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By: Aileen Garcia-Yap , Cebu Daily News

Diversify your market and establish your niche to make your brand sustainable and make your company strong and resilient.
Allan P. Murillo, managing director and designer of his company, Murillo Export International, Inc., shared his secret in growing his company despite the economic turmoils that hit the export industry.

Murillo Export International Inc. started as a backyard business as an original equipment manufacturer that eventually grew into a firm making its own designs and pieces of furniture for the domestic and foreign markets.

The firm survived despite the economic turmoils in the two major export markets-the United States of America and Europe- which led most exporters in Cebu to cut down in production. Worse some even closed shop.

But Murillo was prepared to tackle these economic turmoils from lessons learned in 1995 when his major market the Australian market slowed down affecting his company.

In 2008, the export industry was greatly affected by the recession in the their markets-the US in 2008 and then followed by the Eurozone difficulties.


Unlike some, Murillo didn’t start his export business just because it was the most profitable business in the country at that time.

Murillo said he went to the business as his way of grabbing the opportunities which presented at that time.

Murillo, is a son of a carpenter who was then working for one of the oldest export company manufacturing rattan furniture.

“For a time I also worked there myself with my dad. The company however closed and my father started a subcontracting facility in 1977. That’s where my two other brothers and I learned more about the business,” said Murillo.

In 1981, his brothers Christopher and Ed was sponsored by one of their buyers to migrate to Australia and soon in 1987, Murillo and the rest of the family followed to live in Australia.

He, however, decided to come back to the Philippines in 1991 and set up his own company, Murillo’s Export International, Inc., which formally opened in 1993.

“It started as a backyard business which I setup in our home in Inayawan. I only had one employee when I started,” said Murillo.

For a start, Murillo was supplying pieces of rattan furniture to his brother Ed back in Australia who owns a small shop.

From 1993 to 1995 Murillo was contented with just supplying for the Australian market until in 1995, his brother’s business slowed down when the market contracted.

“That’s when I realized that it’s not good to focus in only one market. That in order to be sustainable I have to diversify,” said Murillo.

His other brother Christopher is also now helping him in the business doing the art pieces still under the Murillo brand.

Biggest Break

In 1996, Murillo met an Australian who was also referred to a client of his brother’s shop.

“I was contracted to furnish a high-end hotel in Australia. That was my biggest break and after that I did many other furnishing jobs for other hotel properties in Australia and soon here in the Philippines. My niche now is custom-made furnishing which would require me to do site visits and make the designs then manufacture the furniture,” he said.

Soon his market expanded into Europe, Asian countries and the US.

One of his prominent clients are tennis champions Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf who would order pieces from him for their Agassi Graf collection by Kreiss.

Murillo also changed the business from just a simple OEM (original equipment manufacturer) company to a company that makes the designs.

“I have always loved to design and for me it’s not sustainable for the business to just wait for the buyers to come and hand you this design they want and ask for your price. I thought I should make the design and propose it to them,” he said.

Murillo did all the furnishing of a high-end resort in Coron, Palawan that will soon open that required him and five of his men to travel to the site four times and work the designs and installations.

Going Local

In 2006, Murillo started to look at the local market, long before other exporters even bothered to look at the potential of the local market for their business.

He then setup Noisession studio in his plant in Inayawan to serve as a showroom for his local buyers of the type of products they do which is really more about custom-made furnishings.

From big hotels and offices, Murillo is also doing furnishings for customers who would contract him to furnish their homes.

“I have done many for home owners here in Cebu from cabinets to beds and living room furnishings. I do everything and it requires a lot of time especially because I visit the site myself so that I can make the designs and give the customers my proposal,” said Murillo.

Having stabilized his local foothold, Murillo’s business became resilient especially when the economic crisis in US and Europe broke out.

According to Murillo, he expects the local market to grow more because of the booming real estate, tourism and outsourcing industry which will make people earn more to buy new houses, and more hotels to open here in Cebu.

At present Murillo’s plant in Inayawan, Cebu City is about 3,000 square meters in size with at least 70 employees including production people, marketing and administration.

Murillo was also able to apply his trademark name Murillo in 2002 which was approved in 2006.

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