BUSINESS ethics call for corporate social responsibility (CSR) where public interest is given top priority. One Filipino company has been showing the business world the way to do it, and it’s not just through talk, but through action. At Lamoiyan Corporation, maker of Hapee Toothpaste, about 30 percent of the employees are hearing-impaired. Other people with similar handicaps are also accommodated. But realizing that there are still many more people outside the company needing help, Lamoiyan took it upon itself to support three schools and 14 centers that provide basic sign language courses to the hearing-impaired. Upon graduation, some students are sent to college as scholars, while others are hired by the company. “The hearing-impaired number close to 500,000 in the Philippines. Only 40,000 of them get schooling,” revealed Dr. Cecilio K. Pedro, Lamoiyan Corporation president, in a short speech delivered during the Leadership Conference Series 2 presented recently by De La Salle University, PLDT-Smart Foundation, and Smart Infinity at Sofitel Philippine Plaza. (The main speaker during the said conference was former British prime minister Tony Blair.) “More and more companies in the world espouse CSR. In our company, it’s a way of life, not just a marketing ploy,” adds Dr. Pedro. In the company, Dr. Pedro says about 3 to 5 percent of the marketing budget is used to reach out to the hearing-impaired. “It is the responsibility of every Filipino company who can afford, to help.” And why should Filipino companies extend help to those who need it? “There is hope in this country. For this country to progress, we have to work together. It has to start with you and me. Let us stop blaming the government,” Dr. Pedro explains. “If there is anyone to blame, it is us. If good people are willing to stand up for what is right and do what is right, the Philippines will be a great country.”
March 2009 Archives
TONY Blair knows what he is talking about. As prime minister of the United Kingdom for 10 years (assuming the office at the young age of 43), Blair knew what it was to lead a nation. Now envoy of the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, the United States and Russia) to the Middle East, Blair has become an expert in negotiation too, such that president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants him to help out in achieving peace in Mindanao. So everyone at Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s Harbor Garden Tent last Monday afternoon for the Leadership Conference Series 2 presented by De La Salle University, PLDT-Smart Foundation, and Smart Infinity, was all ears as Blair shared the lessons he learned as a leader. Although he learned these while serving in the government, these lessons can also apply to people in the business world. 1. If you want to change the world, you have to understand it. If you want to understand the world, analyze how it is, not how you want it to be. “The world moves and moves fast. We live in an era of low predictability,” says Blair. 2. In a fast-changing world, companies, countries, and people must change. “Change is one of the toughest things to do. People like change in general but not in particular. Once you make change, it’s always difficult,” he says. Even in business, “we have to adjust, prepare for a state of perpetual revolution.” 3. Stand up and take decisions. “If you want to be popular, don’t take the leadership road,” he advises. 4. Try even if you don’t always succeed. “What is forgivable is to fail. What is unforgivable is not to try. Be prepared in a state of leadership to get knocked back. Sometimes challenges are too big,” he adds. Later on, Blair says, “Every leader has a day when things go wrong. Learn a bit of humility as a leader.” So when does one become a leader? “When you feel such a compelling motivation to get something done and you’re prepared to put caution aside. Don’t lead for the sake of leading. Lead because you want to get something done,” says Blair.
