WE KNOW we have one of the, if not the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Beginning September, the Christmas season is ushered in in the Philippines with the playing of Christmas songs on radio, announcements of holiday sales in the malls, and Christmas bazaars or tiangges in villages and commercial areas. This 2009, the Christmas season seems even longer. We haven't had as many nonworking holidays as we have this December. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared December 26, 29, 31 and January 2 as nonworking holidays. December 25 (Christmas Day) and 30 (Rizal Day) are already legal holidays so that makes it an almost whole two-week holiday stretch from December 25 to January 4 for most people. Most people are happy about it. One banker I spoke to says she is very happy about the long break. "I can have time to be with my family and cook," she says. Although her bank has declared some branches open during the holidays, a system has been worked out such that employees only have to work for 1 to 2 days during the holidays (at holiday pay rate) since branches take turns being open. "In one area, there will always be a branch that is open to service the needs of the public," she says. It's a win-win situation. By keeping its branches open, the workload will not be that much on January 5 since some clients have been serviced during the holidays. Employees, by working for 1 to 2 days, get to earn more, yet still enjoy some days off. But for a software executive, the long holiday break is just too much. "It's not okay. It used to be that companies have a day or two after Christmas with which to close contracts before the year ends. This year, most customers went on leave after the 19th. So some year-end targets were not met, and we'll be rushing come January." Holidays were designed to commemorate special events and allow people to celebrate the occasion with their loved ones. Some want more holidays, some want less. Whatever you prefer, here's wishing you a happy new year! Here's to a great 2009! :)
December 2008 Archives
WITH Christmas literally just hours away, let's have some fun. :) I stumbled on this post at stupidbusinessideas.com -- stupid business ideas for Christmas: 1. Christmas present opening service. Great for those who want a calmer Christmas. No more ripping up gift wrappers and screaming in delight. 2. Christmas dinner eating service. Great for those who don't want to gain weight this holiday season. Let others eat for you and devour the buffet spread. Merry Christmas! :)
ON A LONG bus trip to Dagupan, Pangasinan from Manila last weekend, my friend and I noted how SM malls differ from one place to another. The new SM North EDSA Annex, which now makes SM City North EDSA the world’s third largest shopping mall complex, has six new floors and a basement. Going farther north, we see SM City Pampanga in San Fernando occupying 31.6 hectares. It’s a very long two-storey mall, with open parking at ground level. The newly opened SM City Rosales in Pangasinan looks smaller than SM City Pampanga, but it’s likewise a two-storey mall at most, with open parking at ground level. My friend tells me that it’s the same for SM City Clark, and from photos at the SM Prime Holdings website, the case too with SM City Marilao in Bulacan. She tells me that Kapampangans do not like going up to higher floors. She would know, since she is also a Kapampangan. My guess is that the same is true of Bulakenos and Pangasinense, since they all live on the plains and may not like heights. That is why the SM City in these areas aren’t like Megamall (at five floors plus a basement) or North EDSA. SM did a good job in taking this attribute to account in planning their malls north of Manila. Their expansion is horizontal in these areas, not vertical. SM City Baguio is an exception. Since the people here are used to the high altitude, they don't mind going up a few more floors to shop and look around. In business, one must adapt to the local culture. Know your customer well.
YES YOU read it right. The level of outsourcing to the Philippines is growing faster than in any other country, according to the Global Outsourcing Statistics Report released last December 15 by oDesk, the leading marketplace for online workteams for employers outsourcing technology jobs to certified, freelance developers and programmers. The report also states that the Philippines remains a popular destination for outsourcing work. Other popular countries include the U.S., India, Pakistan, Canada, Ukraine, and Russia. The bulk of the outsourcing jobs received by the Philippines is in the Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (KPO) sector. This includes data entry and virtual assistants. India’s largest work category, on the other hand, is in the software and web development field. The report also divulged that the Philippines’ average feedback rating surpassed the oDesk average for the first time. The U.S. has the highest average feedback rating and the greatest number of providers. Here are statistics from the report: CANADA Total Number of Providers: 3,581 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $19.60 Average Feedback Score: 4.32 (out of 5.00) INDIA Total Number of Providers: 27,454 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $12.52 Average Feedback Score: 4.01 PAKISTAN Total Number of Providers: 5,960 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $11.13 Average Feedback Score: 4.36 PHILIPPINES Total Number of Providers: 17,213 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $6.33 Average Feedback Score: 4.30 RUSSIA Total Number of Providers: 2,721 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $16.86 Average Feedback Score: 4.31 UKRAINE Total Number of Providers: 2,929 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $15.96 Average Feedback Score: 4.36 USA Total Number of Providers: 52,637 Average Hourly Rate Charge: $18.32 Average Feedback Score: 4.40 Noticed something? The Philippines has the lowest average hourly rate charge. Good work at cheaper rates—no wonder we’re so popular. :) The report can be accessed here.
