This crisis puts the spotlight on the Filipino entrepreneur

Published September 27, 2020, 8:30 AM

by Noel Pabalate

So turn your baked sushi, ube cheese pandesal, milky donuts, and even your abaca face masks, anything at all, into a brand, but first have a strong vision.

When the pandemic happened, we were caught off guard. We didn’t know how to deal with our economic situation the first few months, unsure whether to wait and see or to take decisive action. Eventually, due to the resiliency of the Filipinos, we were able to find ways to survive or, better yet, to adopt preventive or aggressive measures to ensure our survival.

Entrepreneurship at its worst is a knee-jerk reaction to the quarantine and the circumstances such as unemployment it has brought about, as all manner of establishments, from bars and clubs to restaurants and malls, had to cease operations either temporarily or for good.

Many have ventured into providing basic necessities, especially food, within their community. Some set up shops in front of their houses, some at the mobile markets organized by the local government, and most in online platforms.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for some of the things that we have always known would happen. But because of pandemic, they transpired immediately, such as the rise of e-commerce. In fact, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), 75, 000 online sellers registered their business name in early September, up from just 1,700 from January to March 15 this year.

Sherill Ramos-Quintana

To Sherill Ramos-Quintana, president of Philippine Franchise Association and founder of Oryspa Spa Solutions Inc., registering your home business is just a start. Putting an operational system is the next vital step to make it sustainable, meet consumers’ demands, and compete with big brands in the market. “To thrive, brand equity matters. These entrepreneurial journeys of the Filipinos will have a greater impact on our country’s economy in the long run,” Quintana says.

“In all crises, there’s an opportunity that entrepreneurs shouldn’t miss. In our current situation, the opportunity is for the Filipino brands to shine. When Filipino entrepreneurs level up from underground to mainstream, they will contribute more to our economy,” she adds. It could also address our problem with unemployment that is estimated to hit record numbers by the end of the year.

But should we take risks during these uncertain times? “Your business plan probably may not go well, so you have to change the plan or strategies, but not the vision. The vision of making it locally, and globally later on, should remain,” Quintana advises.

Moreover, Quintana believes that hope makes you dream, a dream makes you move, movement makes you progress. And being progressive makes you the best of what we have as a country. “Let’s not stop hoping, because when we stop hoping that things could be better, then that marks the end for us,” she says.

Quintana is an advocate of building Filipino brands. At the height of the pandemic, she launched her second book entitled Yes, The Filipino Brand Can to inspire Filipinos, especially those involved in Small Medium Enterprises (SME), to push their business on top, nationwide and worldwide. The book shares the mindset and strategies of 10 successful Filipino entrepreneurs.

Filled with inspiring stories, the book consists of words of wisdom from the brand builders themselves, which can guide you in building your own brand.

Here are some of those golden nuggets of brand wisdom.

In whatever you do, expect bottlenecks. People would say, “Ay ang hirap niyan eh.” It’s more [about] your own interest and passion to do it. —Tony Tan Caktiong, founder and chairman of Jollibee Foods Corporation

Take advantage of social media. You can access a bigger playing field with a lot less effort and reach consumer directly. —Ben Chan, chairman and CEO of Suyen Corp.

Be ready before taking the next step. One has to be really careful. In the end, a brand that is not ready should never go out. —Joey Concepcion, president and CEO of RFM Corp.

Branding is very important. Your brand DNA has to be complete before even you attempt. —Robert Trota, president and CEO of Max’s Group Inc.

Grit is important. Never give up. You have to be persistent to succeed. —Rommel Juan, president and CEO Binalot Fiesta Food

Have a big vision, a big dream. Being content will drive you into complacency. — Richard Sanz, CEO of FoodAsia Group

Join competitions because there’s a feedback mechanism.–Rex Puentespina, owner of Malagos Chocolate

Create a clear and concise vision of the business, and manage your energy. —Josie Go, founder of Karimadon

Support local. We have to take pride and showcase to the world that Filipino products and services are also world-class. —Peach Reyes of Mama Sitas, Marigold Manufacturing Corp.

You cannot have a brand without a vision. If you have a vision, you’ll aim for that. —Justin Uy, founder Profood International Inc.

As Quintana shares, “the success of Filipino brands will lead to our strengthened brand as a country.” Indeed, in crisis or in better times, Filipino entrepreneurs will always find a way to shine.