Bicolana Wins ING Business Award

THE NETHERLANDS – Marianne Olano’s biggest dream is to become a well-known journalist. Before venturing into business, she worked as a writer for ABS-CBN Naga City and various publications in the country.

But after chasing her dream for several years, she realized she needed to find a more financially-rewarding career.

Unlike others, however, who sought better jobs in big cities, Olano went back to her hometown in Naga City and explored the possibility of starting her own business. Her father strongly disagreed with her plans, citing her lack of knowledge and capital. But she was determined to succeed.

She started with handcrafted items like wind chimes and Christmas decors but was barely making money out of it--until she attended a trade fair where she noticed the number of people gathering in one booth.

“They were selling stuff that I couldn’t see because there were so many people milling around it. When I saw what they were selling, I discovered those were costume jewelry from Cebu. I thought, these stuffs are something that will sell to anybody, it has no age limit, young people were buying, old people were buying, and even guys are buying for their loved ones. This is the product that I am looking for,” said Olano.

From that idea, Olano created Baycrafts, her own business, producing fashionable and affordable jewelry made from indigenous and synthetic materials like pearls, glass, fiber, wood, crystals and seed. She even utilized some recycled materials like used clothes.

She sells to wholesalers in Baguio City, Cebu, Manila and through the Internet. Her goal is to go on retail and reach a nationwide clientele.

Efforts recognized

Yearly, the BID Network organization gathers selected small and medium business owners from all over to the world to meet with investors, top banks and financial institutions in the Netherlands and vie for several business grants.

This year, 60 small and medium enterprises from Asia, Latin America Africa and Europe were selected to exhibit their business in the Fokker Terminal, Den Hague.

In 2008, Rajo Laurel’s Rags2Riches was the big winner of 20,000 euros for the main award in the BID Network competition.

In 2007, Baycrafts was chosen as one of the finalists for the BID Network business awards.

This year, however, Olano bagged more than half a million pesos of business retail grant from Dutch bank, ING.

“I felt really overwhelmed and I am very proud to represent the Philippines in this competition,” said Olano before the announcement of her win.

With the money that she won, she plans to create a different brand that will cater to the higher end domestic market.

“For this year, we have plans of branding Baycrafts and create a separate line that will also cater to the domestic market in the Philippines and promote via direct selling network. I want to be able to augment the income of young women professionals by providing them with a product that will really [earn] fast,” she said.

Aside from her enterprise which now employs 10 women, Olano also has a training center where she helps local residents learn how to make similar crafts.

Innovative Ideas

Aside from Olano, 3 other Filipinos--Ronald Villanueva of Kawayan Tech Bamboo Bikes, Maria Lourdes Molina of EcoBloks and 22-year-old Ma. Charmagne Cruz of Jacinto and Lirio Enterprises--were selected for the BID Network. All were chosen as finalists for 2 categories: Women in Business and BID Network Award.

Among the 3, Villanueva’s Bamboo Bikes gathered the most interest from Dutch visitors, the country being known as the biking capital of the world.

Nandito tayo sa isang bansa na nakakaintindi ng pagbibisekleta saka environmentally conscious sila so malaki ang business potential dito,” said Villanueva of the attention he is getting from Dutch buyers.

Along with 5 other UP mountaineers, Villanueva saw the potential of bamboo to be used as the main frame of a bicycle. According to him, bamboo is not only as strong as iron but it is also more comfortable and better during long rides. And because of its abundance in the Philippines, bamboo is a good material for a profitable business.

Ang kawayan kasi ay isang magandang materyales mula sa kalikasan. Ito ay para sa reforestation, para sa carbon capture at saka mabilis tumubo. Isang magandang business para sa mga Pilipino,” he said further.

Since its establishment in 2009, Kawayan Tech Bamboo Bikes is now selling to distributors in the United States and Italy and got a lot of inquiries for the Netherlands.

Molina’s Ecobloks are building blocks for kids made of scrap mahogany and pine trees from wood-working companies. A mother of a 3-year old kid, Molina buys these scraps, packs them in her attic and sells to toys and online stores across the country. In a little more than a year, Ecobloks is now being distributed to 10 retail stores and 8 online stores.

“I plan to launch more products that will satisfy certain criteria like analytical and artistic development of a child and for role playing,” said Molina of her future plans.

Meanwhile, Cruz, a new graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University and her classmates, make bags and boxes from water hyacinth, a plant that is also abundant in the Philippines. They coined this material “plant leather” which they developed from drying and processing water hyacinth.

Because the product is very new, Cruz hopes that by joining the BID Network, they will meet investors who will finance more research on the process of converting water hyacinth into plant leather.

“As long as you address unemployment and environmental issues, then there is certainly a niche for your business,” said Villanueva to young entrepreneurs.

Filipina Wins ING Business Award

By Dheza Marie Aguilar, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at 06/15/2010 7:48 PM | Updated as of 06/15/2010 7:49 PM