Teodora Moster looks as cool as a cucumber. One cannot tell that she almost did not make the interview because of hypertension. She arrived, nonetheless, with her daughter to keep her company. On this particular afternoon, she came all the way from Lipa, Batangas after finishing deliveries. This is quintessential Teodora — tough and ready to face challenges head-on.
Despite her discomfort, Teodora is excited to tell her story. “I could spend the whole day telling you about my life.”
She starts from the beginning. At a young age, she helped her mother, a laundrywoman. After her father passed away at 31, she also learned to harvest rice and sugarcane. Life was tough.
Things changed when Teodora turned 18 and married Sofronio, a carpenter.
She and her husband knew that they needed to explore new ways to boost their income. Rather than employment, they thought of various businesses they could undertake.
Teodora had an idea. She had always known how to sew slippers, having observed her sister who was working at a slipper-making factory. She then tried borrowing a little cash here and there — from neighbors, relatives, friends — to raise capital. With the money she collected, Teodora was able to produce several pairs of slippers which she packed herself and peddled from street to street. Rising at dawn, she visited other places as well, eventually finding her way to far-off markets in pangasinan, Cavite, Cubao and Manila. Sales were improving, so she was able to pay back her creditors on a regular basis.
To this day, the slippers use one design, varying only in size and color. Only one kind of high quality fabric material is used. The slippers are thick, fluffy, and similar to those that can be found in posh hotels.
Teodora soon realized that the most difficult and limiting thing in her set-up was the lack of a permanent store. Walking around was difficult and could eventually affect her health. Taking up an informal and temporary space was unreliable since it left her vulnerable to policemen who could drive her out at any time.
It was at that time that the young entrepreneur crossed paths with CARD. At first, she could not quite believe that an institution that would help simple people like herself with only trust as collateral. She eventually became one of the first ten members of CARD, taking out a loan of p5,000. CARD was not her only creditor then. Teodora needed substantial funds so she could advance payment for the materials she needed, pay her workers, transport her finished goods, and finally lease a permanent space for her business.
Teodora soon realized that CARD was quite unlike any other lender. Beyond access to funds, it helped its clients run their businesses. Having no formal training, she found their various programs extremely useful. CARD eventually became her only creditor.
When Teodora paid her loan, she took out a larger one and was able to buy a second-hand vehicle for transport and deliveries. however, it broke down regularly and became a headache since repairs proved to be too costly. CARD stepped in and advised her to find a better vehicle. By qualifying for the SME program, she had access to more funds that allowed her to purchase a Canter truck is now an indispensable part of her business. She christened it Biyaya ng Diyos (Blessing of God).
The spouses jointly manage the business. Sofronio takes care of the finances and supervises production and delivery. Teodora takes care of the rest. The Mosters now have nearly 40 employees, of whom five have live-in arrangements with them.
The Mosters sometimes feel disappointed that their limited capacity prevents them from accommodating more orders. Also, the business occasionally suffers when customers don’t pay on time, adversely upsetting cash flow and delaying workers’ salaries. Fortunately, Teodora’s strong relationship with CARD allows her to avail of emergency loans to augment funds.
As an entrepreneur, Teodora has learned many lessons over the years. One of the most important, according to her, is the discipline to manage her loan proceeds professionally. Money should never be used for household or personal expenses because these activities, while sometimes urgent, are not part of business operations. They do not generate revenue, and they come at a cost.
Thanks to this mindset, from a few thousand pesos per month, Teodora now earns up to triple that amount — more on good days. Now she has regular buyers who place big orders, and she is able to service their needs effectively thanks to her truck.
Despite their modest success, the Mosters still retain their humble ways. They shun unnecessary luxury. They spend their free time watching television, caring for their grandchildren and dreaming of even better days ahead. Teodora has plans to buy a small parcel of land on which she will build a factory for her slippers and a new home for her growing family. She also needs a secure parking space for her vehicle which is parked at a considerable distance from her residence due to bad roads.
Teodora strongly feels that her business has not only improved their lifestyle, but has made them into better people as well. She has learned to be patient with her employees. She has learned to trust her buyers. She deals better with people, overall. She is happy that she has lived her life with no enemies and that she goes about her business without harming anyone.
By the end of the interview, Teodora is smiling. She realizes that she can truly look back at her life with pride at how much she has achieved, and nostalgia for all the happy memories.
~ Teodora Moster