Rattan weaver joins online business mentorship program

RUFINO Felicano was 17 years old when he started weaving rattan baskets during the 1980s in a factory in Mandaue City.

Now, at 56, he helps the entire basket-weaving community in San Remigio town in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, serving local markets in the region and beyond.

“I started working at a factory in Mandaue City as a sample maker for seven years. The client gives me the design they want, and I create it. When the factory burned down, we moved to another location and after almost 14 years, that’s when I decided to go back to San Remigio,” he said in Cebuano.

Felicano is one of the 14 Cebuano entrepreneurs who had qualified for the multi-sectoral mentoring program by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in partnership with the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship-Go Negosyo and Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“I joined this program primarily to improve my business after loss on sales during the coronavirus pandemic,” Felicano, now the San Remigio native basket industry proprietor, said.

He sells baskets, bags, console tables that also serve as lechon trays, cutlery, chairs and planters.

Felicano was introduced to the Kapatid Mentor Me Online after he availed himself of the DTI and Cebu Provincial Government partnership “Sugbo Negosyo” where he was granted capital worth P20,000 plus the opportunity to join business development seminars.

The online mentoring will run from April 7 to June 4.

As a mentee, Felicano will go through the mentorship modules, covering the entrepreneurial mindset and values formation, marketing, product development and innovation, market growth and expansion, business model canvas, operations management, human resource and organization management, supply and value chain, entrepreneurial accounting and financial management, taxation, business laws, tapping government programs and services to grow a business and business improvement plan presentation.

“I hope that after this program, I will be able to even promote our local handicrafts, increase sales and work with bigger clients,” Felicano said.

He said he wants to gain more experience in business to help his community of 20 weavers cope with the lingering negative impact of the pandemic on their livelihood.

According to the DTI, this online program sets out to produce confident entrepreneurs with the right mindset and basic management skills which will enable them to sustain their enterprises amid the challenges brought about by the pandemic and new normal conditions.

“We hope that this new platform for coaching and mentoring will help the mentees and their businesses become the best they can be. We have chosen good mentors and the right courses that will help them jumpstart their business,” said DTI 7 Director Ma. Elena Arbon during the virtual launching on Monday, March 29, 2021.

Like other entrepreneurs, Felicano moved to the digital marketplace on Facebook to reach out to more clients in Manila and Palawan.

Felicano said the Covid-19 pandemic affected their sales, but trade fairs in malls somehow boosted their presence in the market.

“We still generate sales, but it’s fairly minimal compared to before,” he said, noting the low foot traffic in malls.