Corazon Coligado with her signature espadrilles.
Putting their best shoe forward
Pia Lorraine Yater Dalmazo (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In the quaint town of Liliw in Laguna province, rows and rows of footwear makers and distributors are lined up along the cobbled street of Gat Tayaw. The town’s quality footwear is one of the main reasons tourists come to Liliw.

Determined to make it big in the shoe industry, two homegrown shoe makers heeded the call of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 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 made its first foray in the Manila FAME show. 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 says.

After the success of her first participation in Manila FAME, it has become a yearly ritual for the Coligado’s. Her husband no longer needs to work as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) and can stay with the family to help manage a growing company with workers that has grown from two to 10 and now 60.

Ai-She’s nipa hut turned into a full-blown factory located on a vast tract of 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 adds.

Ai-she’s main raw material is abaca, a leaf fiber abundant in the Philippines. They use it for their most famous product, espadrilles.

“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 SMEs to join Manila FAME,” Coligado shared.

All that Jhaz

“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,” says Nephtali Moneda, owner of Jhaz Footwear.

Jhaz has an interesting story to tell. As teenage love blossomed between 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 their growing family, but they made sure to save, enabling them to open their own shoe stall at a then bakery stand.

In a place where throngs of creative shoe-makers were everywhere, Moneda needed a venue to market his shoe designs and up his game. He found an opportunity when he was introduced to the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) by the DTI.

Moneda’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,” he adds.

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 90-100 individuals who handle their abaca braiding, embroidery and other side jobs they can offer.

The next Manila FAME is slated on Oct. 17 to 19, at the World Trade Center Metro Manila in Pasay City, Philippines.

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 (UFI), 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 Manila FAME as a signature event dedicated to Philippine design and craftsmanship.                                                                                                                                                    

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