A MONTH AGO, CNN Money.com came out with a feature entitled “The smartest advice I ever got.” Successful business people were asked to share the best advice they received regarding money. For Bobbi Brown, founder and CEO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, it’s “Create your own opportunities.” For Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, it’s “Money doesn’t make you happy.” And for Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, it’s “Know where your money goes.” Going into business isn’t a walk in the park, so part of the homework is heeding the advice of other people. This ties in with Proverbs 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” A couple of businesswomen share here the smartest business advice they ever got. See if you can apply these to your life as well. 1. Go into business involving your expertise. Jol Espiritu-Cruel of Just for You personalized stationery, party favors and diapers cakes, credits her mother-in-law, Chita Cruel, for this advice. “She always says that one should go into business involving his/her own expertise—not one that is fully or largely dependent on somebody else’s talents. That way, you will never have to worry about that person one day leaving you for greener pastures—or worse—for a competitor!” says Jol. This work-at-home mom of three kids aged 14, 12 and 11 has taken that advice to heart and believes that is the reason her business is still around. “The greater bulk of work involved lies with me, my talents and hard work. I may hire an extra hand or two to help me out during my busy season (in time for the holidays), but the work I assign them does not make them indispensable,” says Jol. “For the rest of the year, I am on my own and I do just fine.” 2. Don’t forget relationships. Crissy Balatbat of Cerealicious, a cereal bar, and Newstar Publishing, quotes businessman William Rosenfeld: “Never be too busy or too involved in details to forget that any business is really about relationships: you with each employee, the company with its customers, and customers with their end product.” People skills are important in business. Crissy says, “I apply this in both businesses I’m currently involved in. I find that when you treat your staff well, they enjoy working for you and are motivated to work hard to achieve the company’s goals. And in dealing with customers, I find it very beneficial and rewarding to know and understand their minds, their hearts, and their lives in general. Focusing on their desires and what makes them feel satisfied is first priority.” And the reward follows. “I find that the more effort you exert in making your customers feel happy, the more they will keep coming back to you. At the end of the day, you realize that your business is all about catering to their needs. That’s why you put it up in the first place: no customers, no business,” adds Crissy. How about you—what’s the smartest business advice you ever got?
August 2008 Archives
By Terri Jayme* I left the Philippines eight years ago to pursue college in the US. As is the case with many Filipinos living abroad, being away from the country compelled me to give greater thought to what it meant to be Filipino and to learn more about the culture and history that define us. Being so far away, I felt the call of home and family. I struggled to preserve that connection and sought out little ways to affirm my identity: I am Pinoy. Aside from the occasional “Got Adobo?” shirt, I’d come home during my first few years away and find very few Filipino products for young people. I had to choose between campy souvenir shirts or the more traditional capiz or bamboo Filipiniana wares. It made me wonder whether the absence of more modern options implied a lack of interest among young Pinoys locally. Fortunately, things seem to have changed in recent years. I moved back to Manila last year and was surprised to find a growing market of fun and young product lines celebrating pride in being Filipino and exploring different aspects of this identity. They proudly showed off names of cities and local streets. They flashed modernized images of Philippine heroes. They documented the little quirks and perks that make daily life in the Philippines unique. I found everything from clothes and bags to books and music. In terms of clothes, my personal favorites back then were the things I’d find in Team Manila and Bayo. Suddenly, it was cool to be Filipino. We wore it on our shirts. We wrote about it in our blogs. We celebrated it in concerts. We tried to capture it in our photography. It was exciting to see Filipino artists, designers, and entrepreneurs working together to promote this love for country and make it more accessible to the general public, especially the youth. Even more encouraging for me was when I discovered that many of these products were linked to the work of some pretty inspiring initiatives. There are groups like Team RP, RockEd Philippines, Yabang Pinoy, and YTRiP. Each have programs that reach out to young Filipinos and challenge them to engage in issues such as education, the environment, geotourism, and poverty. Many of these initiatives started out as groups of friends, usually young professionals or college students, who came together and decided that they had to do something. These efforts reject the notion of an apathetic youth and seek to find a voice and foothold in our nation’s ongoing history. One fascinating group that I had the chance to learn more about was CANVAS. Committed to promoting a broader appreciation for Philippine art, culture, and the environment, CANVAS works with Filipino artists, writers, and artisans and sparks exciting new collaborations. For instance, their flagship activity is an annual children’s storywriting competition. But as a first step, a young promising Filipino artist is commissioned by CANVAS to create an original, large scale painting. This work then becomes the centerpiece of an open online writing competition. Writers submit children’s stories that are inspired by the painting. The same artist then further illustrates the winning literary piece on large-scale paintings. The result is the publication of an amazing, full-color Filipino children’s book and a major solo exhibition of the artist’s paintings, which have been completely sold out in the past. With this growing market and interest in all things Filipino, we must also face the challenge of sustaining quality. I’m not just talking about better merchandise. Our projects and initiatives need to be effective, sustainable, and designed to effect long-term positive change for our society. How do we channel all this energy and general awareness into productive action? We must go beyond the hype. It would be a shame if our patriotism becomes trendy yet uninformed and disengaged. We must continue to ask ourselves: What exactly am I proud of? What does being Filipino mean to me? What are my own concrete contributions to this society? If we make a conscious effort to think and act on these questions each day, it will feel a hundred times better when we put on that shirt, walk down the street and declare, “Pilipino Ako.” *Terri is a young Filipina who is currently based in Singapore and works with Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in Asia (www.ashoka.org).
