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Tavla Wood Designs: Cancer survivor finds healing in woodworking

CEBU, Philippines — Tavla Wood Designs is not your typical furniture brand as each finished product tells a story of healing from the eloquent craftsmanship of a cancer survivor.

This mother and son tandem is making a hit in the sophisticated, contemporary specialty furniture market in Cebu — born in the right time of "Pinterest" age  where personalized or customized designs is worth more than the most expensive signature brands.

Anton del Prado's mom Wewi del Prado is making carpentry as her past time and eventually found healing in making herself busy in doing the thing she loves.

Personal touch

At first, Anton said they did not think of launching it as a business, as the making of every piece of furniture always has an emotional connection with his Mom, and this edge might be compromised if orders will come in numbers.

Although, Wewi was utterly reluctant of putting her creations online, her son Anton, who is an executive of a retail giant in the country, already saw the potential of the business, which appealed to the contemporary and highly discerning market of today.

Then, the brand ‘Tavla’ was conceptualized. Tavla is a greek word which means tables, boards. Incidentally, in Cebuano or bisaya vernacular tabla means wood.

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Wewi, who used to be a banker, now makes and design home accent furniture such as kitchen counter, breakfast bar, benches, coffee and dining tables, among others, using wood and metal ensembles.

The elegant combination of wood and metal, and Wewi's personal touch in every piece, is the hidden aura of the brand, which is now becoming the preferred choice especially among customers' with good taste and sophistication.

Tavla only accepts pre-orders, and respects own designs and specifications of the customer. It is a piece of furniture which is not hastily done, but it is crafted by the hands of a "cancer survivor" and every order contributes to her healing process.

The production, which is done in the garage of Del Prado's residence garage in Guadalupe, Cebu, is making a good business through online, capitalizing the several social media windows.

In fact, Anton is based in Manila, for his corporate work as an executive of a shopping mall giant. During weekends, he steps in as marketing, administrative assistant to his Mom's growing business.

"My mom and I are working virtually. I’m based in Manila, she's in Cebu. I’m in charged of answering the queries in social media, accepting orders, and other stuff, my mom is focused on production," Anton said.

Beyond business

While Wewi is doing the major details of the production, she is also helped by a mason/welder. Basically, the business is run only by four people--his  mom, himself, the welder/mason, and his dad.

"My Dad is our driver. We make it a point that everything we do is personalized. From the making of the furniture, to the delivery. We personally hand-over the orders--door-to-door. It’s personal," Anton shared.

More than the business, the creation of Tavla, is something personal to the family, as this has become a vessel to Wewi's healing, and gives inspiration to her journey as a "survivor."

For them, Tavla is personal and every client is part of Wewi's journey. Thus, apart from its elegant pieces of creation, its main goal is to gain intimate and closer relationship with every client.

A business with the main goal that is beyond what it gets as profit but far more interested in the fulfillment of making someone happy and satisfied after each and every order.

Tavla's costing is one of its surprising attributes. Usually, a customized design comes with a bigger cost. But, this one, costing can sometimes be within the level of mass produced furniture accents found in stores.

Know your limits

While Tavla's name reaches the unlimited bounds of internet world, Anton said they will only accept orders from Cebu.

In a highly personalized business like this one, it is important to "know your limits," otherwise it loses its elusive allure or exclusivity.

With growing followers in Facebook and Instagram, Anton said there are orders that were turned down, because it was already beyond their reach.

But he said Cebu alone is a fertile market for a small and highly personalized business like Tavla.

In fact, aside from their usual individual clients who are moms, architects, interior designers, or young single professionals, Tavla is also working with a coffee shop owner for customized tables, and other furniture accents.

Every product posted in Tavla's social media accounts are pre-ordered, "we don't have prototypes."

Bloom where you  are planted

Truly, the Tavla story is one of the most surreal tales of business. Its success is not founded by the physical or monetary strength of the founder, but it blooms amid the hazy clouds of uncertainty in the heart of a cancer survivor.

In this phase of her life, her creativity shines. This certainly attracts the attention of the discerning and customers of good tastes like hers.

Wewi, at 55 years old, simply knows how to shine-- wherever she is planted.  (FREEMAN)

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