An entrepreneur with a heart
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - January 29, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — As someone who came from humble beginnings, Harley Dave Beltran understands the plight of the marginalized.

It’s this understanding that has pushed this newspaper boy-turned-social entrepreneur to open a leather goods making shop and learning center in Cebu and to hire persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the process.

Beltran, 35, owns Handcrafted by Harl’s, a shop that sells handcrafted leather goods and based in San Pedro, Laguna.

After a successful foray in Luzon, Beltran is eyeing Cebu as an expansion site, not only to extend his reach into the other markets but also to empower PWDs here to earn decent livelihood despite their physical limitations.

Harley’s handcrafted goods like bags, wallets, passport holders, key chains, among others, are currently being displayed at the Ayala Center Cebu pop-up bazaar “to test the Cebuano market”.

Beltran told The FREEMAN that due to overwhelming response of the Cebuano market to the products, and his cause, he is now setting his eyes on an area along Mango Avenue where he can establish a shop and learning center for PWDs.

There, he said, PWDs will be taught how to sew, make genuine leather goods, whose quality, designs, and durability are inspired by luxury signature brands Louise Vuitton and Hermes.

But being a PWD alone, he added, is not the only requirement for employment at his shop.

“They have to have heart for God first, and determination to succeed despite physical limitations,” he said.

Beltran grew up in the cowboy province of Misamis Oriental. He survived elementary and high school days by selling newspapers and dabbling into other menial jobs on the sides.

A college drop-out, Beltran hopped from one job to another, including being a janitor and a sales person.

But along the way, he managed to fight the seduction of giving up and pursued his journey to success until he met artists and good craftsmen in leather goods.

In 2014, Beltran started his small leather handcrafting business in his house in San Pedro, Laguna, together with his wife and one assistant.

His business slowly flourished, with the help PWDs who were equally dedicated.

It’s this personal advocacy that had prompted some national and international institutions like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to reach out to him to join trade expos.

In 2016, Beltran was invited to join the Manila FAME, a bi-annual trade show organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotions arm of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry for a “Leather Buffet” exposition.

There, Beltran showcased the world-class craftsmanship of talented Filipino PWDs.

After representing the Philippines in Germany in 2017 for an award in social enterprise, Beltran soon realized that his business venture is considered a social enterprise in itself.

He said his business now is more than just earning sizeable profit. It is more importantly about giving opportunities for least regarded individuals in the mainstream employment sphere to gain self-worth and confidence.

Beltran’s business was also nominated in the ASEAN Business Awards 2018 under the Sustainable Social Enterprise category.

He expressed determination, together with his growing PWD partners, to make a “super high-end level leather bags” that will rival those made by the only competitors he considers: Hermès and Louis Vuitton.

Every bag in his shop comes with a card indicating the name of the PWD maker.

Aside from PWDs, Beltran is also employing a former drug-dependent, who has reunited with his family.

In Cebu, he hopes to widen the cause as he aims to set up a shop and learning center here to prop up his goal of making Filipino PWDs as word-class leather craftsmen/women – one bag at a time. JMD

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