THERE COMES a time in every home-based business’ life when the entrepreneur is faced with a dilemma: To open a store or not? To have a real office outside the home or not? To grow big or stay small? Such is the dilemma currently faced by partners Analyn Arce and Joan Runes of The Peach Box, a home-based specialty food shop. Since the partners started the business in February 2006, majority of their clients would phone them and order party food trays like baked macaroni, fettucine carbonara, and chicken pastel and kesong puti spread. Starting with only P60,000 in capital, The Peach Box steadily gained clients, which only started among family and friends and bazaar/tiangge regulars. Now, people they don’t know who have sampled their food at parties or have heard of them through word of mouth call them for orders. To make it easier for people to get the food items, The Peach Box opened take out kiosks in tandem with the family-owned Arce Dairy (which sells ice cream and milk at the same kiosks) at Greenhills Theater Mall in 2006 and at Landmark Trinoma in 2008. Now The Peach Box has been offered a big space in a major mall which could be the perfect place to launch The Peach Box, the restaurant. While other entrepreneurs may be quick to jump at the offer, the partners are studying the matter carefully. According to Arce, here are the considerations they are weighing on whether to open in the mall as a restaurant: 1. Rent. Some malls charge a percentage of sales as rent, while others charge a flat rate per month. Mall rent can be very expensive. 2. Overhead. “With a bigger space comes bigger overhead,” says Arce. 3. Location. Not all restaurants do well in the mall. Is the location being offered good? Will the right traffic go there? 4. Size. Is the leasable space the right size for the business? While the prospect of having a full-scale restaurant may be exciting, maybe a cozy small café would be better? 5. Concept. Does the business concept fit the mall’s particular location and target market? On the other hand, the reason why Arce is entertaining getting mall space with seating for dine-in customers is so that more people will get the chance to try The Peach Box’s specialties. Should The Peach Box go big or stay small for the meantime? Entrepreneurs faced with the same dilemma must study all angles before signing on the dotted line in the mall rental contract.
HURRAY FOR PIGS. Swine wastewater is put to good use in the 1.1-megawatt biogas waste-to-energy project at Robina 12 Farm in San Miguel, Bulacan. A project of Hacienda Bio-Energy Corporation (HBC) and Philippine Bio-Sciences Company, Inc. (PhilBIO), the said project, which uses biogas recovered from advanced anaerobic digestion, is the largest biogas renewable energy project in the country. In fact, the project is expected to capture gases equivalent to approximately 42,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, which would otherwise be released to the atmosphere, further hastening global warming. According to PhilBIO, the Robina 12 Farm project uses the next generation Covered In-Ground Anaerobic Reactor (CIGAR) technology. This ensures higher quantity and quality biogas. “The CIGAR is coupled with an on-site electric power generation plant utilizing the captured biogas (tested at 70 percent methane gas by volume) as fuel to generate electricity,” says PhilBIO in a statement. Now just think: If more companies with the resources needed would take the time to pursue a biogas project, we would reduce our dependency on oil to generate electricity.
FOODIES know that the best cakes can be ordered not from commercial bakeshops, but from little home bakeshops run by young moms, where you need to order a day or two in advance and pick up your order yourself. These are specialty cakes with rich fresh ingredients which can give hotels a run for their money. One such bakeshop is Taza Platito. Owned by Tina Concepcion-Diaz, Taza Platito (which means cup and saucer in Filipino) has been serving up cake orders since 1991 to individuals and corporate clients—caterers and cafes included. After graduating from Ateneo with a degree in communication arts, Tina realized she didn’t see herself entering the broadcasting industry. But one thing she knew was that she liked baking and cooking. And so she enrolled in courses taught by gurus Sylvia Reynoso Gala, Dorothy Ferreira and Heny Sison. After learning the basics, she went on to experiment and made her own product line. She borrowed P5,000 from her dad to buy ingredients and equipment like baking pans and a handheld mixer, used their oven at home, and opened for business out of the family home. From Christmas gift orders from friends and family, Taza Platito’s business grew over the years. “At the start I was doing everything—baking, doing the grocery, delivery, everything,” says Tina. Now she has two people working for her. Tina started supplying pastries and cakes to restaurants in 1993 and from her earnings was able to save up for a bigger oven. Tina got married in 1994 and continued Taza Platito as a home business. “I consider myself a mom foremost than a businesswoman. With my business based at home, I still have time for my son,” she says. In fact, Tina finds time to bring her son to and from school on most days, hold a full-time job as managing editor of Foodie magazine, and still run Taza Platito. She adjusts her schedule when something needs more