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Growing Trends: Artisans as entrepreneurs (Part 1 of 3)

With the right dose of creativity and resourcefulness, craft masters can bring out their inner entrepreneurs.
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Artisans going into business were once likened to square pegs being made to fit into round holes. They were painted as pure artists creating only for themselves, not in the least bit interested in selling their ware to the public. That is changing now, as artisans are well aware of the demand for quality products that machines could only approximate.

[related|post]Three artisans-turned-entrepreneurs—a producer of handmade paper, a cheesemaker, and a chocolatier—share how they deal with that misconception, exceed expectations, and earn money from doing what they love. For this week, let\\\'s start with Malagos Farm Cheeses.

 

When a herd of goats at her family’s farm in Davao grew to more than 100 heads, Olive Puentespina felt she had to do something to put the animals to good use. She tried collecting goat’s milk to produce soap, but found that too little of the milk goes into the cleansing agent. She also attempted offering it as fresh milk in bottles, yet “people were not too keen on drinking goat’s milk.”

The next step she took led her to what she believes is her calling. A former colleague at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños taught her basic cheese-making, and then left her to do her own experiments, mostly performed in a mess hall converted into a cheese room.   

“The inspiration came from not wanting anything to go to waste, and from recognizing an opportunity when it was there right under my nose,” says Puentespina.

Before she knew it, she was making feta and fresh goat cheese without any kind of mentoring. “For one year I pasteurize, I make cheese, I clean up, I package, I sell. It was a one-man show,” she says.

She eventually hired three employees to help her, but she is still primarily in charge of quality control, which means having to dedicate extra hours to attend to the meticulous stages of processing cheese. “My employees work regular eight-hour shifts—I do not have this luxury. If cheese needs to be turned at night, I have to be there to do it,” she says.

Puentespina does not mind. In less than five years, she was able to get the attention of food managers at Philippine Airlines, her biggest account to date. She is also preparing cheese products for hotels and restaurants in Manila, Davao, Cebu, Palawan, Iloilo and Bohol.

From manufacturing only two varieties, Puentespina is now offering 12 to 14 assortments of cheese, and juggles her craft, the business and other life roles. In the face of growth, Puentespina remains rooted in her craft: “I would like to keep the ‘artisan’ label, so I can closely monitor my production and still be an effective wife and mother to my family.”

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