I GET awed whenever I meet successful entrepreneurs who tell me they’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug since they were young. Ailene Co of fashion store U.R.U. was selling stationery and mechanical pencils when she was in grades 4 to 6. When she was in high school, she sold clips, headbands, hair spray, and key chains. Ana Amigo-Antonio of Chocolate Clothing Co. recalls selling as early as five years old. “My parents were in interior design and our house would always be remodeled to reflect new trends. So there were always carpenters in the house. I would sell them candy and soft drinks,” says Ana. We’ve all had classmates in grade school who sold cornick, candies and chocolates. When I was maybe six or seven, I put up a small table near our gate and sold candies. I lasted only a day since hardly anyone bought anything. Some summer youth camps in the US teach entrepreneurship. Here in our country, entrepreneurship is already a subject in some high schools. And some grade schools encourage the activity early by initiating entrepreneurship clubs and organizing selling activities. Not every child entrepreneur chooses to be an entrepreneur when they grow up. But the lessons learned are timeless, from supply management, financial management (it’s applied mathematics when they count change!) and customer service, among others. Is your child showing signs of interest in entrepreneurship? Support him and watch him grow.
FOUR YEARS ago, Ailene Co got a space at the Greenhills tiangge to start her own fashion store. She named it U.R.U. which means exactly how you spell it: you are you. “Wear what you like and what suits you. Women should wear what they feel like wearing, and not dress to impress others,” explains Co, who studied at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines in Ortigas Center. Co started with bags. “It’s one of my passions and the easiest way for me to get into business,” she says. Since she also loved clothes, especially those that fit her budget, she also sold casual trendy clothes that can be worn by women in offices or when going out for a gimmick. “We’re producing all original locally made casual clothing for day in, day out activities,” Co adds. Co regularly goes to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Bangkok to check out fashion styles and does some designing herself although she also has designers working with her. She has sewers do the samples and production is subcontracted to suppliers. Getting a space in Greenhills seemed the logical choice for her business even if she was selling stuff in bazaars by herself for years. “In Greenhills, you cannot go wrong if you have the right product. People go to Greenhills because it’s cheap there and it’s a one-stop shop,” says Co. Even recent Manila visitors Rihanna and Chris Brown shopped in Greenhills this holiday season. And she knew how Greenhills works. Back in college at the Philippine School of Business Administration, she and two other friends also got a space in the Greenhills tiangge and sold ready-to-wear clothes and knickknacks sourced from wholesale bargain haven Divisoria. So even if the rent in Greenhills was expensive by the time she decided to put up U.R.U. by herself in 2004, she went ahead. “I thought clothes would be easy to sell,” she says. But the first six months to one year was really challenging. “I was running out of funds. But I didn’t give up. I kept on praying. Then we got a wholesaler. May nakapansin sa amin (Someone noticed us).” From that time on, business went on the upswing. As Co adapted to the market, U.R.U. was able to get a loyal market. Co started sponsoring celebrities such as Angelika dela Cruz, Yasmien Kurdi, Nadine Samonte, Wendell Ramos and Christine Reyes who would wear U.R.U. clothes in their TV and mall appearances. The exposure helped a lot. Co continued doing business in other bazaars, though, and became a staple year in and year out in the bazaars of Karl Edwards, Worldbex International, Rockwell, Candy Fair, Cosmo Universe, Casa y Jardin, St. James in Alabang, and Yabang Pinoy, among others. “Girls as young as 14 would buy from us,” she says. U.R.U. would also sell from its website at Multiply. Today, Co has four U.R.U. stores in Greenhills Center Mall tiangge alone. She has them strategically located in the mall such that from wherever you enter, you will encounter a U.R.U. stall. “It’s a major frustration if I am not given a good location in a tiangge,” Co says. Even in bazaars, the key success factor is location, location, location. And U.R.U. has also gone to other malls, having stand-alone boutiques at Robinsons Galleria’s 50th Avenue, Robinsons Place Manila’s 50th Avenue, Tiendesitas’ Fashion Village, and kiosks inside Crafts By Boracay in Boracay Island and NCCC Malls in Davao and Palawan. And as if this isn’t enough, U.R.U. gave birth to a men’s line called D.R.U., taking off from her husband’s first name, Andrew. Next year, Co is opening another branch in yet another mall. Good thing she didn’t give up early on. Photos courtesy of U.R.U.
THE HOTTEST brand nowadays in the Philippines is Manny Pacquiao. Yes, the boxer who won the victory over Oscar Dela Hoya and put the Philippines in everyone's consciousness last Sunday is a mega-brand worldwide. From Mike Tyson and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the barrio people in the provinces, Pacquiao has a following. The crime rate in the country goes down to zero whenever he has a fight. A-list cinemas and city halls around the country broadcast his fights and these places are fully packed when Pacquiao steps on the ring. And talk about Pacquiao being an endorser. From beer to muscle pain relaxant, cellphone to karaoke mic, energy drink to a hamburger place, and much more, Pacquiao has become a dream endorser. He is number 3 on Wikipilipinas' Top 10 Philippine Celebrity Endorsers, just below actresses Kris Aquino and Sharon Cuneta. But even if Pacquiao endorses other brands, he is a brand himself. Novelist Philip Roth wrote: "To become a celebrity is to become a brand name." And the Pacquiao brand is profitable, earning P537 million from pay-per-view sales last weekend. Not bad. Not bad at all. If you were Pacquiao's brand manager, how would you grow the Pacquiao brand? A key strategy is to determine Pacquiao's unique selling point (e.g. consistent boxing champion who can relate well to all classes of society) and craft marketing strategy based on that. Pacquiao himself seems to be doing that without him knowing, enhancing his brand image by announcing that he will continue his studies and continue supporting the environment. In fact, he donated P100,000 to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier this week to help save the Philippine eagle. Mara Ceguera, head for sales and marketing of Eurochemicals, Inc., says: "If Manny Pacquio were my brand, I would take advantage of the brand value already in place - particularly the fact that he has reached iconic status. I would trade on that and really promote him as an example of what one can achieve through focused determination, discipline, commitment, perseverance against the odds...etc. I would target him to young adults and children, who will be able to relate to him very much, but will also be moved by his story of success. As a brand, Manny Pacquio will be most effective in his ability to help alter the national psyche, or mindset, because he will make us all able to believe that we ARE capable of making it big if we are willing to put in the hard work required." The Pacquiao brand is hot, hot, hot. May it continue well for many many years to come. Photo by Joel Limjoco Pastor wj1p/du1jp
UPON entering the lobby of the Midtown Wing of Robinsons Place Manila, you can't help but notice the giant red umbrellas beckoning you to this cozy nook just behind the escalators. It's Art's Cream Gallery, a 20-seater gelateria run by the same group behind the Italian ice cream brand Fiorgelato. Far from it just being a scooping station for gelato (an Italian ice cream made of 100 percent fresh milk), though, Art's Cream Gallery has elevated ice cream serving to an art. Credit goes to renowned stylist Rachy Cuna, known for his floral architecture, who has thought of a myriad ways to serve ice cream. For instance, the gelato flavor Coffee with Toblerone is served on an antique-looking picture frame. The banana split is served on a sushi boat, and green tea ice cream looks cool on Japanese pottery. A serving of their concoction Blooms features sugar roses with red M&Ms at its base. Pretty interesting is the I Love You, a serving of chocolate gelato on a pretty bowl you can hold as a bouquet, with a sugar rose on top. But what gets the oohs and aahs most is the One for All, a 12-scoop tower of gelato (choose your own flavors), which goes for only P350. "Every time we serve it, customers smile and always take pictures of it," says Noel Castro, store manager. To date, it has taken two people at the very least to finish it all, but as much as 20 people have shared an order of it too. Rachy says Art's Cream Gallery is selling and sharing the experience, not just the ice cream. "It's fun and different, a gallery where ice cream can be shown in an artful way," he says. "It's sharing food and art at the same time, a new concept we are proud of." All ice cream served here is of course, Fiorgelato, manufactured locally by Art's Cream Gallery's parent company Milkin Corporation using Australian fresh milk and Italian ingredients. "Gelato is our passion. Technically it is not ice cream, though. It has less fat and less sugar and is thus healthier. Call it gourmet ice cream," explains Ricardo Cuna, president and CEO of Milkin Corporation. The Robinsons Place main outlet just opened last July but so far, market response has been very good. Customers appreciate their unique and innovative way of serving ice cream. Best-selling flavors include Coffee with Toblerone, Strawberry, Pistachio, and Tiramisu. Art's Cream Gallery is not just all about gelato, though. They also serve coffee, sandwiches and pasta. At their NAIA Terminal III outlet, they serve morning snacks as well, such as pan de sal, since they are open there as early as 2 a.m. to serve those boarding early flights. But of course, gelato is available for anyone with a sweet tooth. Product photos courtesy of Art's Cream Gallery
