Flight attendant’s soap refill business takes off

MANILA – For Rochelle Sañano-Cabardo, 37, being a flight attendant was not just a job, but a lifestyle. Wearing her instantly recognizable cabin crew uniform not only guaranteed travel opportunities, but also financial stability over the past 12 years.

But when Covid-19 pandemic started, she had to prepare herself for a heavy blow to the industry that has left thousands of airline and tourism workers between jobs, including her. Though she and her family were based in Dubai at that time, they were forced to fly back home last November.

“Nagpahinga muna ako kasi parang na-culture shock pa ako nung pag-uwi ko. Siyempre nanibago. Sa ngayon, tina-try ko muna mag adapt pa kasi medyo matagal na rin kami doon (I had to take a break because I was culture shocked when I came back home. I had to get used to living here. Now, I’m trying to get used to it since we lived in Dubai for so long),” she told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.

It was her mother, Carmelita Sañano, who suggested that she open her own business that could help cushion the effects of the Covid-19. As a retired Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) worker, her mother had the perfect idea for a business.

“Dati sa TESDA, tinuturo nila ang paggawa ng sabon para sa livelihood program so isinaggest niya sa’kin yung idea na bakit hindi ito yung gawin mong business since sa ngayon napapanahon din yan, yung mga sabon. Binigay niya sa’kin yung supplier ng ingredients tapos dun na nagstart (Before in TESDA, she would teach trainees how to make soap as a source of livelihood so she suggested the idea because it’s timely. She connected me to suppliers for ingredients and that’s when it started),” she said.

Suds Station's price list. (Contributed photo)

With a capital of PHP5,000, Cabardo opened “Suds Station”, a soap refill business, early February this year with the goal of sustaining her family’s needs as well as reducing single-use plastic waste.

“Nasasayangan ako sa plastic so naisip ko bakit di nalang natin i-reuse yung bottle (It felt like a waste having to throw away that much plastic so I thought, why not reuse the bottle)?” she said.

Her dishwashing liquid and fabric conditioner are both priced at PHP50 per liter, liquid detergent costs PHP60 per liter, and body wash costs PHP200 per liter. Customers who bring their own reusable containers also get 1 liter of any product for a PHP5-discount.

“Pag meron silang sariling bottle, may bawas yung presyo. Nagawa rin kami ng parang suki card so yung mga repeat buyers, pag naka-10 na sila na liters libre na yung pang 10 nila (If they bring their own bottles, we’ll slash off the price. We also make suki cards so repeat buyers who purchase at least 10 liters can have the 10th bottle for free),” she said.

Barely a month since she opened her shop, she has opened it to resellers. So far, her business has been doing well.

“Nung unang batch, tag-iisang kit lang yung kinuha ko tapos ayun ang pinakamadami kong na-deliver ko sa isang araw 30 liters sa isang client. Nakaka-amaze din (During our first batch, we would only order one kit until eventually the most I had to deliver in a day were 30 liters for one client. It actually amazes me),” she said.

Cabardo’s refill station business could significantly reduce packaging waste, but right now, it only caters to residents in Cabuyao City, Laguna, where she and her family reside.

Quality over quantity

Being a flight attendant for the past 16 years has taught Cabardo that creating a great customer experience is vital to any job or business endeavor.

Though cheaper soap products are now readily available in groceries, she likes to think that her products are effective for killing disease-causing germs.

They are also non-toxic, which means they don't contain harsh chemicals.

“Ang sakin kasi, more on quality. Siyempre may mga competitors na mas mura. Babalik yung customer kasi okay yung quality ng product mo (To me, I value quality more. Of course, there are competitors who offer them at a cheaper cost. But customers will keep coming back if your product is good),” she said.

Suds Station's dishwashing liquid, fabric conditioner, liquid detergent, and body wash are home-made and non-toxic. (Contributed photo)

Enjoy the flight

Should the airline industry return to normal, Cabardo admits that she’s still weighing between moving back to Dubai and staying in the Philippines.

“Sa ngayon, kasi hindi ko pa masabi kasi parang siyempre nagstart pa lang ako (As of now, I can’t say because I’m just starting),” she said.

While running her new business, Cabardo says she’s going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the flight.

Visit www.facebook.com/thesudsstation or email thesudsstation@gmail.com to find out how you can get your soap refill. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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