The miracle that turned into a soap bar | Inquirer Business

The miracle that turned into a soap bar

/ 12:53 AM July 31, 2011

IT came as a surprise that women got to know about the product because of referrals from friends. Not many affordable beauty soaps are available in the market, thus creating an opportunity for GT Cosmetics. Photo by Imar Oracion

CEBU CITY – Engineer Leonora Salvane prayed for a miracle in the early ’90s.

The nature of the trading business, which she and husband Rogelio put up in the late ’80s, left her guilty and uneasy because of “under the table” negotiations to speed up customs procedures.


The miracle came in a soap bar, a product that Salvane is capable of making with her background as a chemical engineer.


With P5,000 and knowledge in mixing chemicals, she asked her husband to help buy the ingredients including papaya extract and coconut oil and mixed them in a cake pan. Production was done in their humble house in Mandaue City.

“That was 1994 and we offered our soaps to friends. We distributed pieces for sampling and it slowly grew from there. In 1996, we went full blast in making more soaps,” says Salvane, founder and owner of GT Cosmetics Manufacturing.

Salvane says GT means “God-given talents and good things,” a name which aptly describes how the company came into being with prayer, initiative and hardwork.

The papaya soap gained local popularity and encouraged Salvane to develop two more soap variants – carrot soap and bleaching soap. Later, she included clarifiance toner and sunblock, bleaching and moisturizing creams to the list.

It was the Metro Gaisano Group, a company owned by the Gaisano family of Cebu that gave GT its first exposure inside the department store in 1996.

“For two years, we’ve been employing direct selling and banked on interpersonal relationships. One day, someone from Metro called and offered us the chance to display our products in their department stores. Our growth has been continuous since then,” she recounts.


It came as a surprise that women knew about the product because of referrals from friends. She says not many affordable beauty soaps were available in the market thus creating an opportunity for GT Cosmetics.

From their house in Mandaue, the family transferred to the neighboring town of Cordova because of increased production. In 1998, they purchased a property in Liloan town, northern Cebu where the current production plant and the Salvane residence are located.

“It was a purely family business. My husband and I make soaps. He also served as the accountant and my five children helped in packing the soaps,” she tells SundayBiz.

In 2001, the Salvane couple closed its trading business to give full attention to GT Cosmetics.

FROM a house in Mandaue, the family transferred to Cordova because of increased production. In 1998, they purchased a property in northern Cebu where the current production plant and the Salvane residence are located. Photo by Imar Oracion

The popularity of the GT brand caught the attention of another department store, SM City Cebu that offered them space in 2003. This gave them the regional and national exposure that made GT grow further, says Salvane.

GT products are found in Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan De Oro and Davao among others. In 2010, they penetrated the Luzon market. The products can also be found in Watson’s outlets.

Of the company’s total sales, 40 percent come from Cebu, 30 percent from Manila and other Luzon areas and 30 percent from various areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The opportunity to grow the business in Luzon is ripe for GT Cosmetics, says Salvane. The company has a property in Marilao, Bulacan which they will convert into another production plant that will serve the needs of Luzon market.

“Most of our raw materials are sourced in Manila and other areas in Luzon. It makes good business sense to have a plant outside Cebu,” she shares.

Salvane says one of the goals of the company is to help generate jobs in its neighboring communities. At the Liloan, Cebu plant, the employees are residents of the area. The company now has a total of 150 employees, a big leap from the six people they first hired in 1994.

Owing it to good labor practice and faith in God, Salvane says the business has not encountered major setbacks in its 17-year history.

“This is a proof that people consider being beautiful as a necessity, not as a luxury,” she says.

She notes that they increase their prices in 2004, 2008 and recently, March 2011 because of higher cost in raw materials but this did not affect their sales. Soaps are priced between P68 to P80, clarifiance-toner at P70 and creams between P160 to P175.

“The consumers understand that it is inevitable to increase the price. I believe they will continue to patronize a product as long as quality is ensured,” she emphasizes.

Today, Salvane says the company still employs interpersonal communication in selling their products. The “promo-girl approach” is still effective in raising company sales.

Her five children – Janice Michelle, January Anne, Rogelio Jr., Jellie Marie and Jonathan Aaron – are active in running the business. A pharmacist, Jellie Marie, is helping her mother in developing more products. Next in the development list is a lotion brand.

“I believe that no matter how heavy is the traffic, you will always have a space in the road. This is also true in business if you just pray and persevere,” she says.

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To Salvane, the birth of GT Cosmetics is a proof that miracles do happen.

TAGS: Beauty products, Business, Consumer Issues, Cosmetics, Entrepreneurship

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