FINALLY, the new iPhone 3G is now in Manila. At 12 a.m. Friday morning, while most of the city was asleep, Globe Telecom at Ayala Tower in Makati City opened its doors to hundreds of people awaiting the gadget’s debut. According to a news article written by Lawrence Casiraya for the Inquirer's Tech Addicts blog, people fell in line as early as 3 p.m. on Thursday and awaited the countdown for the big reveal. The scene has been repeated several times in the past in many places, from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Fans camped out two days before the launch. Critics say the hype generated during the waiting period for the iPhone debut made the gadget more attractive to buyers. The iPhone is not the only product introduced to the public this way. Do you remember how lines snaked all over the block at Fort Bonifacio before the opening of the country’s first Krispy Kreme outlet? And the Harry Potter books have all been sold worldwide in the same manner—starting only at the exact time announced. In launching a new product, marketing and public relations practitioners know they have to create awareness for the product, build excitement for it, and build product knowledge. In the end, this will result in the creation of a demand for the product. In the case of the recent iPhone 3G debut in Manila, suspense was used to build up excitement for the product. The gadget can only be had first at one specific location in the country. Globe placed newspaper advertisements announcing the time the doors will open (12 a.m.), in effect nudging iPhone fans to “come and get it” at the prescribed hour and place. Awareness for the product was created as journalists came out with reviews of the iPhone 3G. Expect Globe now to use media and all other available methods to inform the public more about the product. We’re all generally ma-usyoso and curious, so suspense tickles us. If you’re launching a new product, think about putting a suspense spin to it. But make sure your product will live up to the hype, or else the public will dismiss it as just another gimmick.
THESE DAYS, many people work in a nontraditional way. Just when most office workers are braving the Edsa traffic on weekday mornings, these people are at home brewing coffee, dressing up and getting ready for work a few feet away from their bedroom. They’re the work-at-home people, and their numbers are growing. With today’s technology, more and more jobs can be done anywhere, not just in the office. You can sell just about anything from home, and perform services for clients from bookkeeping and marketing consultancy to graphic design and tutorials as long as you have the basics—a phone line, Internet connection, and a computer. There’s another item I will add to this list of basics: self-discipline. With no boss looking over your shoulder, you as a home entrepreneur should be disciplined enough to do what you’re supposed to do—even if a replay of your favorite TV show House is on and the cool “bed” weather these days makes you want to go back to bed to sleep some more. Other distractions abound for the work-at-home entrepreneur, aside from the TV and the bed. Children, phone calls from friends, even home chores do get into one’s schedule. Of course you need to attend to these too (kids, most especially). So how can you deal with all these and still do a good job? The answer: self-discipline. Here are some tips on how to apply self-discipline on the job: 1. Set your working hours. In an interview with cnn.com , Jim Blasingame, host of a radio show called “The Small Business Advocate,” advises entrepreneurs to set definite working hours “so that when you work, you work, and when you're not working you have quality personal time.” Of course you can do flexi-time, but commit to focus on work for at least 8 hours to get your work done. 2. Have a separate area for work. That cozy bed can really be inviting if you do your work on your laptop there. Find a corner or room in your home which you can designate as your home office. Then put all your “office” equipment there. Having a separate area for work will help you switch instantly into work mode at the start of the day. It will also create a “boundary,” so that when you leave this area at the end of the day, you’ll consciously leave work behind to attend to your personal life. 3. Dress up. While working in comfy pajamas is doable, dressing up for work even if it’s just at home will help set your mind to work mode. Besides, when packages and mail arrive at the door, or unexpected clients drop by, you’re instantly ready. 4. Have some help. If you have small children, consider asking a family member or getting a yaya to help care for them while you work. You’ll still be around in the house, but will have more time to finish your work. Practicing self-discipline will help you do a good job and please your clients. And when clients are happy, the business will prosper.
JUST the other day, my friend Monique e-mailed me a list of Pinoy business names. Youâve probably heard of the salon Felix Dâ Cut, the moneychanger shop Starbucks, the carinderia Cooking ng Ina Mo and its competitor Cooking ng Ina Mo Rin. Three years ago, Tahanan Books published a book entitled Ngalang Pinoy edited by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz featuring all the funny business signs around town. Well, according to Moniqueâs e-mail, we have new funny business names. Thereâs a goto restaurant called Goto Ko Pa!, a fishball cart called Eat My Balls, and a chicharon store called Chicha Hut. Over in Quezon City, thereâs a photocopy stand called Pakopya ni Edgar (sounds like the band Parokya ni Edgar), and a shoe repair shop called Shoes Ko Po. And how are these for laughs: a laundry shop in Manila called Summa Cum Laundry and a tombstone maker in Antipolo called Lito Lapida (with apologies to actor and legislator Lito Lapid). Last year, in a photo shoot for an article in SME Insight magazine, we got to talk to Dick Balajadia, owner of I Have Two Eggs, a classy tapsilog restaurant on Tomas Morato Ave. Extension in QC. Dick said they had a difficult time getting the name approved but eventually, they got the permit. But a mall refused to give them space unless they change the name. Dick, however, refused to change the business name because the menu is anchored on the concept of offering two eggs, whichever way you want them cooked, with every entrÃ©e ordered. So itâs still I Have Two Eggs. Filipinosâ love for pun and humor has not waned over the years. Donât we get a barrage of text jokes whenever thereâs a political crisis? In business, some businessmen have capitalized on that love for pun and humor and offer funny names for better recall. Come to think of it, itâs easy to remember a laundry shop named Star Wash: Attack of the Clothes and a bakery called Anak ng Tinapay.
By Cristyl Mae Senajon* My childhood days were a lot of fun. I would play all sorts of backyard games -- tumbang preso, taguan, bahay-bahayan, soccer (the pinoy version), shiatong, and flying a kite with my older brother. I found so much life, freedom, and enjoyment out of those little everyday activities. Unfortunately, many Filipino children today are victims of poverty, child labor, malnutrition, juvenile delinquency, child prostitution, and the lack of education that they skip childhood altogether and miss out on just having fun. From 1995 to 2000, a total of 52,576 children "were monitored as having been deprived of their liberty in detention placement, under custodial setting through suspended sentence," says the Second Country Report on the Implementaton of the Convention on the Rights of the Child submitted by the government's Council for the UNICEF’s Welfare of Children. About 2.06 million children all around the Philippines are compelled to do labor in crop plantations, mining caves, rock quarries and factories, among others. Out of 10 students who enter Grade 1, less than 2 will finish college. Despite appalling reports about the condition of the Filipino child, there may be hope for a child-friendly society due to certain social institutions. Kabataang Inyong Dapat Suportahan (K.I.D.S.) Foundation is an example. KIDS foundation was founded by a group of friends who were simply seeking for ways to help out. This group of friends is composed of actor Diether Ocampo, Lawyer Karina Tanega, Media man Mondo Castro, Graphic artist Egay Bautista and businessman Bene Go. Before they set up KIDS, Karina and Diet were very active in outreach programs that other people thought they had a foundation of their own. Donations poured in, some of which came from Filipinos abroad. The first came from an overseas Filipino family who donated hearing aid kits. This family has a child who suffers from hearing-deficiency. This was followed by more donations. Diet, Karina and three of their friends realized that they had to organize themselves. They designed KIDS foundation’s programs to address major child-related problems such as child labor and malnutrition. Reduce, Eliminate, Decrease (R.E.D.) Undernutrition raises awareness on good nutrition. 