Witnessing how his father ran the day-to-day operation of their furniture business, Benjie Inocencio learned to appreciate the craft and the business. Because he was exposed to this enterprise at a young age, he learned the ins and outs of the woodworking and furniture making industry. Seeing the great potential of the business, Benjie was inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and looked forward to fulfill his lifelong dream.
Ready to spread his wing, Benjie went to Kuwait to work in a furniture company after college to gain more experience. However, since he does not have any certificate of employment to present, he was hired initially on a floating status and was assigned in the Sand Department.
“When I came there (in Kuwait), the huge challenge for me was to find a perfect job or task. I have never been employed when I was in the Philippines, I used to do commission works as a carpenter and freelancer,” said Benjie.
Benjie’s determination to prove something and his eagerness to expand his knowledge were enough to find his perfect footing in his company. After six months, he eventually got promoted as a CNCC programmer.
When Benjie was about to establish a stable career in Kuwait, he still felt the urge to have his own company, and use the same kinds of machines and technologies in furniture making in the Philippines.
With the passion for the craft and desire to have his own company, Benjie opened Journey Woodblock Enterprises in 2012. It produces high quality solid wood furniture like modular cabinets, kitchen cabinets, built-in closets, countertops, drop ceilings, bed frames, double-deck beds, and other customized items.
The company also offered interior design, fit out, and renovation for condo units and commercial spaces. Because of their quality work, they were recognized as one of the design leaders in space management, and their commitment to innovation and modern design yielded for the company a comprehensive portfolio of kitchen and closets ideal for condominiums, homes, offices, mall spaces, schools, and other institutions.
In 2015, Benjie and Journey Woodblock Enterprises learned about the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program or SETUP of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and how it can help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Wasting no time, Benjie applied for assistance to upgrade their production capability with the acquisition of a CNC Router Machine and an Edge Banding Machine, that resulted in increased production output and efficiency, improved product quality, and increased business opportunities.
In 2020, the company again availed of the SETUP assistance to acquire a CNC Router with Automatic Tool Changer that will automate their milling process. With the growing demand for their products and services, the company realized the need to further improve their production capacity to meet growing demands through the acquisition of upgraded production equipment.
Through SETUP, the Journey Woodblocks Enterprises was able to increase its production output by 43% from 70 to 100 boards per month as well as improved its sales by 57% from seven million in 2015 to 11 million in 2019.
Additional to that, the company also achieved smooth and precise production process through the elimination of rejects in production from eight to just three boards per month. This resulted in increased savings by as much as Php 100,000 per month by eliminating the outsourcing of processes.
According to Benjie, the terms of DOST for their SETUP beneficiaries are very ideal for many small businesses.
“You have three years to pay and you have a lead time of six months. It is almost free because, in the first six months, you were able to get the return on your investment immediately. DOST is creating a way for us to pay them back,” said Benjie.
Benjie ended by sharing his gratefulness to DOST’s SETUP as it becomes a source of inspiration for many aspiring Filipino entrepreneurs and he hopes that many more Filipinos would benefit from it, just like him.
Benjie Inocencio was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Kuwait for three years before he decided to start Journey Woodblock Enterprises. Through DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program or SETUP, Benjie’s business grew and was able to generate livelihood for the unskilled carpenters in their area. (Screenshot from DOST Report episode aired via DOSTv Facebook page on 11 September 2020)
By: Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII