Upon reaching the quaint town of Liliw, Laguna, one can see rows of footwear makers and distributors along the cobbled street of Gat Tayaw.
There, they offer different shoe designs in export quality that became one of the main reasons tourists are attracted to Liliw.
Determined to make it big in the shoe industry, two local shoemakers heeded the call of the Department of Trade and Industry to join trade exhibits not only to widen their market but to hone their entrepreneurial skills.
Just a year in the business, Ai-She Footwear already made its foray in Manila FAME. Owner Corazon Coligado’s marketing approach was to actively join DTI’s regional and national trade fairs. This paved the way for opportunities she never imagined could happen on her first year and first try in Manila FAME.
“Because of Manila FAME, we are now a long way from retaining two employees and having a small nipa hut as a makeshift factory. Our first exhibit in the Manila FAME marked our very first export to Panama,” Coligado said.
After the success of her first participation in Manila FAME, it has become a yearly ritual for the Coligado family. Her husband no longer needs to work as an overseas Filipino worker and can stay with the family to help manage a growing company with workers that grew from two to 60.
Ai-She’s mere nipa hut turned into a full-blown factory located in a vast land where the Coligado family now lives and where their employees have a place to raise their families.
“In Manila FAME, we meet new foreign clients every year. We were also able to join international exhibitions like the China-Asean Expo,” Coligado said.
Ai-she’s main raw material is abaca, a leaf fiber abundant in the Philippines. They use it for their most famous product—the espadrilles.
“To keep the interest of our local and international clients, we keep on developing new designs. We also source from areas such as Zamboanga and Ilocos as they deliver high-grade raw materials perfect to maintain the quality of our products,” Coligado said.
“Our shoes are specially handcrafted and fully Filipino. I think that is our edge in the global marketplace. But, having a platform like Manila FAME to showcase our products is really the secret to our success that is why I am urging other aspiring SME’s to join Manila FAME,” she said.
“Shoe-making is already in my blood, that is why at the first test of fate, I came back to this industry that I love most,” said Nephtali Moneda, owner of Jhaz Footwear.
Jhaz also has an interesting story to tell. As teenage love blossomed for couple Nephtali and Elvira, they felt the heavy burden of supporting a family. Opportunely, the livelihood that saved them also led them to great success.
The business started from just borrowing shoe stocks from friends and reselling them to different provinces around the country. The income generated was used to support the growing family, but they made sure to save, enabling them to open their own shoe stall at a former bakery stand.
In a place where throngs of creative shoe-makers were everywhere, Nephtali needed a venue to market his shoe designs and elevate his game. He found an opportunity when he was introduced to the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Nephtali Moneda, owner of Jhaz Footwear.
Nephtali’s first Manila FAME was way back in 2011. This edition introduced Jhaz to a Japanese buyer who has been their client ever since.
“Manila FAME made a big impact on our little shoe business. My mind was opened to export possibilities and opportunities and we were obligated to further develop our factory and our products,” Moneda said.
The success they reaped from hard work and smart ventures rippled in their community. Aside from employing 20 people in their factory, they also support households composed of 90 to 100 individuals who handle their abaca braiding, embroidery and other side jobs they can offer.
“We met clients in Manila FAME that really appreciate and patronize Filipino products. That is really different from just waiting for clients to visit your store. It really pays to have a channel to present your products,” Moneda said.
The Manila FAME is slated on Oct. 17 to 19 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. It is positioned as the country’s best platform to discover Filipino design and lifestyle products.
Manila FAME is one of the longest-running trade shows in Asia-Pacific and the first trade event in the country approved by the Union des Foires Internationales, the global association of the world’s leading tradeshow organizers and fairground owners, exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry.
CITEM, the export promotion arm of DTI, organizes the Manila FAME as a signature event dedicated to Philippine design and craftsmanship.
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