By Lauren Wong* I had gone to the filming of a CCTV 9 talk show on Sunday expecting to hear Jet Li chat about his martial art prowess. What I got instead was a talk about social entrepreneurship in China. Jet Li focused the great majority of the hour-long filming on his pet project, the One Foundation. Since the talk show was filmed for an English-speaking audience, the kung fu master was not as eloquent in his philosophy as he could be in his native tongue. Nevertheless, the passion towards his foundation and towards the work of social entrepreneurship was a great sign of what potential China holds. My work with Ashoka Philippines over the summer, as an intern seemed so different from my semester of studying and speaking Chinese, getting lost in the Beijing sprawl, and trying to familiarize myself with a culture that was so different from mine back in Chicago. I had almost gotten out of touch with the goings-on in the citizen sector until Jet Li’s unexpected talk grounded me back to what I believe is truly important. Jet’s philosophy on social entrepreneurship was, at times, a little contradictory and unclear, but his underlying theme was reasonable. He began by explaining that there’s a scale of good people, with Bill Gates on one end of the spectrum and Mother Teresa on the other. Gates represents business and Mother Teresa represents the heart. Where did Jet Li stand? In the middle with a combination of transparent business practices and passion for what he called the “global family”. The idea behind his One foundation is not a new one. Every human being should care for each other as they care for their families under the reasoning that all of us are, actually, one gigantic family. He proposes that everyone make a habit of helping fellow brothers and sisters, whether that means contributing one yuan per month or donating time. The non-profit sector doesn’t need more foundations that prey on people’s pity and Christmastime graciousness; it needs more pragmatic people who work feverishly to make change happen. It needs citizens (hence the citizen sector, not the non-profit sector) that put social change into their lifestyles and understand that Jet’s “global family” is not some hippie call for free love or worldwide peace. Jet believes that he stands in the middle, with brains in his head and a heart that beats. Why isn’t everyone there standing with him? I’m hoping that his passion is a sign of what great change there is to come, especially here in China. China’s power has only increased under the wary eye of other world powers, and if it put that explosive economic potential into social change, the world could see some great developments in the future. *Lauren worked as intern for Ashoka Philippines for two months and is now back in Chicago.
“ALMOST MEANINGLESS.” This is how Congressman Roilo Golez of Parañaque City described the Philippine centavo when he filed a resolution recently calling for a study into the possibility of retiring the following denominations: 1-centavo, 10-centavo, 25-centavo, and 50-centavo. According to Golez, cash transactions can be rounded off to the nearest peso. Anyway, vending machines do not accept centavo coins, and producing coins cost more than their face value. This news story came to mind as I went about my errands today. At the bakeshop nearby where I bought a loaf of bread, the cashier asked me for an additional P0.75 so she can give me a P5 coin as change. At the supermarket a few minutes later, the cashier asked if I can add P2.50 to the money I gave her so she can give me a P20 bill as change. There is a shortage of coins in circulation today as there are reports of smugglers transporting our coins elsewhere for their metal content. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has warned the public against the illegal use of coins, smuggling included. This situation has left many businesses grappling for coins as change over the past few years, and this Christmas season is no exception. Should the centavo be retired? Although Golez raised valid points, one must also realize that some transactions still have to be done exactly down to the nearest centavo—interest on loans and deposits, for instance. We may or may not see the centavo retired. Businesses then have to make the extra effort to have coins available for change, at least the 10-centavo and 25-centavo coins especially this busy Christmas season. Consumers should use more coins as payment, and not hoard them in piggy banks at home. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a 50-centavo coin in a long while. It seems to have vanished together with the P10 bill.