100 KIDScholar is an educational assistance granted to public elementary students. Isang Milyong Aklat, Isang Milyong Pangarap is a nationwide campaign promoting the habit of reading among the youth. Out of the Streets, Into the Court, is a program with NIKE Philippines promotes sports by building basketball courts in different public schools in the Philippines. Medical Aid is a financial assistance for chemotherapy sessions of cancer patients in the pediatric ward of the Philippine Orthopedic Center. “Filipinos have this notion of being friendly to women and children that’s why we have specialized focus on these sectors”, says Karina relating to the question whether we have a child-friendly society or not. “We have enough laws to answer these problems but culturally it’s difficult”, she added. Not so many kids are blessed with a happy childhood because some them are needed early on to labor for their family. For the last two years, KIDS Foundation has been trying to change this. It hopes to be a sanctuary for more kids who are abandoned by society. “Just remember what kind of childhood you have and wish that you can share that childhood with the next kid,” Karina said. *Cristyl is program assistant for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program at the Ateneo School of Government. For those who wish to learn more about social entrepreneurship and how to become an effective social entrepreneur, the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government together with Ashoka-Philippines will be running Beyond Bottomlines II: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship this coming September 20,2008 (Saturday), 8 am to 5 pm at the Ateneo de Manila-Professional Schools campus in Rockwell, Makati City. If you are interested to attend this seminar, you can send an email to youthventureph (at) gmail (dot) com or contact Katrina Wy at (02) 683-0262 local 141.
IN MY previous post, I talked about having your own market—a blue ocean strategy. Now if you went to business school and are wondering if you were absent the day it was taught, know that the blue ocean strategy is a fairly recent marketing term—it was first used in Harvard Business Review in 2004. In 2005, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne released the book Blue Ocean Strategy which became a best seller. In a nutshell, blue ocean strategy says: Don’t compete with rivals. Make them irrelevant. To do this, one must leave the highly competitive overcrowded industries—the “bloody” red ocean—where companies compete head-on for a shrinking profit pool. A corporation will do well to create an uncontested market space ripe for growth—the vast blue ocean. In a press kit posted online at the Blue Ocean Strategy website, Kim and Mauborgne explain this further:
“To sustain themselves in the marketplace, red ocean strategists focus on building advantages over the competition, usually by assessing what competitors do and striving to do it better. Here, grabbing a bigger share of a finite market is seen as a zero-sum game in which one company’s gain is achieved at another company’s loss. They focus on dividing up the red ocean, where growth is increasingly limited. Such strategic thinking leads firms to divide industries into attractive and unattractive ones and to decide accordingly whether or not to enter. “Blue ocean strategists recognize that market boundaries exist only in managers’ minds, and they do not let existing market structures limit their thinking. To them, extra demand is out there, largely untapped. The crux of the problem is how to create it. This, in turn, requires a shift of attention from supply to demand, from a focus on competing to a focus on creating innovative value to unlock new demand. This is achieved via the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low-cost.”Kim and Mauborgne studied 150 blue ocean creations in over 100 years in more than 30 industries. This proves that the blue ocean strategy has been in place for years, and only the term is new. There are four actions in the framework: 1. Reduce factors well below the industry’s standard. 2. Eliminate factors that the industry takes for granted. 3. Raise factors well above the industry’s standard. 4. Create factors that the industry has never offered. The authors cite Cirque de Soleil as one example of a blue ocean strategy. It is a circus act, but rather than do what every other circus does—monkeys unicycling, lions jumping into a ring of fire, star performers being shot to the air by cannon, etc.—Cirque de Soleil distinguished itself by combining opera and ballet. Locally, two businesses come to my mind applying the blue ocean strategy. There’s Cerealicious, a cereal bar. When the owners were thinking of going into business, they saw how crowded the burger, pizza and coffee businesses are. So they boldly introduced a product that has never been familiar to Filipinos—cereal smoothies and drinks. And they succeeded at creating demand for Cerealicious’ products. Another business is Tan Gan by designer Lulu Tan-Gan. While other ready-to-wear clothes shops in malls focus on offering everyday clothes and glam party dresses, Tan-Gan decided to focus on knitwear. With her shop, people have realized that knitwear does not just mean sweater. One can have business suits, party clothes, and weekend wear in knits. Are you racking your brains plotting how to beat the competition? Set your sights on the vast blue ocean in the horizon and form your blue ocean strategy.
