Jesse is just 30 years old. A year ago, he sold his motorcycle to obtain the working capital to start his own handmade furniture design workshop, here on the main road. He pays 300 pesos a month to rent this highly visible location and lives onsite. No, he shyly grins, he's not ready to get married yet, he has a business to build and many plans.
Why did you sell your motorcycle? Why not take out a loan? I didn't want the burden and I had the motorcycle. It usually takes me a month to design, make and have an order ready for delivery – yes, I'm currently working alone, I'm not ready to hire any helpers yet. Clients come and give me a down payment to buy the wood for them or they'll bring their own wood, I keep minimal inventory here. Then I get the payment only when I deliver the furniture, how can I take a loan that would require weekly payments? Its hard enough to find the cash (between jobs) just to keep my phone activated with airtime but its essential for my work so I find the money.
Are there any seasonal variations in your business that you've noticed? Yes, my peak seasons coincide with the vacation times for the balik bayan (While this term once meant someone who has returned (balik) from
journeying to a place other than one's town (bayan), it has in recent
times, been associated with overseas travel.) rather than the rice harvest. Thus its during these peak vacation times – February to April and then September to December that my business booms. Its when the returnees make additions to their ongoing home renovations and upgrading, often as a status signal of earning capacity – you can see the 'concrete' houses versus the local bamboo ones and elaborate improvements based on income in the area, the fanciest houses often belong to 'seamen' who are paid comparatively well as opposed to domestic help.
How has business done since you started a year ago? Very well, I've been very careful and look at my expansion. I started with just that one room (green) but now have all this space covered over for my workshop. I plan to make a small showing area where I can keep a sample of my work and even put a fancy signboard outside the shop. Most of my business is by word of mouth, someone will see my furniture in someone's house and get my phone number from them and contact me. No, often they don't even need to visit my workshop, my work has spoken for itself that I will get orders for a dining table set with chairs or a china cupboard over the phone. The price ranges from 17,000 to 21,000 pesos including the cost of the wood for such simple things and then goes up depending on what the customer orders.