KNOWN AS A NEWBIE in the commercial printing business in Laguna, Sinag Publishing and Printing Services has built a name for itself as a cocky young gun in the industry. It has taken Sinag just three years to build a reputation and clientele that other traditional printers have taken years of hard work to establish.
Behind this new force in Laguna's local printing industry are the young couple Ruel Landicho and Raia Dela Pena-Landicho . Asked what they think of this opinion that Sinag is a rising star in their local business community, the couple are effacing and seem to shy away from labels of success.
"We don't think of ourselves as successful or well known as a business or as entrepreneurs, in fact we honestly believe that we have a long way to go as a business. There are still many things left undone, so it makes no sense for us to believe we are already a success", says Dela Pena-Landicho, the female half of this team.
Humility is always nice heard from people who clearly are on the path to success - whether they admit to it or not. But where did these young upstarts come from and from where do they get this knack for brand building and business acumen?
Provincial Newspaper roots
Some would actually say that Sinag Printing isn't really new but newly named since it is the offspring of an older printing company, the Tambuli Press from Calamba, a small print company that's been around since the 70s. However, the Sinag owners are careful in emphasizing that Sinag printing is into commercial printing but their printing plant continue to exist as newspaper printers/publishers of the provincial newspapers Tambuling Batangas and Ang Caviteno.
"Tambuli still belongs to the family, since my father passed away it has been under my mother's leadership. But we are not just Tambuli, we have become Sinag Publishing & Printing Services. We are now a commercial and newspaper printing plant," says Dela Pena-Landicho.
"Printing and newspapering has always been in my blood, so when I got married to a man who happens to be a very talented graphic artist, we always kept in mind that with the right timing and resources, we could set up a commercial printing venture that would complement the core business," adds Dela Pena-Landicho.
The "right timing and resources" came at the tail-end of 2007 when this enterprising couple decided to test the waters of commercial printing by offering calendars to other local businesses for that year's Christmas season.
"We only thought of doing calendars as a part-time business venture since we were both working for different companies, but toward the end of the year, we realized there was more to commercial printing that we could explore. Of course, in the beginning it was a scary prospect, we weren't sure if it'll work out for us, but with the help of my parents who gave us seed money and a lot of support, we left our jobs and took the plunge in January of 2008," says Dela Pena-Landicho.
The rest, as they say, is history. But this history deserves retelling if only for the fact that it shines a light on the reasons why many people think Sinag rose fast in the ranks of commercial printers.
When asked how they started to establish Sinag as a commercial printer, the quiet half of this couple, Ruel Landicho, spoke up and candidly said that it was luck, friendship, family and a lot of guts that got them through the rough patches of starting a business.
"A friend of Raia's is also an owner of a printing press, he was kind enough to teach us trade secrets that no printer would share with another (laughs). So that's why I think this business is founded on friendship. Family because it was our families who gave us all the support that we needed in the beginning to start all of this. But we also needed a lot of guts in order to convince clients to trust in us even though we were a new printer and that's where luck comes into play, since I think we were really lucky to get big clients early on", expounded Landicho.
The couple said that it was also important that they complemented each other as a team, the husband concentrated on technical aspects of the business, as well as managed day-to-day plant operations while the wife focused on sales and marketing work and handled everything else from customer service, finance, and human resources.
Building the brand
Sinag may be a young business at nearly just four years of existence but they have clearly worked hard at building their brand in the local printing industry. Asked about this particular trait that seems to set them apart from the other printers in the Laguna area, Dela Pena-Landicho explains that because commercial printing was already "crowded" as a business, they had to work on different tactics in order to establish credibility and recall with their target market.
"Most traditional printing presses relied on networking and hard earned references to build their clientele through the years. We didn't have that kind of broad networking and we realized we had to work fast if we were to survive the competition. I thought these traditional printers don't really work on their branding or brand building, so that's were we zeroed in, on marketing and promotions in order to get the attention of potential clients and establish credibility with them in half the time it takes traditional printers to establish themselves with clients," said Dela Pena-Landicho.
This obviously wasn't an easy task but Landicho said that when they first started Sinag, they decided early on that they would focus on a niche market, in their case schools and yearbook printing, and go all out on promotions for this niche. This is how the Sinag Journalism Training Seminar started in their first year of operations. The Sinag JTS is the now well-known social responsibility endeavor of their company.
"At first we would attend inter-school events and set up booths. We would give away freebies during these events and I would personally chase after principals and school owners in these events. The promo campaigns helped a lot but it was also costing us a lot. Then one day I suddenly realized that the only way to be recognized in the community as a business was to give back to it in a big way. That was how the concept of giving free journalism seminars to students started. I thought that since we were into journalism, with our roots in provincial newspapers, the best way of giving back was through encouraging young writers to hone and practice their skills. And the Sinag JTS grew from there. I contacted old friends from my student days in UP who could be the seminar speakers, talked to the local Dep Ed officials and got everything started from there," said Dela Pena-Landicho.