A FEW WEEKS ago, my desktop PC almost gave up on me. First it was the power supply, which had to be changed. Then the video card refused to work. I had to have that changed too. Then the PC would reboot automatically several times while I was working, making me frantic to save my document more often. It turned out I had to change the memory too. So while the computer was in the shop for a few days, I had no choice but go to an Internet café to meet my deadlines. At first, I went to a neighborhood Internet shop near a school, a few minutes away from our house. At P15 per hour, it was a good deal, I thought. It was okay for the first 20 minutes, until the owner’s young daughters came and made the place their playroom. Then my seatmate started chatting to her boyfriend abroad and I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. The next day I went to another Internet café on the main road nearby. They had more computers, and the place was a “serious” Internet café. The rate was P20 per hour. But then a barkada of gamers came and they were cursing and shouting like there’s no tomorrow as they machine-gunned people onscreen. So it was a relief when I went to the mall the day after that to Netopia Internet café. It’s well lit and quiet, a nice place to write and work. The rate of Internet usage is higher than that of the mom-and-pop Internet cafes I visited, but I had a better experience here. That’s what makes them different. “We’re on the quiet side,” says George H. Tan, president and CEO of Digital Paradise, Inc., operators of the 161-outlet Netopia Internet Café chain. “The bulk of our clients are Internet users, a lot of them centered on socializing.” According to Tan, 30 percent of their clientèle are Internet users into Friendster and the like, 35 percent use Yahoo and Yahoo Messenger to chat, and no more than 12 percent of their clients play games. Given this profile, Netopia focuses on giving clients a lifestyle experience. “You can’t compete with mom-and-pop shops on price, but you can compete on value-added service. We sell the total experience: convenience, comfort, safety, and speed,” says Jose Maria A. Grau, Jr., COO of Digital Paradise, Inc. Netopia decided to cater to a market that would prefer to work, learn and socialize quietly in an Internet café. To boost their value-added service, Netopia partnered with other corporations to give clients more: job application to call centers can now be done right at Netopia, and one can do online review courses for government exams, and online free e-learning courses from Microsoft right here. So in a sea of Internet cafes in the Philippines, Netopia cornered a market for itself. Rather than compete with the others, it chose to tap a wider unknown market—a blue ocean strategy. Are you battling it out with the competition for the same market? Maybe it’s time you created a blue ocean of your own.
By Lauren Wong* I came to the Philippines ten years ago, and all I can remember are the white-sand beaches of Palawan. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and I imagined the rest of the Philippines to be just as gorgeous when I boarded a plane bound for Manila. My summer internship with Ashoka Philippines would last for two months; I found that natural beauty abounds, but not in the sprawling mega-metropolis where I live and work. The city, like so many others, is a hub of urban pollution. Luckily for me, there’s life outside of the city limits. Aside from interning with Ashoka, I got to spend some of my weekends in non-urban areas. Trekking up Mount Pinatubo, planting trees near a dam in Zambales, and spending an afternoon in an isolated village in Negros Occidental reminded me of the breathtaking natural beauty of the Philippines. In those little villages tucked in the folds of mountains, people live in communion with their surroundings. Villagers fashion umbrellas out of palm leaves, make useful rags out of tattered clothes, and let no scrap of food goes to waste. The ones I’ve met still remember how to live with the earth, not simply on top of it. That kind of mentality stands as such a contrast from the lives most of us urbanites live. We need to remember what it feels like to not pollute the earth. As climate change becomes a more present danger, we (being Filipinos, Americans, and every other citizen of the world) have got to reconnect with our environment. Some of that starts small, like bringing cloth bags when shopping or, if not, use all of those plastic bags for garbage cans. We could put pride in Filipino-grown food rather than preferring goodies from Switzerland. We could make a conscious effort not to litter and demand a comprehensive recycling program. The biggest environmental concerns here in the Philippines happen to be large structural issues like diesel-belching buses and inefficient energy grids, but that shouldn’t dissuade the average citizen from trying to do their part. People and communities around the world are finding ways to “do their part”, and the Philippines should see if others’ innovative models can be applied here. Between 1990 and 2006, Sweden reduced its carbon emissions by 9 percent while still growing at 44 percent. The nation has installed a carbon tax on gasoline to give its citizens a financial incentive to reduce energy consumption, and a southern city in Sweden is running its electric station with wood waste from sawmills. San Francisco separates garbage into recyclables, food scraps, and trash; while it