WHAT WAS your first job? Mine was as junior auditor at an accounting firm in Makati and I was paid P700+ a month. Yeah, I am no spring chicken now since that was back in 1987 when I was fresh out of business school and raring to make a mark in the working world. I’ve been through many other jobs since then, finally settling on a career I love: journalism. I have learned many things on the job that I didn’t learn in school, from doing what it takes to meet your goal to handling office politics and difficult bosses, among others. New graduates are more fortunate now to have a plethora of information available to them as these can help them hurdle the challenges of their working life better. One of these is the little book Your First Job: A Practical Guide to Success by Nelson T. Dy published last year by OMF Literature Inc. In eight easy-to-read short chapters, Dy tackles principles for success in the workplace. He starts out by encouraging readers to ask themselves why they work, where they want to go in their career, and what their plans are to get there. Dy recounts that he studied chemical engineering at De La Salle University but wanted to get into marketing. So he took his MBA at the Asian Institute of Management then joined the marketing department of a big chemical firm upon his graduation. Clueless as to what career to take? Thelma Meneses, HR director of Unilever Philippines and one of those interviewed by Dy in the book, advises young people to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and seek a job that would fit them, rather that their skills. Using the story of Joseph in the Bible, Dy also tackles the importance of earning your boss’s trust through integrity, helping people on your way up, sharpening your skills, and letting go of emotional baggage. To illustrate the principles, the author features interviews with successful people such as Raffy dela Rosa, former president and CEO of Chowking Food Corporation; Alex Castillo, former president of Del Monte Philippines; Tony Meloto, former executive director of Gawad Kalinga; and Ardy Roberto, CEO of Salt and Light Ventures. Although the book is targeted toward fresh graduates starting out in their careers, it can also be enjoyed by those already working for a long time, even entrepreneurs like you. For instance, in the book, Roberto advises entrepreneurs to get out of the “one man show” trap common among new entrepreneurs—when they do everything from sales to administration to accounting to collection, etcetera, leaving them pooped at the end of a 12-hour workday. How to get out of this rut? “Think that one day your business can be a franchise,” Roberto says. Make an operations manual. Train people well so your business can run on a system even when you’re not there. This little book is full of helpful advice. Get it at your favorite bookstore or buy it at the OMF Lit e-store.
By: Harvey S. Keh* It’s just a month away from Christmas and I'm sure that many of us are now starting our Christmas shopping for our love ones. As such, I would like to ask you to consider giving any of the following gifts this Christmas because as you buy these gifts you also help provide a better future for our country. Here are my suggested gifts: a.) Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON Foundation) Christmas Cards - Did you know that millions of Filipino students reach Grade 6 without even learning how to read? AHON Foundation helps solve that problem by building functional and well-equipped libraries for our public elementary schools. To date, AHON has already helped build 20 public elementary schools in Quezon City, Marikina, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Bulacan. Each Christmas Card costs P100, P300 and P500 each. For every Christmas card that you buy, a donation will be made under the name of the person you give the card to! If you would like to see the Cards, you can visit this link: http://ahonfoundation.multiply.com/journal/item/26 or you can contact Anna Rojas at email@example.com . b.) Ashoka-Youth Venture Philippines Memo Holders and T-Shirts - Ashoka-Youth Venture helps train and develop young people to become positive changemakers in society by helping them develop projects that will solve problems in their community. Some of these projects include tutorial programs for non-readers in their community or organizing preventive health seminars for depressed communities. By helping young people become positive changemakers, Ashoka hopes to create a new generation of Filipinos that will serve as catalysts for change in our society. Each Ashoka-Youth Venture Memo Pad costs only between P100 to P 150 per piece while an Ashoka T-shirt costs only P 170.00 each. If you would like to see the memo holders and the T-Shirt, you can visit: http://filipinochangemaker.blogspot.com or you can contact Katrina Wy at firstname.lastname@example.org . c.) Pathways to Higher Education Organic Products - six years ago, Archie Dolit was graduating at the top of his class in Marikina High School unsure of what the future would hold for him since his parents was only earning less than P250 per day. Through the help of Pathways, Archie not only entered college but also received a full scholarship from Ateneo de Manila University. Last March, Archie graduated with a BS degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) and is now working at a multi-national company, enabling him to help send other siblings to school. Pathways has helped hundreds of other academically-gifted but financially disadvantaged students like Archie access quality higher education. Pathways wants to help more young Filipinos reach their dreams and you can make that happen by giving Pathways Organic Products this Christmas. These products range from P150 to P250. You can check them out at www.pathwaysphilippines.org or you can contact Pathways at (02) 426-6001 local 4048. d.) Kaya Natin! Baller Bands - One of the major problems our country faces today is the lack of transparency and accountability in our government and this is primarily because good governance and ethical leadership remains only a far off dream for us. Yet, we have seen that in many local government units, good governance is possible and that is what Kaya Natin! espouses. Kaya Natin! is a national movement for good governance and ethical leadership that aims to help support and elect effective and ethical government leaders in our country. Among those who initially convened Kaya Natin! are Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela, Gov. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga, Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija and Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Jr. of Ifugao. Each baller band costs only P50 and you can help promote the fight for good governance and ethical leadership in our country. If you want to see the baller bands, you can visit http://filipinochangemaker.blogspot.com or you can contact Kai Pastores at email@example.com . Please feel free to share this with your family and friends. Let us continue to hope, pray and work together for a better Philippines! *Harvey is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. Beyond Bottomlines III: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship Seminar will be held on December 13 at the Ateneo Professional Schools. For more details, please contact Katrina Wy at 497-7614.
