Joel Bautista, Owner of Pearl J Shoes, Says Shoemaking Is in His Heart
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Joel Bautista just can’t shake the shoe business out of his system. He had tried other jobs and businesses, including running his own farm in Bataan, but he would always go back to making shoes because it runs in his blood. It’s in his heart.
It was, after all, through this industry that enabled his parents, who used to own a small shoemaking venture, to support him and his 11 siblings.
“Sinubukan ko ang ibang trabaho at negosyo. Pumasok ako ng buy and sell ng bahay at lote. Nag farm ako for 10 years sa Morong, Bataan. Nag-alaga ako ng mga hayop. Kambing, manok, baka. Pero bumabalik talaga ako sa sapatos. Ang puso ko talaga ay nasa sapatos,” said Joel, 46, in an interview inside his shop in Barangay Fortune in Marikina City.
Shoes is Life
Joel learned the trade and the skill to make shoes early on at his parents’ small shoe manufacturing shop. At 16, armed with a high school diploma (he never went to college and we will get into that later) and his knowledge about making shoes, he was hired by Converse in its factory in Marikina.
“Unang trabaho ko, sa sapatos. Nag-work ako sa Converse. High school lang ang natapos ko dahil kumikita na ako noon,” he said.
Joel pointed out that since he was already busy working and earning money, he decided not to pursue a college education anymore.
It was in the Converse factory where he met his future wife, who also worked in the same company that specializes in making sports and casual shoes. They have been married for 28 years now and blessed with two sons and a one-year-old granddaughter named Allison.
“Sapatos talaga ang buhay ko. Hanggang sa pag-aasawa may sapatos pa rin,” he said in jest, referring to the fact that he met his wife at a shoe factory.
After they got married, he engaged in other jobs and businesses including selling shoes that his cousin’s company had made. That was how he met one of his clients, the owner of a hardware store that regularly bought safety shoes. The safety shoes were sold in the hardware store.
When his cousin’s shoemaking venture was shut, the client (hardware store owner) became his regular customer when he opened his own business five years ago. In fact, he got the name of his company, Pearl, from the name of his client’s hardware store. Then he added “J," the first letter of his name and that of his two sons – John and Julio.
Until now, Joel supplies safety steel toe shoes to Pearl Hardware.
Joel said the owner of the hardware store was surprised when he first saw the brand of his safety shoes. Luckily, the client did not mind.
The name Pearl brought luck to his business. He tried using other brand names for his ladies shoes, but it did not work. So now his ladies shoes are called Pearl J as well.
But Joel said he does not rely purely on luck. In a competitive business such as making and selling shoes, hard work and dedication also count.
“Swerte ang pangalang Pearl,” he said. “Pero siyempre kailangan pa rin ang sipag sa negosyo."
The support of the City Government of Marikina for the city’s shoemakers, including organizing trade fairs and bazaars regularly, also helped his business grow. The City Government spearheads an annual back to school bazaar and a trade fair during the yearly celebration of the Sapatos Festival showcasing shoes, bags and other accessories made in Marikina.
“Sumasali kami sa Sapatos Festival at sa back to school bazaar. Iyon ang magandang benefit na binibigay ng munisipyo. Walang rent. Ang gastos lang namin, iyong tarpaulin,” Joel said.
Aside from safety shoes, usually worn in construction sites to protect the feet from hard objects, Pearl J makes men’s, ladies and children’s shoes. Pearl J specializes in making affordable shoes made from leather.
His men’s shoes are priced from P700, ladies shoes at P600 and children’s shoes, mostly school shoes, from P500. Currently, Joel has five outlets where his shoes are sold – three in Marikina and two in Bulacan. Pearl J shoes are also available in the shoes department of a Vista Mall branch.
A Family of Shoemakers
Joel said he is thankful that his two sons value education. His eldest, John, 26, who now runs his own bag making business with his wife, finished Hotel and Restaurant Management. The youngest, 17-year-old Julio, is in pre-law in San Beda College and wants to become a lawyer. When not busy with school work, Julio helps in manning their outlets during bazaars and fairs.
John is also interested in making shoes aside from bags. Joel is hopeful that Julio would also be enticed in the future to join the family business.
Right now, Joel is busy developing a pricier men's shoes that can be sold at P1,000 and up a pair. This way, he said he could pay his workers and subcontractors more.
Asked if he plans to explore the export market like some shoe manufacturers in Marikina, Joel said no.
“Hindi na kailangang mag-export. Sa Marikina pa lang, marami ka ng mabebentahan ng sapatos. Basta maayos ang gawa mo, maraming bibili,” he said, noting that his small shop already makes 200 pairs of shoes a week just to meet the demand.
He said he could increase his production if he could find more skilled workers. Unfortunately, most of the skilled workers in Marikina no longer want to work in a factory because they prefer to make shoes at home.
Undaunted, Joel decided to engage in subcontracting and even lent his machines to these shoemakers so they can make shoes from home, a strategy that so far is working out for his promising business that flows from his veins straight to his heart.
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