Street-smart seamstress wins microfinance award

Johanna O. Bajenting

A MICRO-ENTREPRENEUR from Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu emerged as the 2019 Regional Awardee for Visayas during the 17th Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards (CMA) organized by the Citi Foundation and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc.

Merly Domingo, who runs a garments manufacturing business in Mactan Island in Cebu, brought home an award she never expected.

The 17th CMA ceremony took place on Nov. 26, 2019 at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

“We didn’t start in sewing. In fact, we were previously a training center that supplied sewers to the Mactan Economic Zone. Our financial struggles began when the number of training centers around here rose, which prompted me to go into manufacturing because I saw the financial potential in it,” she said.

However, she did not have enough capital for her big idea.

The street-smart seamstress used the back pay from her previous job as capital to start her business of selling garments.

Her brother Wilson also helped her buy a sewing machine and T-shirt printer so she could start her business. Slowly, orders from clients started pouring in.

She decided to be a member of Taytay Sa Kauswagan Inc., a microfinance non-government organization in 2016 and got the financial assistance and business know-how she needed to make her business take off.

“We started with two workers back in 2016 and now, we are proud to say we have 20 workers,” Domingo said.

She has gone a long way since she started her business with monthly sales of P400,000 and a monthly net income of P200,000.

Her business is now worth P1,200,000.

Her hard work and good financial management allowed her garment manufacturing business to flourish steadily.

Today, she supplies athletic garments, P.E. uniforms and hoodies. She also creates her own designs and remains hands-on in talking to suppliers and customers.

“I do my best to incorporate what I learned when I was starting and continually learn from the feedback my employees give to improve my business management,” she said.

Domingo plans to expand and open another garment manufacturing company in Bukidnon in Mindanao so she can provide employment opportunities to her relatives and also be able to share her blessings with the community she grew up with.

Since its inception in 2002, the CMA has recognized 141 outstanding micro-entrepreneurs who overcame struggles and showed determination to bring their businesses to a higher level of success.

The awards program is an initiative of the Citi Foundation in collaboration with the BSP, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc. to strengthen microfinance and enterprise development and financial inclusion in the country.

Winners were chosen by the national selection committee co-chaired by BSP Gov. Benjamin Diokno and Citi Philippines chief executive officer (CEO) Aftab Ahmed. The committee members were Jose Ma. Concepcion III, president and CEO of RFM Corp., Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairperson of SM Investments Corp., Ramon Lopez, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Imelda Nicolas, president of the Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran, Marixi Rufino-Prieto, former chairperson of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Michael Tan, former chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president of Ayala Corp.