Stepping into the gate of RGL Pottery & Gemma’s garden, the first thing that captivated my eyes was the meticulous landscaping animal sculptures and pots at the entrance. There were a diverse, but unique designs for all sculptures and pots. Some were painted with eye-catching color, whilst some were with fine and meticulous structures. “Finally you guys have arrived! Welcome to the RGL Pottery & Gemma’s garden!” said a middle-aged woman with an affectionate smile and short curly hair, marching out from a decent house. Standing next to her was a teenage girl and a well-built middle-aged man with dark brown skin, who was wearing a muddy jersey as if he had just worked with clay and dirt. “This is my daughter – Laura, and my husband, Bobby. You can ask him about our business!” said Gemma, the woman.
We started our conversation by touching on how the garden was established. The garden was set up by Gemma’s mother, and was then split into two companies owned by Gemma and her sister respectively. Basically, they were the sole supplier of pots and bricks on the Guimaras Island. Their primary source of income is from selling pots and bricks to neighborhood or local businesses.
After grasping a brief understanding of their garden, they have brought us around the factory and presented us the procedure of making pots and bricks. The factory was just adjacent to their house. The warehouse looked dilapidated and crude with only a metal roof, but everything was surprisingly arranged with an organized manner. The molding materials were placed at the corner, with two production line in the middle (i.e. the brick molding and pot molding machine) and a Kiln (i.e. a gigantic oven for heating up the molded products) at the end of the factory. Since the molded products usually took around 5 days to dry (10 for rainy season) before heating up in oven, they were usually placed on the factory sides under the roof with sound ventilation and to prevent from direct exposure to the sun. We were very lucky to be invited to learn how to become a “molder” by trying to build a mold with the machine. As expected, without practice and skills, we had successfully produced some “exotic” masterpieces!
Regarding the challenges encountered by the garden, Bobby had shared with us numerous hurdles that prevent them from attaining growth, with financial constraints and low human resources capabilities being the most significant ones. Lack of capital and short-term cash flow is one of the primary hurdles of the business. As is often the case, cash payments are only received once the products are manufactured and rendered. In addition of payment delay, money is usually tied up and there isn’t adequate cash for material purchase and wage payment in prior to cash receipt. Owning to limited financing channels, the garden also faced difficulty in expanding their business by installing new machines, purchasing new technologies and employing new workers. Bobby has shared with us that they have engaged in an equipment renewal project initiated by DOST a year ago, in which a lump sum is lend for them to build the Kiln and it took them two more years to repay the debt. The 18,300 peso monthly repayment for the Kiln has put an additional strain on their capital. With all these financial constraints, this discouraged them from further expansion and grasping the potential benefits of new technology (for example, setting up a mechanical dryer to reduce time for drying the mold and increase productivity).
Lack of human capability is also another major challenge for their business. Nowadays, the city is overwhelmed by a trend that teenagers prefer office works than blue-collar works at an expense of higher wage. As a result, fewer people in the society are willing to work as a molder, contributing to unstable workforce. More importantly, with fewer people willing to devote time and effort in this specialty, it is difficult for the owner to seek for local skillful talents. Without stable talents, this has led to worker shortage, hindering the business’s efficiency. Apart from this, bookkeeping is another problem. Seeing that the owner didn’t have a practice of recording all orders and transactions, meanwhile, their bookkeeper passed away suddenly a month ago, it is difficult for them to keep track on their monthly profit and loss.
To tackle these problems, my partner, Horace, and I have come up with a bunch of ideas, including applying for bank loan, setting up Facebook page for recruitment and marketing purpose, as well as building an accounting system (template) etc. Knowing that building a sustainable accounting system is of utmost importance, we have decided to drill into this issue this week. To assess whether the business is profitable or not, in our second meeting, we have complied a straight-forward financial statement for the previous months based on some receipts and orders kept by the owner. So far, we have gain a better overview of the profitability of the garden, however, we foresee that there are a series of challenges ahead while we implement our ideal plans! Fighting!