Luntian Bags proves ‘eco-friendly’ not a trend
It started as a holiday business idea created in 2007, inspired by one woman’s desire to help both the environment and her country.
Now, nine years later, eco bag brand Luntian Bags is still standing, proving that being “eco-friendly” isn’t just a trend anymore, but a lifestyle choice among many Filipinos.
A couple of things have changed, though, since Luntian Bags’ inception. First, its manager: initially founded by advertising executive Ichay Bulaong, the business is now being run by her daughter, Marina. She has actually been doing so since 2009, a time when the 28-year-old found herself a single mom who still had to finish her college education.
“I was looking to do something for extra income. I initially went to franchise expos, [looking for ideas],” says Marina. “But I could also sew, so my mom said, why don’t you handle Luntian? My mom was so busy, being in advertising, she couldn’t really focus on the business. I don’t think she slept that Christmas [in 2007].”
That’s where the second major change came to Luntian: the products’ designs. The elder Bulaong’s products were grocery bags, since she was one of the first to push people to “BYOB,” or bring your own bag when going shopping to avoid having to use plastic bags provided by stores.
“Basically I was bored with it. It was just grocery bags ,” says Marina. “It just came in two sizes. Now we have yoga bags, insulated lunch bags. We still have grocery bags, but with more designs. It became more fun.”
She herself designs most of the bags, but occasionally collaborates with local artists who create fresh looks for her products. Her first creation for Luntian, which was just for herself, was a bag for her yoga mat, now a regular item on the product list.
But, like mother, like daughter, the “better part” for Marina in running Luntian is the opportunity to employ and empower a community of women in Batangas, where her family has a vacation home (she was named Marina because her parents both love the sea).
“My mom started this out in 2007 because some of our neighbors [in Batangas] kept asking her, ‘Ma’am, would you like to have something sewn?’ Apparently they had sewing machines at home but had nothing to sew,” she says. “Now, the women tell us they have more confidence [knowing] that they are able to contribute to the family income, instead of just hanging out at home.”
Luntian Bags mostly supplies to corporations or events, such as weddings, for giveaways. Profit-wise, Marina admits her earnings aren’t half as good as they were in the beginning.”
“Eco bags aren’t a new thing. It’s profitable, but it’s not a multimillion business,” she says.
Besides, what rewards her more is seeing how her community, through the years, have begun to lead better lives.
Her silkscreen printer, for one, was able to buy a tricycle, his own computer, and repair his house, all thanks to his income from Luntian Bags.
“We’ve seen how some of the sewers can now give their kids better allowances thanks to the bags, and we see some of the sewers also go abroad. For the more elderly, it’s just really something for them to do, so they have extra income. That’s the great part about this business,” Marina says.
She’s working on expanding by going global.
Right now, Luntian Bags already ships small orders to Singapore, Germany, Sweden, the United States, but is yet to fully enter the export market.
Being the brand’s designer/ manager/marketing staff/supplies delivery girl, Marina’s taking it one step at a time—especially since on top of that, she’s also a full-time mom to her son, Diego Buhay.
“We’re not meant to be a big business—and I’ve accepted that. We don’t want to go into mass production, either, just to lower the price. At this size now—of course, we’re always wanting to do better—it’s worth it for the amount of work,” she says.
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