takes away recyclables and food scraps for free, residents must pay to have their trash picked up. That way, people will be more willing to throw away only what is absolutely necessary. UK-based G24 Innovations is bringing electricity to Rwanda using lightweight, durable, and low-cost solar cells. In Chicago, the City Hall’s 20,000 sq. foot rooftop is covered with vegetation to save $25,000 in energy costs. Copenhagen streets bustle with more bikes than cars and have even installed traffic lights especially for its bikers; it also has about 2000 bikes around the city that you can rent for free, within its city limits. The Philippines is starting to show off some if its own environmental innovation. In Makati, a few electric-run e-Jeepneys roam the roads. Eco-tourism is beginning to take off in the Philippines with 32 key sites, but it should be encouraged to go much farther. With all the dazzling natural landscapes that span the Philippines, the archipelago could easily become one of the world’s new tourist hot spots, showing that going green can also be very profitable. There are other avenues to seek environmental solutions, such as solar energy, hybrid cars, carbon cap-and-trade, and more efficient vehicle standards. With the looming oil shortage in the not-so-distant future, innovators in the renewable energy field will be in extremely high demand. The trend to “go green” in wealthy nations has also created a market for organic, sustainable, and carbon-free goods, even at high prices. The Philippines has the potential to once again become an economic heavy-hitter while also saving the earth, but only if it makes the environment a priority for everyone. Filipino citizens, whether they live in tiny farming communities or the ritziest neighborhoods in Makati, must connect with the land rather than take it for granted. One day, you won’t have to fly to Bacolod to see dazzling nature in its finest; you’ll just need to step outside of your urban apartment. *Lauren is an intern at Ashoka.
Do you have a product you want to sell but don’t have the capital to put up a store? An easy way to make a sale (and test the market) is to go online and put up a virtual store. That’s right, make cyberspace your mall and set up shop by putting up your own website with your own customized web address or join the many young entrepreneurs doing business via social networking sites like Multiply and photo sharing sites like Picture Trail. Kaye Catral makes diaper cakes—fancy “cakes” made of diapers, towels and baby essentials that would make good baby shower gifts. She also does towel cakes that are gift items too. At first, Kaye said she was planning to put up a real store, but the overhead alone will make her products expensive. “I decided that putting up an online store site would be a better alternative to a small, starting business like NappyCakes,” says Kaye. Kaye started her Picturetrail site in 2004. About 60 to 70 percent of NappyCakes’ sales come from online orders. The rest come from referrals or from those who contacted Kaye as a result of her TV and print media exposure. Claudine de Jesus-Ruiz is a full-time mom who gave up her banking career when she gave birth to her son, Redd, three years ago. A unique hand-made necklace featured in a local magazine caught her eye two years ago, and she ordered it online from the seller, who had a Multiply account. Happy with the experience, she made 4 to 5 more online purchases before realizing she can do this business herself. The result is Eye Candy Jewelry & Accessories. Ninety percent of Eye Candy’s sales are generated online. The rest are purchases made by family, friends and neighbors. The highs of online selling For Claudine, the main attraction of online selling is the thought of having a business right in her own home without sacrificing her “mommy duties.” She is also thrilled when people buy the stuff she puts up for sale. Claudine gets her jewelry and accessories from a friend who supplies them from abroad, and from her sister-in-law who executes Claudine’s designs. Profit, of course, is a major motivation. “Otherwise, there is no point in putting up a business, even if it’s just a small online one,” says Claudine. For Kaye, being online makes it easier for her to reach out to her market. “Networking sites like Multiply allow you to send automatic updates directly to your contacts.” And since friends of friends can check out your site from your own friends’ pages, you get more exposure. “I get about an average of 100 to 150 hits a day from non-contacts,” says Kaye. “One positive experience that online selling has brought me is the realization that I have an ‘inner entrepreneur’ in me,” says Claudine. Because of the market, Claudine has to constantly think of new items that will catch the attention of her clients. The experience has also allowed her to have a network not only in Metro Manila but also in Visayas and Mindanao. Some of her clients have even become her good friends. The downside of online selling Both Kaye and Claudine say the only downside to online selling is the presence of bogus buyers. They reserve an item, promise to pay, then leave online sellers hanging when payments are followed up. “These bogus buyers completely waste the time and effort of online sellers. When another client asks for that same item they have reserved you cannot sell it,” says Claudine. “That is part of the business,” says Kaye. “You just have to be on guard when dealing with people