Manila FAME October 2019 will feature the stories of two rags-to-riches shoemakers from one of the shoe capitals of the country.
At the quaint town of Liliw, Laguna, rows and rows of footwear makers and distributors line Gat Tayaw St., offering different styles of export quality shoes that have become the main reason tourists are attracted to the town.
Determined to make it big in the shoe industry, two homegrown shoemakers heeded the call of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to join trade exhibits, not only to widen their market but to hone their entrepreneurial skills.
In its very first year in business, Ai-She Footwear already joined Manila FAME. Owner Corazon Coligado’s focus was to actively join DTI’s regional and national trade fairs. This paved the way for opportunities she never imagined.
“Because of Manila FAME, we are now a long way from [having just] two employees and having a small nipa hut as a makeshift factory. Our first exhibit in the Manila FAME marked our very first export [of shoes] to Panama,” Ms. Coligado said.
After the success of her first participation in Manila FAME, it has become a yearly ritual for the Coligados. Her husband no longer needed to work as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and now helps manage a growing company which now has 60 workers.
Ai-She’s nipa hut is now a full-blown factory in a large plot of land where the Coligado family and their employees live.
“In Manila FAME, we meet new foreign clients every year. We were also able to join international exhibitions like the China-Asean Expo,” Ms. Coligado added.
Ai-She’s main raw material is abaca, a leaf fiber abundant in the Philippines. They use it for their most famous product, “espadrilles.”
“To keep the interest of our local and international clients, we keep on developing new designs. We also source from areas such as Zamboanga and Ilocos as they deliver high-grade raw materials perfect to maintain the quality of our products,” Ms. Coligado explained.
“Our shoes are specially handcrafted and fully Filipino. I think that is our edge in the global marketplace. But, having a platform like Manila FAME to showcase our products is really the secret to our success. That is why I am urging other aspiring SME’s to join Manila FAME,” she said.
“Shoe-making is already in my blood, that is why at the first test of fate, I came back to this industry that I love most,” said Nephtali Moneda, owner of Jhaz Footwear.
A teenaged couple, Nephtali and Elvira Moneda felt the heavy burden of supporting a family, so they started out getting shoes from friends and reselling them in provinces around the country. The income generated was used to support their growing family, but the couple made sure to save money, enabling them to open their own shoe stall.
In a place like Liliw which is filled with creative shoemakers, Mr. Moneda needed a venue to market his shoe designs and elevate his game. He found an opportunity when he was introduced to the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
He first joined Manila FAME was back in 2011 where he introduced Jhaz to a Japanese buyer who has been their client since then.
“Manila FAME made a big impact to our little shoe business. My mind was opened to export possibilities and opportunities and we were obligated to further develop our factory and our products,” Mr. Moneda said.
Their success rippled through their community. Aside from employing 20 people in their factory, they also support 90 to 100 individuals who handle their abaca braiding, embroidery and other side jobs they offer.
“We met clients in Manila FAME that really appreciate and patronize Filipino products. That is really different from just waiting for clients to visit your store. It really pays to have a channel to present your products,” Mr. Moneda said.
The Manila FAME fair will be held on Oct. 17-19 at the World Trade Center Metro Manila in Pasay City. For details visit www.manilafame.com.