Little innovations add up to make a big difference

Whether it is something unique in the product, its packaging or even the customer service itself, all these come-ons and sweeteners keep buyers satisfied and coming for more. Such is the story of two micro enterprises that started to be innovative in order to hold on to their place in the competitive market.

 Ma. Josephine “Olive” Parilla, a native of Leyte in Southern Philippines, has already sold more than half a million pairs of bedroom slippers, children’s footwear and similar items since she started her footwear business.

“I never stopped working,” says Parilla, also marketing research officer of the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Manggagawang Impormal sa Pilipinas (Patamaba, or National Network of Informal Workers), with a membership of more than 13,000 women home makers in 34 Philippine provinces.

Parilla beams when recalling her heyday in footwear. “Modesty aside, I was the first to introduce the personalized touch in the market,” she says, referring to a popular marketing strategy of giving customers the choice to have their names embroidered or printed in their bought item immediately.

Parilla was into ‘personalizing’ her footwear as early as 1988, an innovation which made her the main feature in an issue of a popular women’s magazine in the 1990s. To date, most novelty shops offer this service in almost all their items.

Parilla says she aims to reach — even surpass — her heyday in the footwear business in the next few years. Her experiences tell her what to do this time:“Prioritize the quality and never cease to widen your market.”

 Not all buko pies are the same. And among all buko (young coconut) pies in the Los Baños-Calamba area, the one that rises above the rest is Lety’s Special Buko Pie. This was the conclusion of a “focus group discussion” which was published in the July 2002 issue of FOOD magazine. Such sweet commendations are but icing on the cake for Mrs. Lety O. Belarmino, the driving force behind Lety’s Special Buko Pie.

Having earned undergraduate units in home technology from the University of Santo Tomas, Belarmino knew her food. So in 1976, armed with two hundred pesos capital and her own secret recipe, she rented a stall along the road to UP Los Baños and began selling her buko pies to employees, faculty and visitors to the UP campus. By word of mouth, her regular clientele grew.

A hurdle that must be overcome in exporting food items is shelf life. Buko pies can still be consumed within three days without refrigeration, and one week if it is stored in the refrigerator. However, while regular freezing extends shelf life (up to one month) substantially more than refrigeration, the frozen pies when reheated, come out soggy and lose the desired texture. The answer is blast freezing. Once frozen, the buko pies can last up to 12 months. Lety’s Special Buko Pie has already acquired the blast freezing technology.

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