you don’t get to meet face to face.” To address this problem, Claudine imposed a limited reservation period of 3 to 5 days. “When the previous client fails to buy the item, I give it to the one next in line or to the one who will pay first.” Starting an online business Just like in putting up a brick-and-mortar business, do some market research before putting up an online business. Claudine searched various Multiply online sites to find out what items are in demand, and what kinds of people shop online. “This is important in order to know the kind of products to sell and the pricing too, because it can get competitive,” says Claudine. To differentiate her business from other online sellers with the same products, Claudine identified her banner product, something identifiable with Eye Candy. She found it in colorful hand-made crystals, glass and bead accessories. Then comes the building of the website. Decide on the design, upload photos, and make an easy “how to order” form. Here are more tips from Claudine and Kaye: 1. Invite contacts. If you’re on a social networking site, add friends and family to your contact list and invite them to visit your store. Claudine’s husband, Alfred, does his share of spreading the word out by giving out Claudine’s business cards to friends and acquaintances. 2. Network. Kaye joined e-groups and parenting forums to promote her product and online site. 3. Submit your website address to search engines. Kaye submitted her info to Yahoo and Google so if someone searches the Web for nappy cakes or diaper cakes, her site will come up. 4. Put your address on your products. In this way, “when a recipient gets a product from NappyCakes, they know where to find me,” says Kaye. 5. Blog about your stuff. This is a “must” for online sellers, says Claudine, so people will know what products you have. 6. Join bazaars. It’s not all virtual selling for online sellers. Some clients want to see the goods physically before buying. Claudine joins bazaars during summer and Christmas time and makes sure her booth is attractive. Online selling is a great venture for start-up businesses and for those with full-time jobs who just want to earn something extra on the side.
by: Harvey S. Keh Last year, I taught a Social Entrepreneurship class at the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools as a lecturer for its Development Studies Program. One of the innovations that its director, Leland Dela Cruz, did was to provide an option for its graduating students to develop and implement a social enterprise instead of doing a regular research thesis project. There were eight social enterprises that were developed as a result of this program. One of them was Impukan, which was the work of Jaymee Duran. Realizing that the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, Jaymee worked with the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) to develop a social enterprise that would raise funds and resources even before disasters strike. Through the funds and resources raised via Impukan, the SLB will now be able to respond to disasters quicker and at the same time enable it to also provide psychosocial therapy and support to the victims of these natural calamities. With the proliferation of the use of plastics and tarpaulins in our society, Maurene Papa and Kat Arandela's Bill-A-Bag (Billboards transformed into Bags) is a social enterprise that aims to promote recycling as a means of helping save our environment. Bill-A-Bag turns used plastic tarpaulins and transforms them into fashionable bags, coin purses and wallets. By doing so, they not only earn by selling these products but more importantly, they are able to impart a strong message that recycling and the promotion of sustainable development can be a way of life for everyone. To view some of their products, you can visit their website at http://billabag.multiply.com/. In the field of health, one of the perennial problems of our country has been the inaccessibility of life-saving drugs for majority of our people. This was the problem that Gino Pineda and Miguel Hitosis tried to address through their own social enterprise entitled, Doktor Swabe. Doktor Swabe runs a twice a week radio show over Radyo Veritas 846 that aims to educate and promote to poor Filipino families the use of generic medicines. At the same time, Doktor Swabe would also partner with drug companies who produce generic medicines to help them establish outlets that would sell these generic drugs in depressed communities. If our national hero, Jose Rizal was still alive today, these young social entrepreneurs would do him proud as they continue to live out Rizal's famous saying, "Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan". More on the other young social entrepreneurs who are creating genuine change in our country in the coming weeks. To know more about the activities and projects of Ateneo de Manila's Development Studies Program, you can contact (02) 426-6001 local 5218. Learn more about Social Entrepreneurship by joining the 2nd Beyond Bottomlines: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship Seminar organized by the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and Ashoka-Youth Venture Philippines. For more information, please send an email to Katrina Wy at email@example.com or you can call (02) 497-7614. *Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and is also the Program Manager for Ashoka-Youth Venture here in the Philippines.