Ex-teacher makes good business with craft-A A +A
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
WHEN Venus Genson bought a set of baskets from a woman crying at a market in Antiquera, Bohol in 1982, she had no idea it was the beginning of good and sustainable business partnership.
Genson, president of Cebu-based Venus Group of Companies, said she saw a woman sitting on the ground in the market place, holding a one-week old baby and crying. When Genson asked why she was crying, the woman said an exporter rejected her baskets because they were of the wrong size.
The woman said if she sold the baskets for P45, then she would be able to feed her family for a week, buy five kilos of corn grits, a jar of salted fish and a bus ticket going back to the mountains.
“It moved me to tears knowing the woman’s situation and I wondered how many of them, especially those living in remote communities and mountains, had the similar situation. I made up my mind to start doing something for people like her,” Genson told Sun.Star Cebu.
She said an Arab working in Kuwait contacted her to supply his company with arts and crafts from the Philippines. She said that was her first entry into the export business, where she invested P10,000 as start-up capital.
“I’m proud to say that my business really started from scratch,” said Genson, who left her teaching job to start her new career in entrepreneurship, a move not supported by her family at first.
“They don’t like the idea that I go to remote areas, go to seashores, to mountains to talk to people. They want me to be in the academe, but of course, I felt there was a calling. So I left the job and single-handedly ran the business,” she said.
Genson then familiarized herself with many items handcrafted by indigenous Filipinos.
She visited small islands and built a network of suppliers from various small communities across the country.
She also traveled to export markets and attended workshops and seminars in order to share this with her sub-contractors, whom she describes as “business partners.”
“Running the business is not easy. I struggled and endured hard work like any
entrepreneur (goes) through. But I never regretted the choices I made and maintained optimism in the path I took,” she said.
In the first year of operation, Genson said she sold two containers of shell chandeliers and other handicraft items.
Since then, her export business grew, allowing her to acquire properties like the 2.3 hectare production facility and a 2,700 square meter, three-storey Art ‘n Nature Manufacturing Corp. showroom in Cotcot, Liloan.
Genson, who is the president of Philexport-Cebu, said it was her determination and constant communication with her people that made her realize her dreams for her company. Philexport-Cebu is the umbrella organization of exporters in Cebu.
The Venus Group of Companies has now been operating for 32 years. It is the holding company of five export companies that manufacture and export high-end assorted Philippine handicrafts, furniture and accessories. The company also has its own forwarding and logistics arm.
Their major buyers are concentrated in Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia.
“The materials we use range from coconut to seashells and bamboo cuttings. Other people think of this as garbage, but to us they’re the goose that lays the golden
eggs,” she said.
Genson recently partnered with people in Javier, Leyte to supply her company.
Genson said she was informed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Leyte about the abundance and availability of raw materials and finished products in Eastern Visayas.
Genson said Cebu is running out of indigenous materials for huge orders.
“There is a greater demand from foreign buyers for products that use local materials such as wild vines, bamboo, sea grass, coco and bamboo twigs for furniture and furnishings,” said Genson, who also co-founded the Cebu Gift, Toys and Housewares (Cebu-GTH).
She said tapping the municipality of Javier will not only help her business meet the huge orders, but their partnership will also improve the livelihood and income of its people.
Genson’s trash to cash business also enabled her to feed students of 16 government schools for 17 years as part of her corporate social responsibility project. She also sends students to school.
Genson was selected as a finalist in the search for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of The Year Philippines 2012.
“I credit the growth and success of my company to my people and to my business partners who remained resilient and hardworking crisis after crisis. My success will always be associated with the number of people and livelihood I have helped improved,” Genson said.
She also expressed interest to venture into tourism as part of the expansion plans of the Venus Group of Companies.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 20, 2012.