MASBATE CITY – When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the entire country to a standstill, former bus driver Alladin Villar's world came to a screeching halt.
The imposition of lockdowns and travel restrictions put a strain on his ability to provide for his family's needs, thus the father of three felt like giving up.
"During the pandemic, I tried everything. I worked as a construction worker and as an electrician just to make ends meet, but it still wasn't enough," Villar said in the vernacular.
Fortunately for this 42-year-old jack of all trades, he has inherited his father's knack for upholstery.
And all it took was a PHP10,000 loan from a microfinance company to change his family's fate.
In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, this doting father decided to stay for good in his hometown of Masbate in the Bicol region.
While life was initially hard, Villar considers the pandemic as a life-changing moment in their family history.
As a bus driver for six years, plying the Masbate-Manila route, he said the loss of income prompted him to look for other livelihood alternatives.
He said it was his wife, Nellyn, 40, whom she fondly calls "manager," who broached the idea of putting up an upholstery business.
"Between the two of us, she is really the one who is into business," he said, adding that his wife has dabbled into selling second-hand clothes and investing in a jewelry business before they finally decided to concentrate on upholstery.
Nellyn's entrepreneurial ventures are bolstered by her financial lifeline.
Since 2017, she has been a member of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inc. (CARD Bank, Inc.), a microfinance-oriented rural bank in the Philippines that provides various loan and savings products and other services.
As a qualified member, she was able to secure a modest loan from the microfinance company, which the couple used as starting capital to buy foam and upholstery supplies.
"Our first client was a family friend who wanted a modern makeover of their outdated furniture," Villar said.
As more people got wind of his exceptional craftsmanship, his business, Love Upholstery, a name taken from the nickname of their youngest daughter, was born.
With the surge in demand for their custom-made furniture pieces and other upholstery services, their income grew, allowing them to repay and again reapply for a loan to expand their operations.
Today, Love Upholstery enjoys a diverse client base --from homeowners to commercial businesses such as spas, salons, offices, and restaurants.
From just a team of two during its early years, the shop now enjoys additional manpower and is able to purchase more upholstery tools and equipment to keep up with the demands of the booming business.
Known for its intricately crafted loveseats, chaise lounges, camel-back sofas, and wingback and accent chairs, the shop's custom-made furniture speaks highly of Villar's artistic craftsmanship and aesthetic tastes.
Asked what his secret to keeping his entrepreneurial venture afloat, Villar said it is being responsible when it comes to repaying his loan.
By borrowing and investing wisely in essential aspects of the business, one can ensure growth and avoid financial ruts, he said.
"I used to earn PHP20,000 monthly as a bus driver. Now, I can earn that same amount for every sofa set that I upholster. What's more, I no longer need to be away from my family just to secure their needs," he proudly said.
More than providing a financial safety net, the initial PHPHP10,000 loan that Villar received from this microfinance company offered a shot at a better life. (PNA)