It all started with a bamboo toothbrush.
Eco-friendly firm The Bamboo Company, began selling bamboo-based items in late 2017, and out of all the many products it could initially offer, it chose to start with the toothbrush.
Founder Jamico Jamlang said many found it unusual or even weird the company was offering a bamboo toothbrush. Some potential customers opted not take them seriously.
“During that time, people were just laughing at us because, why bamboo toothbrush? It’s weird!,” Jamlang said.
Today, The Bamboo Company, which is one of the first to offer such item in the local market, has expanded its product line to more than 20, including best sellers Lakbawayan Tumbler and Lakbawayan Labahamboo, which is a bamboo razor.
Jamlang, then 23, started the company with a capital of only P100,000. For the year ending October, it grossed sales of P10 million, 500 percent higher than the P2 million gross revenue recorded for the full-year of 2018.
Jamlang said the six-man firm expects even higher sales during the Christmas season, which could hit P2 million a month in November and in December.
“I was able to visit some islands in Mindanao in 2017, and there I learned from some fishermen that during their younger years, the water was so clean they were able to swim with the dolphins. But now, while you can see that the islands are still beautiful, they are also starting to degrade. You could see the waste in the sea, you could see algae, which is an indicator of pollution,” Jamlang said.
Jamlang, who previously worked as a packaging executive for a multinational food and beverage company, also acknowledged that some of the plastic waste present in the sea came from the firm he used to work with.
“I decided to start something small, maybe to help out. So we started to sell bamboo toothbrush, because we felt that it’s a way for people to internalize what’s happening around the world. You use the toothbrush three times a day, every day, and each time, you see it and yourself in the mirror. For us, you should be reflecting on what you could do, not just for yourself but for the world around you,” Jamlang said.
Over the past two years, the company has diversified its product line, which now includes bamboo watches, sunglasses, utensils, straws, mugs, phone cases, shampoo dispenser, soap dish, among others.
Jamlang and his colleagues are also now working full-time in the company.
“We used to just prioritize direct selling to consumers, and recently we shifted our focus to business-to-business. We focused on corporate giveaways, and that’s the reason for the sudden boom in sales,” Jamlang said.
Jamlang said in 2017, the company only sold 1,500 tumblers. Over the past 10 months, it has already sold 7,000 tumblers, and this number is expected to significantly increase as more firms are opting for eco-friendly items as their Christmas gifts or corporate giveaways.
The company’s experience surely proves there is money in selling eco-friendly products. However, Jamlang said, they are not just focused on the growth of their own business, but would also like to boost the bamboo industry.
“We would like to provide livelihood opportunities through bamboo. So right now, we are working with the community in Magdalena, Laguna, and we have tapped some experts on bamboo to train them further,” Jamlang said.
“People are starting to change their mindset, from using plastic to more environmentally-friendly products, that’s why we decided to use bamboo, which is one of the most sustainable materials in the world,” he added.
The production of the majority of the bamboo-based products are outsourced from other countries, such as Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, while the straw is made locally, using material sourced from a community in Magdalena.