During her childhood years in Batangas, Jamica Lois Bonifacio, or Jam to her friends, would often see her mom sewing by hand, mainly to repair clothes or just to create simple stuff. Although she never really had a serious sit-down training with her mom, she would later find herself getting into the same hobby.
She would sew by hand and create wallets, bags and other stuff for her personal use. Her friends would always compliment her and would coax her into turning this hobby into business, but she would just shrug it off.
“I was thrilled with the idea that my friends like what I create to an extent that they want me to sell it, but I never really took it seriously. At that time, I was just enjoying sewing and creating something out of it,” Jam said candidly during our Zoom interview on a Friday afternoon.
In 2017, she had to quit school (she was taking up Fine Arts in Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology) because of financial difficulties. Having extra time in her disposal, she spent it sewing and making stuff out of recycled materials.
One day she made a wallet out of recycled mat (banig) and an old shirt. Happy about her output, she posted it on Facebook. It was a hit to her friends.
Most days, the number of likes and positive comments on her Facebook post is enough to give her some good vibes. On that day though, she got more.
“It gave me the confidence to revisit the idea of turning this hobby into a business – that maybe my friends are right, maybe this is something I could take seriously.“
She visited a stall in Cubao, Quezon City and bought a handwoven cloth with an ethnic design worth PhP500. She would have wanted to buy more but that was all she could really afford that time.
Using the cloth she bought, she made wallets, then posted photos of it on Facebook. Products were sold in no time. All of it.
For a while, that would be her “business cycle”. Buy materials, sew by hand, sell by posting on Facebook, repeat. Then she added more products: bags and hats. All handsewn.
As more and more people were buying her products, Jam decided to take her undertaking a step higher and put some structure to it. For branding, she thought of a name that encapsulates what she does and what her products are. So she combined “sulsi” (handsewn) and “sisidlan” (pouch/bag); thus, “SUDLAN”. Later on, she would learn that “SUDLAN” is just another word for “sisidlan” or (pouch/bag/container).
Asked if she ever imagined herself becoming an entrepreneur, Jam shared that when she was in high school, she would design shoes, Tshirts, bags and would earn from it.
“But back then, I considered myself more of a designer rather than an entrepreneur,” she quipped.
Jam knew that to be able to move forward, she had to learn more about the technical and business side of running SUDLAN.
So, in 2018, Jam decided to enroll in the Start Your Own Business (SYOB) course offered by the UP Institute for Small-Scale Industries (UP ISSI).
“One of the things I’ve learned from the SYOB course is the pricing strategies – the things you have to consider before you come up with the selling price of your products. These strategies help me ensure that I am actually making profit from creating and selling SUDLAN products.“
SYOB is an immersive course, which requires the participant to articulate the nitty-gritty details of their businesses/business ideas in a business plan. This allows the participants to weigh in the viability of their business ideas. Working on her business plan, Jam realized that she needed to make some investments if she was to maximize the potentials of SUDLAN.
So, in the same year, she put up her small sewing business at their house in Batangas, purchased two sewing machines and hired two cutters and two dressmakers. She got a lot of support from her boyfriend. Her boyfriend’s mom also helped her particularly in the financial requirements of the business.
Jam added more creations to her product line. Some of her bestsellers are the bucket hats, passport holders, and sling bags. She also created SUDLAN’s Facebook page to feature her products: www.facebook.com/sudlanph/. On SUDLAN’s Facebook page, a customer posted a product review and raved about how the sling bag she bought “exceeded her expectations”. Other customers love SUDLAN products for its “quality and durability”, “texture”, “beautiful and unique” designs.
Jam has always admired the ingenuity of our local products and would always opt to buy raw materials from Baguio and other local market. She also planned to collaborate with local weavers/weaving communities.
Jam had other exciting plans for SUDLAN when she welcomed 2020. But then, the coronavirus (COVID-19) happened.
Navigating through the chaos brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic
Just like any business, SUDLAN was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
Jam was in Quezon City when ECQ was imposed all over Luzon on March 16, 2020. Due to transportation restrictions, she could not travel back to Batangas. Supposed to end by April 15, the ECQ was extended until May 15.
Two months of no operation. Two months of no income for SUDLAN.
Even when the ECQ was lifted, things did not go back to normal. Restrictions are still in place. The virus is still not contained; in fact, the number of cases has dramatically increased.
Jam realized she needed some shift to cope with the situation. First, she bought a new sewing machine so she could make products while she is here in Metro Manila. She found it difficult to buy materials for bags. Most of her suppliers closed down. For safety reasons, she also started sourcing her materials from online shops.
To stay relevant, she started making new products. And what could be more relevant in times like this other than facemasks? She is currently busy making handwoven, 3-ply facemasks and selling it on Facebook. Prices of facemasks range from PhP100 to PhP175 each.
Jam admits that the income she gets from facemasks is not enough. This forced her to go beyond SUDLAN’s Facebook page and be more rigorous in promoting her products online. She maximizes invitations to online events, such as the webinar recently conducted by UP ISSI, to promote her products. To be able to avail of government programs for MSMEs during this crisis, Jam has also started working on her business registration.
Jam also shared that this crisis has made her realize the importance of having savings even for a micro-enterprise like SUDLAN.
“I wouldn’t be able to continue my business – buy a sewing machine and other raw materials, if I did not have savings,” she said, adding that she used her savings to restart her business.
Through all the difficulties brought about by the pandemic, Jam has never wavered.
“Tuloy-tuloy lang, makakabangon din. (Continue to persevere, we will get through this) What is important is we do not lose hope despite what is happening.”
Asked how she envisions SUDLAN in the coming years, she answered with a beam: “I see SUDLAN as something that I will do for a long time…itutuloy ko ‘to, palalaguin (I will sustain this and develop it further).”
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1 thought on “Of needles, thread and recycled materials: The story of SUDLAN”
Very inspiring despite of your our situation today. Keep doing what you’ve started.