RESPONSIBLE pet parents only want the best for their fur babies – nutritious food, an environment conducive for dwelling, and safe products for their hygiene.
In the same way, a mother in Davao City only wanted to give the best life for her children when she built Nivoulle (niv-yul) Homecare Products, a soap manufacturing business producing a variety of pet hygiene products that has been taking care of Dabawenyos’ pets for about five years now.
Around 2011, then public school teacher Luvinne Chu decided to learn soapmaking through workshops and seminars and eventually started selling some soap bars, fabric conditioners, and dishwashing liquid to her colleagues and friends. This, alongside selling almost anything she can find.
Chu’s daughter, Cecille C. Fontecha vividly recalled to SunStar Davao how her mother persisted to provide for her family alone.
“My mom started soaping because of survival. She has four mouths to feed and aside from teaching at school, she has to multi-task selling different products like Avon, Tupperware, ukay-ukay, kalamansi, uling, anything that she could sell. Her inspiration comes from her four kids and the strong will to survive,” she said.
“She started with a capital of P4,000 which she has to loan from the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System). She then practiced soapmaking and sold some bars to her colleagues, who had nice and positive feedback. Though there were negative ones too, she took it as a challenge to improve her formula,” she added.
It was in 2015 that she focused on producing plant-based pet soaps which expanded to more variants. Among them are their best-selling Madre de Cacao Soap with Sulfur, Guava Soap, Medicated Herbal Soap which contains picroretine extract from the Makabuhay plant, Sulfur Soap, and Black Soap which has activated charcoal. She also manufactures pet shampoos such as the best-selling Madre de Cacao Shampoo, Black Shampoo, and its newest product Cat Shampoo & Conditioner.
Fontecha said her mother ensured that their products will be made with only organic ingredients, so much that they grow their raw materials in their existing farm.
“She has this feeling that these things, especially plants, around us have the power to heal. Coming from the mindset of a plant-lover herself, she researched various herbs and its benefits and the rest is history,” she said.
It did not become a hit in the early months of their business but after a while, the demand soared that she was able to voluntarily retire early as a teacher and have her business legalized.
“With lots of hopes and prayers, we managed to earn a little above what a public-school teacher who was laden with loans from different institutions. Though there were months that sales were low but we managed to keep the business afloat. Moreover, we took advantage of the internet to sell our products and gained many support not just from friends and families but mostly from strangers whom we never met but trusted our products,” Fontecha shared.
“Maybe one of the reasons for the increase in demand is not just the meticulous processing of herbal extraction being done by my mom herself to produce quality and yet affordable products, but also because she believes that quality need not to be expensive,” she added.
Chu is exclusively manufacturing soaps for Lil Heroes Enterprise with the Furvet brand. When she started it in 2014, she could only produce 100 pieces of soaps for one and a half months. But now that her daughter Fontecha and one of her sons learned the trade, they can make about 100 soaps a day or as much as 5,000 soap per variant in a month, also with the help of two assistants.
“Running a business like this brought us not only financial gains but technical learnings too. My mom would patiently teach us her craft, the secrets, and magic of her technology, so that one day, when she comes to pass to another dimension, we would be left with enough skills and talent to fight the cruelties and challenges of life, just like what she had done,” Fontecha said.
Being one of the heirs to this legacy business, she is poised to expand its reach more than just for their family’s sustenance. She, along with her siblings, will uphold it as a symbol of their mother’s love, hard work, and perseverance.
“I believe that this business will really grow because it has a solid, good foundation,” she said.
“Even katong high school pa ko sa City High (Davao City National High School), after school, mag lako mi sa akong mama og sabon and sometimes Avon pud anywhere. (When I was still in high school, my mom and I would peddle soaps and cosmetics anywhere) I will always carry those memories with me and I will really do my best for this business to thrive because it brought me a lot of opportunities and comforts of life. All of us were able to graduate from good schools with only the salary of a public-school teacher who is also a single parent. I carry that with pride always,” Fontecha added.
Furvet soaps and shampoos can be found at Lil Heroes Enterprises in Surveyor St., Doña Vicenta, Bajada, Davao City. RGL