September 17, 2014
September 17, 2014 | By Carina Roncesvalles | Asian Dragon
Natividad Cheng recalled that the used to sleep on a mat with her siblings in their small house, many years back. When she and her late husband Robert started their own family and business in 1968, the foam mattress proved to be the fruit of their hard work.
Since then, Cheng has held on to the vision to manufacture quality foam products and beds. Their diligence has paid off, as Uratex is now a household name, and RGC Foam Group is the largest manufacturer of commercial and automotive polyurethane foam products in the country.
Starting out as dealer of furniture supplies, the young Cheng couple saw the shortage of foam materials at the time. As business neophytes, though, they did not have the capital to start an enterprise.
With only 174,000 to jump-start the venture, the chief executive officer of the RGC Foam Group recalled how they had to strategize and maximize every peso to buy the raw materials. “We were a poor family. Nobody wanted to lend us money, so we had to find ways to get capital. There were times when we had to sell the items given to us during our wedding, just to add to our capital,” Cheng shared.
“We saw that the foam supply went up and down. It was a good business opportunity, since there was already a market for foam products,” she added.
Initially established as Polyfoam Chemical Corporation with 10 employees, the family venture imported raw materials through it trading company. With enough savings to turn the wheels, the company then imported materials on its own, and slowly invested in machinery to seal product quality, and lots to store their bulky ﬁnished products.
Cheng explained that it took them two years of birth pains and valuable lessons before they heaved a sign of relief that their business had gained ground. But the quest for product improvement and business expansion continues to this day, she added.
While her husband handled the delivery and collection during their early years, she manned the factory, checked the deliveries, and accounted for their expenses and earnings. There was simply no room to choose chores.
Cheng recalled an unfortunate accident: a Fire broke out in their Pasay factory. Along with the rubble, their hard-earned investment was burned to the ground. The incident taught them to put a high premium on safety precautions and technological investments. “We upgraded our technology for safety. And whenever we have the money, we buy new machines and increase our inventory. We invest our earnings,” Cheng said.
From manufacturing simple foam products, the company moved to mattresses. In 1975, in line with the government program for the automotive industry, the company manufactured polyurethane foam products for Japanese brands.
After gaining an upper hand in the local market in the 1970s, Uratex started exporting foam products and mattresses to furniture and bed manufacturers in the 1980’s.
For decades, competition was almost nil in the foam industry. “We give good service to the customers. integrity is important. We give their exact orders. We never short-change our customers,” Cheng said.
As demand for foam materials grew, RGC Foam Group expanded. Now Counting an army or more than 2,000 employees, the company also opened in various locations to reach the customers.
“Technology is our highest investment, then expansion. We need a lot of space since foam is bulky. we have invested in lots, factories, and buildings early on. Our biggest factory is in Plaridel, Bulacan,” Cheng said.
The company established its presence through factories, warehouses, and showrooms in Quezon city, Valenzuela, and Muntinlupa in the metropolis; and Laguna, Bulacan, Naga, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao, and soon in Cagayan de Oro. Uratex products are available nationwide through various furniture stores and retail establishments.
With foam as its major product, the company also ventured into spring materials for beddings and automobiles, foam and packaging materials for consumer products, and customized mattresses and chairs for institutions. To cater to the high-end market, Uratex offers premium product lines and designer items.
Now counting 46 years in the business, Cheng’s drive to fuel success remains strong. She starts her day early with prayer and exercise, followed by a rest period, reading newspapers and calling banks for transactions.
What was initially meant to be leisure travel always ended up as business trips, with Cheng visiting factories and looking at product trends. For her upcoming trip to Belgium, she will discuss product designs for Uratex to manufacture in the country.
“We will manufacture coated foam products here. it is difficult to import. Our products are world-class. Compared to importers, our quality is at par and our price is even lower,” Cheng said.
Her eldest daughter Pinky, who now handles the company’s finances, noted that her CEO mother enjoys working and living with the family business. “Some work because they have to do. My mom is happy doing what she does,” she said.
Much like the customers‘ dependence on comfortable beds paired with huggable pillows, the Uratex chief rewards loyal patronage with good relations. From town ﬁestas, weddings, and social events, to the opening of business establishments, she invests tune to meet and greet her customers. “The trust of our customers is important to us, Our connections started as business dealings, but now we are more like a family,” she said.
Pinky noted that it’s music to their ears whenever they hear customers thank her mother for the business partnership that has improved their lives. Pinky was eight years old when she started doing little chores in their factory, and it seemed natural for them to get into the family business. “We followed our parents‘ example. We learned the value of hard work and integrity,” she said.
The family-run business includes Peachy, who handles the operations, and Christian Robert, who handles marketing. The natural entry into the business is already on the young minds other seven grandchildren, Cheng shared. “It seems like working is our way of life,” she said.
Even as the Uratex Group of Companies stands on solid ground, it continues to innovate in its products to meet the changing lifestyle of consumers and retain its trusted brand recognition. The company is not resting on its laurels, but instead continues to further expand its product portfolio and business presence.
“We want to continue improving our products, and make them more affordable to our consumers. We want as many people to sleep on the mattress as possible,” said Cheng, whose humble beginnings started with sound sleep on a mat.