In 2005, desperate to keep his floundering five-year-old printing press business in Bacolod City afloat, Marianito “Jojo” Vito Jr. tried to diversify into several products on top of just accepting printing jobs. The printing press had been running at a loss and, to make ends meet, Vito had to augment his income by teaching management and entrepreneurship at La Consolacion College in the same city.
[related|post]Vito then had the brilliant idea of making paper mache masks out of waste paper from his factory, because of the city’s popular annual MassKara festival, that features weekend-long street dance competitions among colorful masked dancers. Leasing an exhibition space from a local trade association, he pooled P5,000 of his savings to start the business. Fortunately, his mask venture was a big hit, and he soon found himself filling growing orders from both local and foreign clients.
A year later, Vito decided to improve the quality of his product for eventual export. He was apprehensive that being made of papier mache, the masks might get moist and turn soggy once they were delivered to other countries with climates unlike that of the Philippines. “I really had to do something about the possible problem because the international orders for my masks were getting so huge, and I was afraid of losing those orders,” he recalls.
Vito decided to shift from paper to fiberglass—a difficult and painful process for Vito because the shift required a much more sizeable investment, training in new production technology, and a bigger production area.
Fortunately for Vito, he became qualified for a loan from the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) at about that time. He therefore applied for a P50,000 loan and used the proceeds to purchase raw materials, hire more workers, and run a training program for them. He knew nothing about fiberglass at that point, but the fiberglass supplier gave him and his staff training for free on how to use the material.