Gemma and Floro Salinas
Floro Salinas runs FNDG Shells and handicrafts with his wife Gemma. Together they face the challenges and reap the benefits of their hard work. They also learn business — and life — lessons in their daily operations.
Floro worked for a software company in Manila until one day, he woke up feeling that he was doing it only for the money. He felt hollow and uninspired. he remembered his childhood in the Visayas, where he knew people who succeeded in the decorative shells business. Now that appealed to him. With Gemma’s blessing, he quit his job and started a company that specialized in the design and manufacture of shell-based decorations and handicrafts. He had the xpertise and he had access to the suppliers. he also had Gemma’s support — and at the end of the day, they were a team, after all.
One of the initial lessons they soon learned about the industry was that production is not evenly distributed throughout the year. There are virtually no orders and thus no production between April and October. Instead of sitting around, waiting, the couple learned to take advantage of this annual lean period to scout for quality materials and stock up for the busy months. By the time work picks up starting November all the way up to March, production is in full swing. These are the months when the couple and their employees hardly have time even for breaks because of the grueling demands of the job.
Then of course, there are other challenges like storage and shipping, especially when orders come in at the same time and their modest warehouse in Barangay San Jose, Sto. Tomas, Batangas can hardly contain all the items. The Salinases have a mix of local clients and exporters, and the latter depends on shipping windows — fixed periods during which the finished items must be sent to the end-client. One of the Salinases’ larger accounts, for instance, is a big budget retail chain in the United States. That company is especially strict in enforcing its deadlines, but thus far, has been happy with FNDG’s track record.
Overall, the predictability of the business enables the couple to plan their production well and to optimize for quality.
Innovation, however, is always a priority. The Salinases constantly think of new designs and products to offer to their clients.
Ideally the business would be in a much stronger position if it could get bigger orders especially from direct foreign accounts. However, since advance payments are not standard, Floro and Gemma have to source funds to get any work started — particularly to buy raw materials and pay wages.
CARD is one of several institutions that have extended loans to the Salinases under the SME program. The loans have helped the couple meet the stringent requirements of their clients. Floro especially appreciates CARD for its direct, no-frills approach to doing business. “CARD people are easy to deal with. They don’t ask for unnecessary things that extend the process.”
They have worked with CARD to fund several cycles of production.
Their present volume of business is enough to give the couple a comfortable life. “We could get more work, but we don’t want to punish ourselves,” says Gemma. “We try to enjoy what we have rather than constantly worry whether or not we can service all the requirements of our clients. Thus we only accept orders we know we can finish.” This cautious and balanced approach is why the couple is able to maintain the trust and confidence of their clients. Their credibility remains untarnished.
“Life has treated us kindly,” Gemma adds. They have sent all their children to school and two of them, having earned their degrees, are now in London. Their youngest child is now in Grade 5. The family is able to take vacations in various parts of the country. Still, to echo Floro many years ago, Gemma says they have no wish to acquire great wealth. “We are quite content with what we have.”
Most of all, having run the business together has strengthened their marital bond. Going on those trips to scouts for suppliers, for instance, almost feels like dating for the couple. Their daily management of the business also highlights the dynamics of their partnership, because even as they jointly run its operations, they each have their respective spheres of expertise. For example, Gemma takes care of product development and design as well as
documentation. Floro usually plays the frontline role and deals with clients and bank officials. Gemma confesses to being highstrung and emotional at times, while Floro is congenial and levelheaded — a true diplomat.
Their years of experience in dealing with all kinds of people have taught the Salinases to be extra patient in their dealings. For instance, they once discovered that a raw materials supplier had been cheating them. The couple opted to fix the relationship instead of starting anew with other partners. “having a high tolerance is helpful,” Gemma says, “but don’t give them the opportunity to abuse your kindness again.”
Moving forward, the Salinases feel strongly that they should remain masters of their time and that they answer to no one but themselves. This way, they will continue find meaning and pleasure in what they do.
Despite the entrepreneurial challenges they face by being fiercely independent, the couple remains happy. They are busy, but they have personal time. They provide jobs for their employees and regular income to their suppliers. Their clients trust them. Their creditors, including CARD, continue to support them, enabling the business to thrive in its space and serve its clients well.
“The important thing is that you love what you do,” Floro says. “From there, everything follows.”
~ Gemma and Floro Salinas