HOW DOES one survive in retail? Furthermore, how does one make it in the highly competitive fashion retail business? Let me tell you a story about a business called Chocolate, which isn’t into chocolates but into something else that makes us feel good – nice clothes. Ana Amigo-Antonio, founder and managing director of Chocolate Clothing Company, has grown her fashion retail store from just a space in Rustan’s Department Store five years ago into the multi-store establishment it is today. The young fashion-conscious from the AB markets check out her stores regularly for cool clothes from Australian brands Grab and Sass, among others. Fashion magazines regularly feature Chocolate’s new stuff, and fashionistas in the know come in droves whenever Chocolate announces a warehouse sale which offers price cuts up to 75 percent off. Ana attributes her success not to luck, but to hard work. “There’s really no secret. If you put a lot of hard work, inevitably, something will come out,” says Ana. “It’s like caring for a plant. With sunshine, water and lots of love, the plant will grow. This is also how I try to run the business, caring for it 24/7.” Ana and business partner Mike Advani are both hands on entrepreneurs. They complement each other, with Ana focusing on operations, and Mike (“my check and balance,” says Ana) being more involved in the numbers part. Everything about Chocolate says something about their being hands on. Ana recounts that she met a girl from Australia who had really cute clothes. This led her to inquire about bringing Australian brands such as Grab, Sass, Fate, Oliver & Isabelle, Urbanology, Heaven, and others to the Philippines. She was appointed distributor and was able to bring the brands to the Philippines. The first hurdle then was how to introduce the brands to the local market which was more familiar with American and European brands. “Being in Rustan’s helped. And I was there on a daily basis to explain to customers what the clothes are about. People became happy with it and told their friends,” says Ana. From then on, Chocolate was invited to join fashion shows, and fashion magazines featured their stuff regularly. Even without advertising budget (it was only two years ago that they had advertising budget), Chocolate got adequate exposure. Being hands on also led Ana to spot areas where they can improve. Since Australian clothes sizes are different from that of the US (size 8 in Australia is really an extra small), Ana made sure they posted a size chart showing the equivalent of Australian sizes to help customers get the right fit without hyperventilating at the thought that they are now several sizes larger. Today, Chocolate has stand-alone stores in most major malls in Manila, as well as in Cebu and Davao. Their Cebu outlet is doing extremely well since the franchisee is also very hands on. The Davao store has been picking up lately. “It’s important to have good front people who are accommodating and patient. They must know how to deal with customers. Some customers want to be treated like a queen, while others don’t want you to talk to them until they’re ready to try on an item. We welcome all kinds of customers. The demanding ones help us sharpen our skills and patience,” says Ana, who is not a first-time entrepreneur, coming from an entrepreneurial family, and had businesses of her own for years. With the economy being the way it is now, the partners are adopting a different strategy. “We will cut down the stores from 17 to a manageable 12 so we can still be hands on, keeping the strong stores and redirecting traffic. We’ll also continue trading in the Middle East, which we’ve been doing for the past one and a half years, marketing Grab, Sass and Fate. We hope to bring Filipino brands there soon,” says Ana.