DO YOU prefer working regular hours under a reasonable supervisor in a well-established city office? Many people do. A person with such employment may enjoy greater security than one starting out fresh in a business of his own.
In the Philippines, however, there are those who prefer taking the risk. They want to enjoy working hours suited to their needs. There will, of course, be no promotions, no occasional raises in salary and no possibility of receiving a gold watch upon retirement. But this does not particularly concern these individuals. They find satisfaction in making a living by using their own skills and sound business sense. For them, nothing can compare with the opportunity of working with wife and children all day long and counting their blessings together when evening falls.
Filipinos often start a small business right at home. Consider what some of the possibilities are.
What Kind of Business?
Do you have a hobby that could become a full-time job? Perhaps you make toys for your children. If so, could you also make toys for other people’s children? In the Philippine city of Cebu, the production of toy guitars is not simply a hobby but a profitable business. The craftsmen work at home, producing toy guitars, ukuleles, bandurias and even very professional guitars that are sold at airports and music shops. Often at the end of the workday, the hills come alive with the music of thousands of stringed instruments, as family after family plays together.
Industrious Bicol folk produce handbags, slippers and numerous ladies’ accessories from abaca fiber. Deft hands in Bulacan and Quezon provinces weave buntal hats out of the petiole fibers of the buri palm tree. Here, try this on. Cool and dignified, is it not? Here is another one. Why, it makes you look 10 years younger!
Beneath Zamboanga’s lazy blue waters are found the tapering “antlers” of black coral. Craftsmen in Quezon City and Manila fashion the coral into tiepins, cuff links, rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces. In the sandy seabeds off Surigao, Samar, Leyte and Panay, one can discover a treasure trove of shells—tiger cowrie, conch, lupo and kapis. Nimble hands make these into curtains, lampstands, windowpanes and chandeliers, which inhabitants of Paris, London or New York city would be proud to display in their homes.
Shoemaking may seem like an unlikely venture. But, in 1884, young Kapitan Moy bought a sturdy pair of British shoes. Back home he got more interested in the shoes. So he took them apart, and then put them back together again. Soon he set up a shoemaking shop and began sharing his new skills with neighbors. Almost a century later, the town of Marikina is going full speed ahead in the shoe-manufacturing business. In many, many homes of this town, grandpas, grandmas, papas, mamas and children home from school, busy as bees, are making the shoes that some of us will probably be wearing tomorrow. “Today,” says the Marikina Shoe Trade Commissioner, “we export shoes to many countries, including the source of Kapitan Moy’s shoes which he bought back in 1884.”
The growth of Marikina’s shoe trade has meant more business for other towns. For example, Meycauayan in Bulacan supplies Marikina with much shoe leather. In turn, Marinduque, Masbate, Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon and other islands keep Meycauayan supplied with hides from cattle and carabaos. They also furnish alligator, goat, pig and snake skins for shoes, handbags and belts.
Many Filipinos open small stores or operate stalls in the public markets. Family members usually take turns tending these stalls in the markets of Kamuning, Cubao, Tondo and elsewhere. Divisoria Market in Manila is said to be the biggest market of its kind in the Philippines. It is not one vast supermarket owned and run by a single individual or company, but consists of thousands of small family stores under one roof. Haggling over prices here is an art honed to perfection.
The Government Lends a Hand
Aware of the potential of “cottage industries,” the Philippine government offers some aid to enterprising Filipinos. There are free seminars on various crafts. A course is even offered on raising mushrooms.
Government assistance is also provided to help people to improve the quality of their products. In Albay, for instance, many have advanced from making clay pots to the study of ceramics. In Ilocos Norte, people are learning how to make bricks and tiles.
The Philippine Daily Express, in an August 17, 1974, editorial, reported that the National Science Development Board has sent food-training experts to 39 Philippine provinces, “propagating different methods of food processing, so that items like coconut water, excess vegetables, seasonal fruits and small fish may be put to commercial” uses. This has resulted in the formation of “18 cottage industry cooperatives.”
Cooperatives? Yes, these are formed when several small businesses join together for mutual protection and profit. They are duly registered with the proper government bureau. The government encourages the establishment of cooperatives by granting them tax exemption and various forms of protection. These cooperatives enable the group to buy at factory prices, to sell at lower prices than they could individually and then mutually to share the profits.
For people who still prefer to be in business on their own, help is offered through the National Cottage Industries Development Authority (NACIDA). This agency gives valuable pointers on making Philippine handicrafts. The government also grants a five-year tax exemption for those registered as having their own “cottage industry,” enabling many to continue in operation and to prosper.
Financing the Business
But where do people get the money to start in business? Actually, very little may be needed. For example, a young man sold a ring. With the proceeds he started a small jewelry business. Today he can also sell, not only jewels, but even the dust in his workshop for good money. Why? There is gold in every pinch of it!
Another man discussed the matter with his in-laws. They liked his project and provided some 200 pesos (about $30, U.S.) each. Now his coral craft brings in a sizable income, and all share in the profits.
Some banks maintain lending offices in public markets to assist stall holders financially. Wise Filipinos avoid unscrupulous money lenders whose high cumulative interest rates can quickly gobble up not only profits but the entire business capital as well.
Is It for You?
Going into business for yourself has some advantages. A person is usually freer to make his own daily schedule for work and recreation. He is not responsible to any supervisor and he may have more time to relax with his family. By choosing the type of work that appeals to him, he avoids being tied down to a boring job just to make a living. He can also enjoy the challenge to his ingenuity that his business provides.
But there are risks. A person can lose his capital through bad management or unforeseen problems. Competition or inflation could cut profits. Then there is the anxiety about being successful, since running one’s own business may lack the security of being in someone else’s employ. It may be, too, that more time has to be spent in caring for the business than had been anticipated.
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