How a factory worker became a bag-making entrepreneur

By Victor Anthony V. Silva |December 22,2016 - 10:03 PM
Abegail Cabanit says she makes from 500 to 1,000 pieces of various bags each month. (CDN PHOTO/VICTOR ANTHONY V. SILVA)

Abegail Cabanit says she makes from 500 to 1,000 pieces of various bags each month. (CDN PHOTO/VICTOR ANTHONY V. SILVA)

SHE went into the making of pillowcases to earn extra income for the treatment and medication of her ill son and ended up in making bags, which she has grown into a promising home-based business venture.

Abegail Cabanit today dreams of putting up her own boutique inside a mall one day, where customers can walk in, pick a pattern and design, and have their own custom-made bags assembled on the spot.

For now, though, the 38-year-old mother of two diligently works to meet her present customers’ demands at her home-based workshop in Barangay Buhisan, Cebu City.

“The demand for bags, especially for corporate giveaways, usually goes up during this month,” she told Cebu Daily News in an interview at her home, located on a hillside some five minutes away on motorcycle from the highway.

Cabanit has to deliver 300 sling bags and 300 pouches for a corporate client for December, but she’s hurdled much more before.

The bag-maker already produced 2,000 bags for a single client before, even without the seven heavy-duty sewing machines and around four assistants she has now.

Every month, Cabanit said she can presently produce around 500 to 1,000 pieces of bags, varying in patterns and sizes, depending on the taste of the client.

She sells custom bags at P350 to P550, make-up and cellphone pouches at P70, and coin purses at P15 each.

Her selling point, she said, was that her bags use quality materials but are still affordable. Another thing was that her bags are neat and simple.

“I thought bags were seasonal, but there’s always a time to make bags. April and May, before opening of classes, as well as Christmas are always the months when these sell fast. I can prepare the rest of the year,” said Cabanit.

Cabanit said she never thought she’d reach this point in her business, considering how she practically began with nothing.

Finding extra income

In 2011, her younger son Adrian Rei, who was 10 years old then, developed a nervous tick, a sickness characterized by involuntary twitching.

At that time, Cabanit was already in her 17th year working for an export processing company on Mactan Island, but she did not have money in the bank to spend for her son’s check-ups and medication.

Some of her products. (CDN PHOTO/VICTOR ANTHONY V. SILVA)

Some of her products. (CDN PHOTO/VICTOR ANTHONY V. SILVA)

“I was really drained. I prayed to the Lord to give me extra income,” she said.

Realizing that she studied dressmaking at the Mama Margaret Training Center in Barangay Pasil 20 years ago, she decided to try assembling pillowcases and selling them to her friends.

She didn’t even have the capital to start her venture then and asked her friends for “advance payment” so she could buy materials. Cabanit said she eventually pooled P400 as capital to really start her business.

She would work at the Mactan Export Processing Zone company then, and on her free time, she would make the pillowcases.

Back then, she only had one sewing machine, the simple wooden kind, borrowed from her mother who lives in Badian town, southern Cebu.

From January to June 2012, she produced 10 pillowcase pieces every day. By the start of classes that year, she decided to start sewing pencil cases.

At the end of that year, Cabanit thought of sewing her favorite aunt a shoulder bag and realized it would be a good business idea.

Even without experience in pattern making, Cabanit was able to pull off her first venture into bag-making, although she didn’t get it right at first. She said the support her family showed motivated her to carry on.

In 2013, she joined a seminar organized by the University of San Carlos and a TV network and part of the Kapamilya Negosyo Na (KNN) program, where she received P10,000 for participating.

More than the money, which she later on used to buy her first heavy-duty sewing machine, she said she appreciated all the things she learned from the event, including costing and business planning.

“I was earning before, but I didn’t have a direction, I didn’t have a vision. I didn’t really know how to make my business grow,” she said.

She named her venture “Reign Bags” after her sons Adrian Rei and Mon Andrei.

A year later, Cabanit was recognized by KNN for her venture and received another P10,000 from the same program. In 2015, she was also chosen as a beneficiary for expansion and received another P10,000.

Cabanit said she used to do all the work in their small living room, but she now produces her bags inside her home workshop.

After 20 years working in the export company, she left her job this year so she can focus on her growing business, which has grown to employ people from her community as well as train them in sewing.

At present, Cabanit is also sponsoring five vocational students at the same training center she went to before.

“It’s my way of giving back,” she said.

Today, her younger son is well and she is thanking God every day for the opportunity that was given to her.

Looking forward to 2017, she said she hopes her business will continue to grow and that she will be able to help more people along the way.

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