John Bautista Breaks Away From Family Shoe Biz; Prefers to Make Bags

PIO Department


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John Leonard Bautista is breaking away from the family business of making shoes. He could have been the third generation in a family of shoe entrepreneurs that started from his grandfather and carried on by his father, Joel, but John decided to follow his own path and make bags instead.

His decision to go on his own was tough at first, but is now bearing fruit thanks to his focus, dedication and hard work.

RawHide Leather Exclusive, his two-year-old brand, is slowly making a splash among bespoke bag aficionados in and out of the country. He is getting orders not just from Metro Manila but from other parts of the country as well. He even has clients who are based abroad.

“Third generation na ako sa mga magsasapatos. Pero nakita ko marami nang competitors sa shoes. Dito pa lang sa Marikina marami nang gumagawa ng sapatos. Meron pang mga sapatos galing abroad. Kaya sinubukan ko ang bags,” said John in an interview inside his workshop and retail outlet in Barangay Sto. Niño in Marikina City.

Unlike his grandfather and father, he does not mass-produce his products. He said his bags are made-to-order. Clients usually order online or drop by his shop.

Bespoke Bags

“Maganda ang market sa customized. Karamihan ng clients ngayon gusto nila customized. Gusto nila may personal touch nila ang mga gamit nila. May iba nga nagpapagawa pa ng sarili nilang logo,” said the 26-year-old John who finished Hotel and Restaurant Management in college.

Like his father and grandfather before him, John said creating something out of leather materials runs in his blood. If shoemaking is in his father’s heart, his is in making bags.

But he is not totally breaking away from the family tradition since he is also thinking of going into making shoes someday, when his bag business has taken off.

“Nasa dugo na talaga namin ang gumawa ng sapatos. Ayokong mamatay ang tradition ng family namin. Ayokong mag-end ang line kay papa. Gusto ko ring mag-venture into making shoes,” John said.

For now, his focus is on leather bags for men and women – messenger bags, sling bags, tote bags, hand bags and shoulder bags. He also makes luggage, belts, wallets, calling card holders, passport holders and other types of accessories made from leather.

Most of his leather materials are sourced from abroad. Because of this, his products are pricey. A bespoke messenger bag would cost from P8,000 to P10,000.

“Merong imported, may local na leather. Pero prefer namin at ng mga clients ay imported leather. Ninety percent ng leather namin ay imported. Kadalasan galing sa South Korea, India, Brazil at minsan sa Europe,” said John.

Family Business

It was his father, though, who helped John put up his bag making business. He borrowed the capital from Joel. He also started making bags at his father’s workshop in Barangay Parang.

He became interested in making bags because of his girlfriend, Ysthie, who used to work for a fashion stylist whose clients are mostly celebrities. It was his girlfriend who introduced the idea of making customized bags for high-end clients. Ysthie knows how to make bags and wallets and John learned the craft from her.

John recalled the difficulty during his initial year in the business that he put up with Ysthie. (He and Yshthie are now planning to get married. They have a one-year-old daughter named Allison.)

“First year namin masalimuot talaga. Kasi di pa namin kabisado ang pasikot-sikot nitong business. Pira-piraso lang ang gawa namin noon. Iyong mga materyales namin galing sa factory ni papa. Iyong mga hindi niya na ginagamit, ginagawa naming bag at wallet,” he said. “Doon na rin namin ginagawa sa kaniyang pagawaan sa Parang.”

He started selling his leather goods through pop-up bazaars. The response was positive, encouraging him and Ysthie to make more.

“Nagbenta kami sa mga pop-up bazaars sa Ayala Malls. Mga high-end malls. Para lang may exposure at makakuha ng mga clients,” he said. “Mga clients namin karamihan kasi nasa A and B market.”

Just like John, Ysthie is hands-on in the business. She helps design bags and wallets, deals with customers, and even makes the boxes where their products would be placed for delivery.

Dial Online

After more than a year, he decided to open an online business, which really clicked with his clients. This is how he won customers from other parts of the country.

He got his customer from abroad through the Marikina Shoe Development Office (MASIDO), a local government department based in the City Hall overseeing the local shoe and leather craft industry. It was MASIDO that introduced a client from Australia looking for high quality bags and wallets. That client is now a regular customer.

“Iyong ni-refer ng MASIDO sa amin, noong una pasalubong lang nila sa Australia ang hinahanap. Kalaunan naging negosyo na nila. Ngayon, regular na silang nagpapagawa sa amin,” said John.

John also has clients who resell bags, luggage, and wallets on their online stores. These clients prefer their own brand and logo.

During the interview, a client from Quezon City was also in the store to get his orders consisting of a messenger bag, a ladies handbag, a sling bag, a backpack and several pieces of luggage. John said he was one of his regular customers who runs an online store. Another one was waiting just outside of his shop.

What is amazing about John’s success (he now makes at least 50 items a month from just one to two pieces during his first year) is that he never employed advertising to penetrate the market. It’s all through word of mouth and social media.

“Nagugulat na lang ako dahil may umo-order from Iloilo, Davao. Mga lugar na hindi ko pa nga napuntahan,” John said, pointing out that he was able to pay back the loan from his father only a year-and-a-half after he put up his own business.

With the way his RawHide is picking up, John said he has no regrets that he ventured into another line of business and did not follow the trail that his grandfather and father had set out before him. Proof that in life and in business, the trailblazers usually win.

For orders and other information, please check out RawHide’s Facebook page:

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