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Starting at home
May 31, 2012
To come up with a name for their company, Jun and Bernadette Biag combined their children's names to form the word VINLIA, spelled in all-capital letters. Largely on the strength of Dette's talent as a furniture designer, the couple had decided to go into the business of producing and marketing quality custom-made home furnishings and accessories. Previously, Dette had seven years of experience designing furniture for clients, and Jun, a dentist, had great faith in her design abilities.
"This faith was actually all I brought to the business in the beginning," Jun says. "For me, going into the business was like entering the 'Twilight Zone'. I had zero background in furniture and design, so Dette encouraged me to enroll in an AutoCAD class. This was how I eventually learned to do the layouts for her furniture designs."
To get the business started, the couple set up their office and workspace in 2005 at Dette's old home in Angeles City in Pampanga. They had to do a lot of rehabilitation work at the place because it had been left unoccupied for years following the disastrous eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. Recalls Jun: "We started with only four skilled workers but they were very kind and loyal to us. They even assured us that they would work for us without pay until clients or projects actually came in."
During the initial year of their business, the couple ruthlessly cut down on costs to keep themselves afloat. Dette explains how they did it: "We ran the business with minimal overhead, with Jun and I dividing the work required by our day-to-day operations. I took care of the designs and estimates, while he took care of the production. We would do purchasing, marketing, and even deliveries together. It was hard work, but it finally paid off when we started getting good feedback from satisfied customers."
Their first big break came in 2005 when a relative contracted them to furnish and refurbish an entire house in Hacienda Royale, San Fernando, Pampanga. It was a rather large house, with seven bedrooms and an area of 600 sq meters. News of the good job they did to the house soon spread by word-of-mouth. "We got more deals in the months that followed, and we had to hire two new office staff to help us cope with the growing demand for our services," Dette says.
Promoting VINLIA was a job the Biag couple did themselves. Dette recalls: "We made our own brochures and flyers and distributed them ourselves to the various villages in Pampanga. My husband would even befriend newspaper vendors in the area so they would agree to insert our flyers into their newspapers for free."
The couple says they had an advantage by making their business home-based from the start. "It lessened our overhead expenses, and we used the savings to pay off our electric bills and other expenses," Dette says.
What proved to be a dilemma for the Biags, however, was raising capital for their business. "You can avail of a loan only if you had already been in business for two years and have collateral, so we couldn't get a loan from financial institutions. We therefore had to turn to our relatives for a loan to expand our business. We just had to prove ourselves reliable by keeping up-to-date with our repayments," Jun says.
Today, a year later, VINLIA now has a showroom right in front of the Biags' workshop in Angeles City, Pampanga. "We chose a spot that used to be an auto supply store, then converted it into a well-organized showroom for our home furnishing and accessory lines," Dette says.
Now that their products are getting the attention they deserve, the demand for them has been growing. To keep up with it, the Biags now have eight workers and have expanded their production workspace to 200 sq m.
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