WOODEN pallets are among the useful elements in the logistics industry. It was meant to support huge, heavy packages being shipped. But in 2017, these pallets supported Sherwin Mata’s family and opened it, especially the discarded ones, to a new market.
“When I resigned from my job in 2017, need nako og source of income. Wala koy savings. Financially-broke gyud. Bisan pang gatas sa mga bata maglisod ko (I needed a source of income because I do not have savings),” Mata shared.
He has been selling sukang sinamak online. However, he was more drawn to minimalist furniture. He studied how to assemble furniture on the internet using only readily available material at that time--pallets. With the help of his uncle, his first pallet furniture were tables and bookshelves.
He finally established The Pallet Project and upcycling pallets became his main source of income.
“I called it Project because supposedly man gud kani na line na furnitures are DIYs (Do-it-yourself) or projects. Meaning kaya ra bisan kinsa. Pero sa kabusy bisan, ang DIYs ipa-DIYs pa sa lain. Diha na mi musulod (these kinds of furniture can be just done by anyone but sometimes, others are too busy to do it. That is where we come in),” he said.
“Basic lang na furniture. Dili gyud same sa uban furniture maker na perfect sa details (It is just basic furniture unlike the works of the furniture-makers).”
With his continued learning on the different ways to assemble pallets, his portfolio grew to include table and stool set, work or study table, pallet backdrops, beds of various sizes and functionality, bar counters, counter tables, kitchen cabinet, crates, and pallet swings, among others.
It was well-received by the fans of DIYs, minimalists, rustic interior lovers, and those who just need affordable household furniture.
“Last year when there was no lockdown, [the demands are] foodcart, counter table and table set. Ang kusog kasagaran pang milk tea. Karong lockdown, kasagaran home furnitures, study table sa bata ug plants stands ang demand (Counters for milk tea businesses were in-demand before the lockdown. Now, most of the orders are home furniture, study tables, and plant stands),” he said.
The demand, he said, also has a season. For instance, tables are mostly ordered during the school days while household furniture is in-demand during Christmas. He mainly takes his order from his Facebook page.
Mata shared their growth did not spike but it was steady going up.
And part of that growth are lessons from every bump he encountered for the last three years of his business.
The Pallet Project has taught him to anticipate problems that might arise, find a way to solve it and to deal with things he cannot control.
He said it is inevitable to run out of a supply of pallets so he partnered with several pallet suppliers from within and outside the region as far as Cagayan de Oro City.
“Dependent mi sa imports sa products para naa pud me mahimo og furnitures. To cope up supply problems, dapat daghan ka supplier para if wala si A adto ka kay B, C, D, or E supplier (we depend on the imports of products to be able to get pallets to turn into furniture. So you should have a lot of suppliers to cope up with the demands),” he said.
“Dili maiwasan na mahutdan mao always ka proactive, Sa ani na business, ang planning very important. If feel nimo mahutdan na imo tanan supplier, dapat bago mahitabo na naa naka Plan B, Plan C, Plan D (You have to be proactive and planning is very important. You should have other suppliers if you feel that the first one will be running out of pallets),” he added.
There were also times when he struggled to meet deadlines and clients’ expectations due to manpower issues.
“Ang usa gyud namo ka challenge pag met sa target date and expectation sa clients. Naay clients mosabot, naay clients grabe makareact if ma delay ka. But naa pud gyuy clients na appreciated kaayo imong output (One of our challenges is to meet the target date and the expectations of the clients. Some clients get mad when their orders are delayed while some understand and appreciate our work),” Mata said.
“Usahay absent imong assembler o finisher, dakong problema gyud kay nakaset na imo daily schedule (there are also times that your men are absent and it causes further delay in delivering the orders),” he said.
He currently has three men working for him as assemblers who are also his neighbors.
But Mata owed his resilience to his two little kids.
“Akong mga anak ako motivation. Bisan grabe kasaba sa client sa ako kay usually ma delay, tahimik na lang then take it positively lang. Sila lang ako ginaisip to continue (my children are my motivation. Every time I get tirades from my clients, I take it positively and think that I am doing this for my kids),” he said.
“But every day is a learning experience mao gina note nako ang mga clients’ concerns pero di usahay malikayan (I take note of the concerns but sometimes, I cannot avoid them),” he added.
Right now, he is planning to find a site as his workshop area. He said he was lucky enough to have neighbors who understand the noise while he is assembling a furniture piece.