A product that peddles ‘a better look’ as the end result makes a lot of money, given the right quality, price and marketing.
It’s a theory proven again by a maker of “whitening” soaps- now a hit among Filipinos, many of whom believe that the standard of beauty depends on the whiteness of the skin.
Peddling beauty products is not something new to Josephine Pestejo, who has been in the cosmetics business since graduating from college. Her knowledge of soap-making first came from the chemist of the local cosmetics firm where she worked. Before the chemist, whom she befriended, left for a more lucrative job abroad, he taught the other employees, including Pestejo how to make soap.
The problem was, both of them were working in Manila . At first, they tried to commute. But given the traffic conditions, they eventually decided to give up their jobs to try their hand at a business.
It was then that Pestejo recalled the knowledge she acquired from her chemist friend and decided to put it into practice. “At least, our work would be located right in our own home,” Pestejo points out.
The backyard business kicked off with the production of powder detergent, which they sold, albeit haphazardly, to friends, relatives, neighbors, and even acquaintances who knew market vendors.
“I saw the potential of making beauty bars. Besides being able to source the raw materials locally, the beauty bars also give a higher return on investment.”
They were at this stage in their operations when Pestejo saw an advertisement in a national daily regarding training courses offered by the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center. She decided to enroll in the short training course in soap-making. “I took it as an opportunity to formalize my knowledge on the production side. At the same time, I had hoped to learn more about the possibilities of the business,” she explains.
Learn more was what she did. “I saw the potential of making beauty bars. Besides being able to source the raw materials locally, the beauty bars also give a higher return on investment, especially since at that time there was really a huge demand for papaya soap and an emerging market for soaps that could whiten the skin of an increasingly vain market.”
Pestejo labeled her soaps “Dagta” the Filipino word for the sticky substance or sap that comes from plant-trees, fruit trees, even flowers.
To distribute the product, she then called up her former subordinates and colleagues in the cosmetics firm where she worked for. They then sold the soap directly to the beauty products companies, multilevel marketing members, and even to individual consumers.
Today, many companies buy soap from Pestejo, although they do not use the “Dagta” label but replace it with their own brand. “Dagta” even reached up to Iloilo and certain parts of Mindanao .
Production, however, remains seasonal, meaning the quantity depends upon the demand. But usually, a single order would require the production of at least 5,000 bars of papaya soap.
Encouraged by the warm reception given her product by institutional buyers, Pestejo attempted to introduce it in supermarket and other commercial outlets. Unfortunately, they were discouraged when they found out that since most of the products sold in groceries are on consignment they would have to wait an average of 90 days before they can get paid. “In the meantime, your money is frozen, along with the goods that have not yet been sold,” said Pestejo’s husband, who now also actively participates in the business.” This is not a viable proposition for a small business like ours since we constantly need to roll our capital in order to cope with the increasing demand in production.
The couple instead decided to focus on expanding the institutional market base of the soap by introducing variations of the original papaya soap- such as tawas, papaya-tawas, and squalene. They also decided to give the powder detergent aspect of their business a bit more push by increasing the production of powder detergent, which now stands at 500 kilos a week.
“In the meantime, we will just stick to our market base. Later on, maybe we can compete in the commercial market, but maybe not now,” Ricardo says.
Both of them appear happy with the way the business has grown-from a sort of experiment to a bona fide business capable of churning out thousands of bars of soap that are sold (though not actually by them) in the market and actually reach the consumers.
“Imagine, we were able to buy two vehicles, which are also used for delivering products. Before, we would just hire a jeep to take us to our destination,” adds Ricardo.
“What’s more,” the wife intervenes, “we can afford to send our three children to school from the profit we make.” “For these, we have a lot to thank TLRC for,” they both agree.
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