Today is my second week in Guimaras yet I am still not sick of staying here. Not only am I going to stay with my host family, but also the business partners that I work together with Candice. The main job that we have to do is to know about the major challenges that they have during their business operation. Then we are try to offer as much help as we can in order to improve their business, in both the short term and long term. With our limited business knowledge learnt in the past few years, we do hope that our suggestions are feasible and workable to boost the business, though we are not familiar with the situations in the Philippines.
Which business am I working on and what have I done so far?
The business that I am working with Candice is the RGL Pottery and Gemma’s Garden. It is in Avila, Guimaras (We still got lost even it is located in the same island). It is a family business managed and owned by Gemma and Bobby, selling jars, pots, bricks and various kinds of landscaping materials like owls, pagodas, and frogs.
They are so nice and friendly. When we first arrived, they even climbed up the tree and took some coconuts for us to eat. We were so lucky to see nearly the whole production process of pots and jars. After chatting with them for hours, they were really nice that they even cooked us a lot of food (all of them are their own production) to eat. Gemma kept asking Candice and I to eat even we were full at that time. After having lunch, they gave us snacks and fruits as well! To show our politeness, we still put them all in our stomach and that’s why I am getting fat right now. Therefore, if you ask what I have done so far, I would say EAT. We just kept on eating during our visit every time.
During our first visit, we were so lucky that they had to distribute the bricks and pots and we were able to be involved in it! Since they do not have many workers, Bobby and Gemma had to distribute all the products on their own. Firstly, they had to put all the products on the truck, which was already very tiring and time-consuming. After that they had to take them down from the truck after they arrived to the designated places. They told us that they had to make and transport ten thousand bricks in a month before, which was very unbelievable that they could make it done by just a few numbers of worker (only 6-8 including them).
This business consulting work is never an easy job for us as we have done a lot in this two weeks. It was very unfortunate that their book-keeper passed away last month and we tried to help them to record their costs and sales in the past few months so that they could have a better estimate of their income. We also bought a notebook and drew a template for Bobby for recording transactions as they did not have any systematic records for their sales. It was very different from Hong Kong as people in Hong Kong would simply use computer to record all the sales in a systematic way. Yet we had to drew the template for all the pages as they did not know how to use the computer. It was hoped that our ‘hand-made’ template would be suitable for them. Apart from that, we had talked to different officials from different organisations like the Land Bank or Department of Trade & Industry about loans to raise their capital and solve the short-term financial problems. We had also set up a Facebook page for them to reach out more customers!
(Remember to ‘like’ the page before you continue to read! Type in ‘RGL Pottery & Gemma’s Garden’ and you can find it!)
Anything fun or memorable to share?
When we went there for the first time, we took the jeepney (public transport in Philippines, in case you don’t know) but we did not know the exact location. We got off at somewhere on the bridge and the driver told us here is Avila (the place that the Gemma asked us to get off). But we still could not find their factory and we got lost at a random place. Luckily their son took the motorbike and found us after half an hour and we finally arrived the Gemma’s Garden. We discovered that Avila is the name of the barangay which is very big and the driver just randomly asked us to get off as he did not know where it is. It took us nearly two hours to arrive, which was similar to the flight time from Hong Kong to Iloilo. Even we got lost, I still thought that Filipinos are friendly in general as all the households nearby did offer a lot of help to us even they didn’t know much English!
Although we took a long time to go there every time, I did enjoy the time spent there! Since the business is all about pots and jars, I thought it is a must for me to make one for myself as a special kind of souvenirs! Bobby and his workers taught me how to shape the pot in a round shape, yet it turned out to be a very strange one. I had to say that it was my first time to make the pot so it was very normal for me to fail it. Sadly, my first baby pot was killed by the worker as he said it was not qualified to sell.
Lastly, I felt very lucky to work on RGL as I have met a new friend, Lara. She is the Bobby’s daughter who offered a lot of help to us! Sometimes Gemma and Bobby did not know how some specific terms in English and she acted as our translator in between. Apart from being a translator, she was our guide as well! She brought us to the ‘pottery town’ in Iloilo city so as to let Candice and I know more about this industry. We even went to her fiancé’s house in Iloilo which really looked like a castle! All the chairs and desks were in gold colour as well! (Sorry I was too afraid or too shocked to take photos at that time…) I was very glad to meet my first friend Lara apart from my host family, which made my one-month stay more meaningful and memorable!