INNOVATIVE MIND: Looking for something new and innovative a young man from Wadduwa entered the business world, making beautiful candles in various shapes and colours. He lights up the halls with these decorative candles. Today his creations are widely known and are flourishing though several challenges affect his progress.
"After my A/Ls I wanted to start my own business and do something new. In 1996, I started making candles as a small-scale business. I followed the training course on candle making and motor mechanism at St. Vincent Home, Maggona. It helped me to commence my work," Lucian Fernando, Proprietor, Mihikatha Creations, Wadduwa reminisced on the origins of his business.
Fernando said that he commenced his business obtaining a loan. " With the bank loan I bought a few moulds and made candles for churches and festivals. At present I supply decorative candles such as floating candles, scented candles, spiral candles, insect candles, birthday candles and Christmas candles. I also make ornaments and jewellery out of clay," he said.
"I use a Chinese wax to make these products. Some of my main customers are Trans Asia, Taj-Exotica, Hotel Eden, Tangerine Hotel, Royal Palm Hotel, Unawatuna Beach Resort and Triton Hotel. I also make vases, candle containers and wedding cake boxes," Fernando added.
He had also conducted demonstrations in several schools introducing his creations to the youngsters. "I taught children in Grade one and two to make simple things like animals. I had ten workers under me. My business was flourishing when tsunami occurred destroying my whole factory," Fernando said.
The tsunami could not destroy his determination he had. After three weeks Fernando started rebuilding his business. He did not wait for the tsunami funds but found his own way of earning a living. "I started a herbal drink stall to earn money without waiting for donations. Then, Hillsburg Austria built a hut for me and helped me financially to develop the herbal drink stall.
Professor Gunapala Nanayakkara, Lakmal and Mahesh of Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), Jayawardenepura provided me with a kiln to start the clay industry," he said.
"Wadduwa Villagers also supported me to get back to business. My earlier target was the tourists but with tsunami it was difficult to find the market. Then I ventured into making jewellery with clay. Kalutara District Chamber of Commerce and Industry assisted me in this. At the moment I provide employment for eight villagers," he explained.
Recognizing his talents and creativity, the Chamber directed him to take part in the `Back to Business' exhibition at BMICH.
" That was a good exposure. I found a lot of contacts and I was selected by the Export Development Board (EDB) to represent Sri Lanka at Serendib 2006 exhibition. I also had an exhibition in Scotland sponsored by Shyam, where I demonstrated the making of jewellery using clay," Fernando said.
"I had a good response abroad for my work. I want to take my creations to the international market. My aim is to improve this business. There are many issues that hinder the progress of the business. Modern technology should be introduced.
Technical knowledge should be there. New moulds and new designs should be brought to compete with other countries. If these necessities are supplied I can take these creations to the international market," he said underlining the obstacles on his way.
He said that a way should be paved for small-scale industries to move into the large-scale category.
" I get orders but without the technology I can't accept a huge order. Exhibitions alone will not support the business," he explained.
Last December Fernando won the second runner-up and the provincial award at the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 for his exquisite creations. " These awards have been very important in my life. My herbal drinks are also successful.
I will supply several companies and schools with herbal drinks. I am hoping to get SLS certification before I take up the orders. I hope to develop my factory also," he revealed his future plans.