“Our success depends on the satisfaction of our clients.” This is the foremost principle of the Sebastian Family—the people behind Terestian Craft.
Starting out as a simple hobby by Mrs. Teresita Sebastian in August 2000, attractive and unique picture frames, colorful paper flowers and decorative boxes (with handmade paper as the basic material) were the first products of the company. She actually made these merely as gifts to family and friends or as decorations at home. But when a friend ordered several pieces, Mrs. Sebastian began to take this hobby seriously, encouraging immediate family members of her family to join in the venture. Terestian Craft is truly a home business.
Daughter Melany Sebastian, who was then based in Manila, presently manages the business. And in a recent interview, she reveals that she never regretted her decision to leave what was then a promising career, in order to devote her full time to this growing family business. The following is the Q&A with Melany:
Q: How did you start and how much money was the initial capital?
A: The initial stage was actually a family affair. My parents, my brother and myself were the only ones involved—from the sourcing of the materials, to designing and eventually producing all the items.
Our initial capital was around P100,000 which was used to purchase a variety of handmade paper and bamboos. We also had to set-up a small working area in the backyard for production. The rest was for the purchase of other items like wood glue, handsaw, strings, and other secondary materials.
Q: Why the use of indigenous materials?
A: We decided to retain the use of indigenous materials like handmade paper and bamboo as these items abound in the locality. Since we were just starting, we wanted to make sure that sourcing the materials would not cause us any problem. Putting up a business is a tough job and if your basic materials are not readily available, then that would be another burden to carry.
Q: What were the initial problems that you encountered?
A: Since it was only us in the family who make the products, it was really tiring. We actually had to gather the bamboos near the beach and soak them in salt water. Bamboos attract insects like ants and flies, so soaking them in salt water eliminates this problem.
Then we had to design and assemble each item by ourselves. We had to be careful of each product.
Marketing was also difficult. When this was just a hobby of my mom, we never really thought that we would make money out of the products she made. But when de decided to seriously consider producing in bigger quantities, we had to think of how to sell our products.
Q: So how then were you able to market your products?
A: We had to rely on our friends, then on our friends’ friends and so on. Then we joined trade fairs to introduce our products to the bigger market.
The first trade fair we participated in was the Catandungan Festival. It was a trial and since we got positive response from those who saw our products, we continued to join in other trade fairs, mostly sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
It also helps to keep your prices competitive. Most of those who order from us actually re-sell our products, so we have to keep our prices low and rely on the quantity of their orders to obtain substantial profit.