Esmerna Gabutina owns Tinabuan Arts and Crafts, an OTOP (one-town-one product) sinamay making enterprise in Lagonlong, Misamis Oriental. Since it began more than 10 years ago, it has diversified its product lines and grown in marketing reach.
From a micro enterprise, it has grown into a thriving small business.
As she runs her business, Ms. Gabutina has stuck to some personal principles that have helped build her own product identity and carve her product niche.
To establish her unique product image, she adopted the plain weave rather than the colorful weave Bukidnon tribal weavers are traditionally known for. “This is my personal decision. Why adopt Bukidnon designs when this is Misamis Ooriental?”
She seems insistent on being different “I do not want to do something that others have already done. For example, for the sling bag we are developing, we are looking for something new for handles other than the wood customarily used. Leather seems promising.”
Most of her products are slightly high-end. “Ayaw kong gumawa ng cheap. Very common. Maraming cheap sa Divisoria.”
Most of all, she takes pride in her ‘made-in-Misamis Oriental” tag. Recenly, she had a volume order from a buyer who planned to use his own brand rather than “Tinabuan.” She declined. She thought assenting to the wish of the buyer would be a disservice to her workers, her weavers, her hometown and province.
Notably, 71-year old Esmer put up the business with her own money, grew it with her own money, and still doesn’t see herself borrowing in the future.