The Sinag Journalism Training Seminars
The Sinag seminars, also known as the Sinag JTS was first launched in October 2008. It was a widely acknowledged success since it exceeded the number of targeted participants (over a thousand students came from all over Calamba City, Laguna). It even got the attention of the local radio station, who sent their reporter to do a live interview with the organizers during the event itself. Asked how they assess the first seminar as a major venture of their new company, Ruel Landicho said that "In terms of business, we didn't really get new business from the seminar itself, and that wasn't the real intention, but we gained a lot from it as a new printing venture because many of our clients and prospects started to recognize us better and respected us more because of the Sinag JTS."
"Yeah, from being a nobody in the local printing industry, we suddenly became a buzzword among prospects and clients and that helped us a lot because we were able to establish our brand, our identity, in such a short time," added Dela Pena-Landicho.
When asked why they skipped a couple of years (2009 and 2010) and decided to re-launch the Sinag JTS for 2011, Dela Pena-Landicho was a bit hesitant in answering but finally said that personal reasons were the main reason why she wasn't able to focus on the Sinag JTS for two years.
"More than anything, the Sinag JTS was my baby, I took care of planning and launching it because my husband focused on operations and the graphic design work of the printing press. Being a start-up business we didn't really have enough manpower to do the JTS without my direct involvement, and basically I was just too preoccupied with other matters during those two years to do the JTS. I was focused on taking care of my father who got sick with cancer . And then he passed away last January 2010. After he died, I just couldn't do much work. He was very close to me and I took a long time grieving for him. I'm only starting to go back to everything that I left behind this year, when 2011 came in. I guess the Sinag JTS is a good sign that things are getting back on track and I know tatay would be very happy knowing that we re-launched it," explained Dela Pena-Landicho.
Sinag secretariat and speakers during the 1st Sinag JTS.
Over a thousand participants came to the 1st Sinag JTS
New Plans and Directions
Aside from re-launching and regularizing the Sinag JTS for schools, they plan to expand its scope on a provincial level and even with other provinces in the Calabarzon area. This year's Sinag JTS re-launch was held last February 12 and 26, 2011 at the LLC Gym in Central 2 School, Calamba City. Around 300 participants came from public and private schools all over Calamba and this time around, the students' workshop output were judged by the seminar speakers and the best works awarded special certificates, thereby transforming the Sinag JTS workshops into a small scale writing competition for the participants.
The writing competitions were met with such enthusiasm by the participants that Sinag decided to continue with the practice for future training seminars.
In line with the vision to launch the Sinag JTS on a provincial level, the next Sinag JTS will be held in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna this coming July 30, 2011. The upcoming seminar this end of July will be co-sponsored by the Sta Rosa PRISAA (private school owners and administrators association) and venue for the Sinag JTS is at the 4th floor Conference Hall of the Sta Rosa City Hall.
The Landicho couple says full blown promotions and invitations for the upcoming Sta. Rosa Sing JTS this July 30 are being done by the Sinag secretariat. They are hoping that the Sta Rosa Sinag JTS will be just as successful as the Calamba seminars.
"We invite all schools in the Sta Rosa area as well as the nearby Binan and Silang schools to come and participate in our Sinag Journalism Training Seminars. These seminars are free training events for students and our aim is to give campus journalists a venue to mingle with fellow writers and a chance to hone their writing skills. Again we reiterate that these seminars are for free, it will be a whole day affair, from 7am to 6pm and it will happen on July 30, Saturday, at the 4th floor Conference Hall of the Sta Rosa City Hall," said Dela Pena-Landicho.
Envisioning greater things for the Sinag JTS
Dela Pena-Landicho says that they envisions greater things for the social responsibility program of Sinag. "Later on, when the Sinag JTS is well established in our province and hopefully, in our region, we dream of launching the Victorino Dela Pena Awards for Campus Journalism. This is to honor the memory of my father who serves as our inspiration. He started it all really. He was the original publisher of the Tambuling Batangas and Ang Caviteno and we want his memory to live on and I think this is a really great way of doing that," said Dela Pena-Landicho.
Such big dreams for such a small printing outfit may make others raise their eyebrows at this young couple but the two are seemingly unfazed.
"We don't think of ourselves as cocky, we think that people should dismantle the notion that because you're a small company, you can't give back in a big way to your community. More than anything, we believe that we are setting an example to other entrepreneurs in terms of doing social responsibility programs. If giving back to others results in good business then I'm sure other small entrepreneurs like us will follow suit and in the end, everybody wins." ends Landicho.
Center stage at the 1st Sinag JTS