Husband and wife Sonny and Jennifer Avila started working for a handicraft company in 1990, and when the firm closed down five years later, they decided to put up their own. They pooled their savings and borrowed more money from relatives to raise P20,000: money they used to buy materials and equipment for molding and casting. They hired 15 to 20 people to start making 800 to 1,000 pieces a week of hand-painted miniature shoes, napkin rings, decorative figurines, and home accessories.
[related|post]Sonny oversaw operations and Jennifer monitored product quality. They had only one client in their first year (Spectrum International Corp., an exporter and now a regular client, to which they first sold assorted products in bulk and which they charged P38 per set, base, and cover.) They made 100 to 200 pieces of handicraft when they started in 1997, but now they produce 14,000 pieces in 100 different designs fortnightly to supply four regular clients. They sell P30,000 to P52,000 worth of handicrafts per client and are busiest—and must hire extra hands, mostly neighbors—in the second half of each year and from February to April, when exporters start buying.
The Avilas quickly gained the experience and the clients to sustain the business early on—but not always the capital to meet big orders or to keep producing while waiting for customers to pay. In late 2004 they heard about TSPI Development Corp., a non-government organization offering financing to poor women, from neighbors in Taguig, and it happened that they could use extra money to make more handicrafts. Jennifer applied for a starting loan of P5,000 under the lending firm’s Kabuhayan Program 1 in November of the same year. “We would have approached them sooner had we known about them,” Sonny says.