reached several areas not just in Metro Manila, but in Davao and General Santos as well. Their products have become a staple display in many pasalubong centers and terminals in Albay, allowing it to gain attention among tourists and locals alike.

RLM Products employee applying finishing touches to a woven tray

“We never received any negative feedback from our customers. Though there are other entrepreneurs who have the same product as ours, our customers still come back to us because of our quality. And we don’t just make ordinary lamps, we want our products to stand out in every household, so we create different designs,” said Renato.

While RLM Products has almost become synonymous with “native products” in the province of Albay, there are still lean months when sales are low. Renato and his family use those lean months to check the quality of their products and prepare for the high demand which starts in September.

“Our weakest months were from May to August. When ‘ber’ months come in, bulk orders of baskets and lamps come in. We also receive big orders during the Holy Week. During the dull months, we just keep on making our products to prepare for the peak season, so that when orders come in, we’re not in a rush to finish orders,” he says.

Renato is glad that they keep on receiving bulk orders that could cover the low number of orders during lean months. “More orders mean we can help more people here in Albay. It means we can provide them jobs,” he added.

Even supermarkets are now ordering baskets from RLM Native Products. “We have become their preferred supplier because they like how affordable our products are and how we commit to deliver on time.”

RLM Products employee working on a lamp

This kind of trust from customers is one of the crucial things that made their family business successful, according to Renato. He makes sure that communication lines between RLM Native Products and its customers are open to ensure that expectations are met. Since they started, their customers keep coming back—and many of them referred them to other potential clients.

Renato shared that he has also learned a lot of lessons in running his business, and one of these is taking care of trusted clients.

People Over Profit

More than the profit that the business reaps, Renato emphasized the importance of taking care of the workers and how this, in return, could ensure the success of any business.
“Aside from maintaining the quality of our products, we should also uphold the welfare of our people. We should always take into consideration their needs and their salaries should not be delayed because they are providing for their families. As long as we maintain this and the quality of our products, I know we have a bright future ahead of us,” he added.

RLM Products employees working on baskets

Hand-woven fans of RLM Products

Renato noted that putting workers’ welfare at the heart of the business could bring in more benefits. If workers are treated well and paid fairly, he believed, they will be more productive and assure quality work. Renato and his family treat their workers as partners in success.

The positive economic impact of RLM Native Products does not stop on Renato’s family as they have been able to employ several workers to produce their native products. RLM Native Products has also become an opportunity to showcase the creativity of the locals of Albay and gain new skills for their workers.

Gone are the days when Renato and his family would still need to borrow money from various sources to maintain their business. The loyal customers and bulk orders have ensured Renato and his family stability.

There is indeed sunshine after the rain, and Renato and his business are a testament to this.

Asked on the piece of advice that he could give to others who want to establish their own business, Renato said, “Take each step slowly but surely as success will not come instantly.”

Christmas decor of RLM Products

Intricately designed Christmas lanterns of RLM Products