Bicolano couple turns P150 into a bustling abaca bag business

By Anna Valmero

MALILIPOT, ALBAY— Dennis Birgornia and his wife Beth wisely spent 150 pesos in starting a handicrafts business and turning it into a major producer of abaca products in the province of Albay.

“We started the business in 2005 by making handbags from abaca jutes until we started branching out into karagumoy (a local vine) to add variety and novelty to our items,” says Dennis, co-founder of Janmhayves Handicrafts.

Since abaca jutes and karagumoy are abundant in the area, Dennis and his wife only needed to invest a small capital of to hire two local hire sewers to make their first set of handbags.

Today, the business is worth over a tenfold with valuation of over P100,000.

Beth designs the handbags which are then passed on to about 20 sewers who turn these into the final products. Dennis, meanwhile, takes care of marketing and delivery.

Most of the sewers they hired were laid off after when a big garments factory in their area closed down. But it turned to be a blessing in disguise it meant readily available skilled workers waiting to get hired by the couple.

Aside from their colorful and elegant designs, Dennis proudly says the quality of their bags stand out from other local manufacturers.

“We try to be unique in our designs but in the handicrafts business, you should accept the fact that the competition will be very tough and others will copy from you. So you should be a step ahead by giving your customers what others can’t, and that is quality.”

The couple runs a store-cum-display room at their house located along the highway in Malilipot (where the bagmakers and weavers also work).   They also have a showroom at the Embarcadero in Legazpi City.

In 2008, the company had volume shipment to other Bicol provinces up to Metro Manila and Cebu. Each handbag costs 350 pesos while wallets sell from 180 pesos at factory price.

After a slump in the local market since 2010 due to strong competition from other handicraft makers, the company decided to incorporate other raw materials like karagumoy.

Dennis also cites the importance of taking care of their employees so they stay longer in the company. Each worker receives at least 180 pesos a day, depending on the volume of bags they produce.

“For small local businesses, keeping the skilled workers in the company is very important because hiring and re-training new ones will be costly, especially if you are handling volume in the production.”

Get more information onJanmhayves Handicrafts

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