NC-San Francisco surprises, delights & gets commitment from new entrepreneur to mentor others
Dinah Lyra Pantaleon is a young government retiree.
Since relocating from Davao City to her present home in the municipality of San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, she has moved to freelance consultancy in food safety and microbiology.
She also is now an entrepreneur without her planning to, carrying on a hobby which her doctor –husband started.
She is someone you can say is well-informed than most, especially on what services one can get from the government having spent 19 years at the Department of Science and Technology in Region 11 as Science Research Specialist II.
And yet, she was still surprised by the speed and breadth of services she was able to get from the Negosyo Center (NC) –San Francisco in Agusan del Sur.
More importantly, because of her NC experience, she has also committed to make herself available as resource person or mentor in her line of expertise.
How the business started
Dinah’s husband, a doctor, is fond of making guinamos (fermented fish) in his spare time. He inherited this hobby from his dad who was also a doctor. When it reached the point that the supply was more than what they could normally consume in their household, Dinah decided to sell small quantities of the guinamos to her friends. Apparently, they loved the taste. This, she said can be attributed to the special spices that they incorporated in the guinamos to set it apart from the ordinary ones (plus factors: food safety practices/handling of the product and reputation of husband and wife).
The product was a hit among her initial customers. When she received good feedback from her initial sales of their special guinamos, Dinah and her husband decided to register their business name with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). She was glad to hear from a friend that she need not go to the DTI provincial office because the registration can be done at the Negosyo Center located in their municipality.
Her main purpose in visiting NC-San Francisco was to register her business name. She was impressed that the processing was done in less than 15 minutes.
When she visited the NC, she already had an idea how she can improve her packaging. What she used then were bottles commonly used to store peanut butter spreads.
While at the NC she inquired where she can buy bottles for packaging. She got her second surprise when she actually got the information she needed in her current location in Agusan del Sur.
The NC business counselor cum center manager gave her a directory/brochure of suppliers. From there, she and her husband found one that is based in Davao City which they visited immediately.
After having taken care of her packaging and labeling (a friend from DOST XI designed her labels and printed in matte sticker paper), Dinah then participated in two NC trainings, namely “How to start a business”, and “Proper cash handling and recording.”
Since her NC visit in February this year, Dinah has already sold over 400 bottles.
Radin Special Guinamos which is a combination of the couple’s name can be described as a low end product packaged in a good way and consumed by middle class and high end consumers. The product has now reached the cities of Manila, Cebu, Davao, Butuan and General Santos.
She attributes the fast increase in customers partly to the online exposure of the product when she posted a photo in her Facebook page. Orders came not only from her friends but also some strangers who wanted to resell the bottles or distribute it in their areas.
The NC counselor has identified her as participant to the forthcoming E-Negosyo Caravan to introduce and provide her inputs and tools to do online marketing.
Just right before the product became an instant hit, the couple has envisioned joining the province’s Naliyagan Festival this June to introduce the product to the market. As luck would have it, their exposure has improved this early on. They didn’t expect for the pick up to be this strong and quick.
Dinah believes that the increasing demand is also because customers trust their product (in terms of hygiene and safety) because of their professional backgrounds in the medical field.
She also takes pride in her husband’s fermentation process with special spices which sets the taste and aroma apart.
She claims that the product is microbiologically stable. Due to its fermentation stage, there is a lactic acid bacteria, and the bacteria produces deterrents for other pathogenic organisms to survive which may cause food poisoning. She is the first to say that should production volume increase, they would need a fermentation tank and would hire workers to meet the demand. Based on research, guinamos can be stable for up to 90 days.
Dinah also decided early on to standardize everything – weight, proportion.
The couple has engaged a fisherman in Barobo in Surigao del Sur to provide for their raw material needs. The fish (bolinao – anchovies) is processed on the same day they are harvested.
Currently they average 20-30 kilos of bolinao per week. Production per batch takes up to one week or more.
It is only she and her husband and one helper (housemaid) who is working for the business for now.
Challenges and opportunities ahead
Dinah is fully aware of their venture’s challenges: change in raw materials prices, seasonal availability of raw material – particularly anchovies and that of meeting the growing demand for their product, transportation cost for markets outside Agusan, supply of labeling materials and printing of labels at low cost.
She still has to work on her Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and business permit.
The NC counselor has suggested categorizing their guinamos under the organic product line, since the only preservative they use is salt and a few natural spices.
The couple also envisions the product to be a pasalubong item.
NC-San Francisco will be partnering them with the tourism sector for the product to be sold in the island destinations or marketed to island hopping travellers, since banana and guinamos are staple snack among tourists and locals alike.
Dinah will be working on all of these for her venture with NC-San Francisco and while at it find time to share her own expertise with other NC clients too.
By: Brenda B. Corvera