Dante Tiosan was a university student of accounting when he was hit with high fever that left him blind. He was only a semester away from accomplishing his dream of becoming a CPA lawyer. However, fate was not by his side and it took him five years to accept his blindness as it was hard at first to accept his new condition.
Years later he decided that his condition was not going to stop him from achieving his other dreams. Tiosan came up with VIBES, which is the first and only venture offering therapeutic massage by the blind. This was a remarkable vision of a blind man. He decided to pursue other dreams because he could not finish his accounting studies owing to his blindness. He sat for the civil service examination and got employed by the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center, which is a part of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Tiosan became a massage trainer and taught a lot of other blind people under the government’s free training program created for the blind. However, he came to realize that after the training his students never got employed. Therefore, they started singing carols during Christmas and made money that they divided among the group members. Tiosan thought of setting aside 20 percent of their earnings to use as capital in opening up a business.
In 1992, he started a home-service massage business enterprise by renting an apartment that he converted into a booking office. In 1993, the team opened a massage clinic in Guadalupe. A few years later Tiosan thought of writing to the domestic airport to find out whether they could start a shop there and luckily they were given a go ahead. They also got a space at a mall known as Ever Gotesco Ortigas. They raised the capital and got great results. As the years went by, Visually Impaired Brotherhood for Excellent Services (VIBES) opened its branches in Cainta and many other places and now VIBES has 51 branches. Tiosan did this so that the blind would not have to travel far to serve their customers. At the same time the customers are also able to save on costs because there is always a VIBES massage clinic nearby. VIBES has customers from all walks of life and of all ages. It has also been hired by some call centers to provide on-site services. Angelino Pangan, Tiosan’s friend, who has been blind since childhood has been helping him by providing Human Resource support. Pangan says this support is not only about customers. They also have to deal with different personalities, temperaments, backgrounds and professions. VIBES’ success is partly brought about by the sympathy factor, but it’s main USP is that it offers quality massage. The major challenge that VIBES is facing is in marketing its services. This is because most forms of marketing are expensive which drives it to using cheaper methods like putting up posters. Word of mouth has also helped it acquire new customers. VIBES has 520 masseurs and 280 owners, which makes the organization quite unique. When the business does well, all of them benefit because part-owners use their personal assets to contribute to the business development. Part-owners are comfortable because they have built modest homes, bought simple cars and their children have finished their studies. The same goes for the masseurs.
From January this year VIBES has been trying to reach out to more people with enough capital by opening up franchises guided by the Philippine Franchise Corp. It already has three franchise branches out of the total of 51. The franchisees build the relationships while Tiosan’s group trains the staff and designs the clinics. However, the success of the franchise depends on the factor that the owners should have the desire to help the blind and not only be interested in making money. Since the government has not really been able to create jobs for the visually impaired people, VIBES has stepped in to fill the gap. VIBES is trying to reach out to customers who want to relax through quality massage, the blind people who want to be productive and individuals with enough capital that they want to invest in something worthwhile. This story of a blind man with a remarkable vision is highly encouraging and a good example to others who think disability is inability. VIBES has shown that even if one is blind, there is still something out there that to do to earn a living. Waiting for the family to help all the time is quite a helpless feeling. Being blind does not mean that one is a burden; one can go out there and do something to help their family just like normal people do.