priority. “You’re not supermom,” says Tina. “The home business is good for moms. It gives as much fulfillment as if you had an outlet as clients call and place orders. But I read about successful businesswomen with outlets. So go with what works for you. Balance your time. Know your priorities,” says Tina. Here are a few more tips from Tina on how mommies can embark on a home-based business and still balance work and family demands: 1. Know what you want and what it is you love to do. Tina says you must look into your hobbies and see if any of these can be turned into something big. “In my case, I like to bake, gather recipes and tinker or change those recipes. It’s a stress buster. If you make your hobby your business, it won’t be a chore to do,” adds Tina. 2. Start small, then work from there. Maybe in the future you can branch out and open an outlet if that seems best for you. 3. Constantly innovate and update. Find what’s new about that hobby of yours. “With wedding cakes, for instance, if you don’t update, you’ll be stuck with old-fashioned designs,” says Tina. In her case, she innovates by using local ingredients such as tablea for her Tsokolate Cake, pastillas de leche for her Pastillas De Leche Cake, and barako coffee for her Caramel Coffee Crunch. Right now she’s working on using healthy local ingredients, such as coconut sugar, for her cakes. 4. Maintain best sellers. Even with new items on the menu, keep the crowd favorites. For Taza Platito, the food for the gods and mango bars are mainstays. 5. Get the word out through your network and through the Internet. What put Taza Platito in the public’s eye was exposure in blog sites such as Dessert Comes First and Shopcrazy. Tina also gives out flyers and is working on launching her Multiply site soon.
SCHOOL will be out soon and that means lots of free time for students. This is peak season for those in the summer workshop business, be it in the field of academics (tutorial and review centers), athletics (sports centers), or arts (cooking, art, dance, and creative writing classes, among others). Among those companies offering summer workshops is Zero Gravity, which offers basic and intermediate streetdance theater workshops for preteens, teens, and adults. Located along busy Katipunan Avenue in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Zero Gravity is right smack in student territory with schools like UP, Ateneo, Miriam, Kostka, and Multiple Intelligence International School, among others, just a stone’s throw away. This is good for the company since its target market is the student population. There are a lot of dance workshops being offered especially during summer, but what sets them apart, according to Rebie P. Ramoso, one of the owners, is “the element of theater. Other dance studios focus on developing dance skills. We put together dance, theater and multimedia arts.” As their tagline says it, “We don’t just dance. We tell a story.” This year’s summer workshops, for instance, will be composed of 16 dance sessions and 8 theater sessions. There are five dance teachers on board and one acting coach, Missy Maramara, a theater actor/director. For the culminating activity, they will be staging West Side Story. Rebie teaches dance in Miriam Grade School and noted that there was a need for a venue for students’ dance expression. School performances and competitions were not enough for them. That’s when Rebie, Kristine S. Calleja, and Karen Carlos decided to put up Zero Gravity. They started offering a summer dance workshop in 2007 and quickly saw very shy kids coming out of their shell once they go through the classes. “The fulfillment for us is not in mounting huge productions. It’s in seeing students improve,” says Rebie. Marketing efforts According to Kristine who handles marketing and events, to draw their target market in, Zero Gravity employs direct mail to exclusive villages. They also go direct to schools by putting up posters and giving away flyers. High traffic sites like churches are also visited so they can give out more flyers. Some time ago, they also placed an ad in the newspaper “but that was the worst [marketing effort,]” says Kristine. There was a lot of competition and they only got two respondents from that ad. The best way for them to draw their target market is through viral marketing—the use of the Internet, specifically their Multiply site. About 50 percent of their enrollees found out about them or got in touch with them through their Multiply site. This just goes to show that the youth are very much online and get their information more from the Internet than through traditional media like newspapers. Surviving the lean months But since workshops of this kind are very popular only in the summer, how do they survive the lean months? In 2008, Zero Gravity decided to offer regular classes throughout the year. They have also identified another income stream: offering their studio for rent—which could be a venue for rehearsals, seminars, workshops, and even parties. To maintain their competitive edge, Rebie says, “We keep ourselves updated with the trends abroad. We want to continue striving to be better in dance and in other kinds of art. We’d like to push the boundaries in art and keep growth organic.”
NEW downloadable applications are available at the iTunes store every day, but February 14, 2009 was extra special for Filipino techies. It was the day that a Filipino-developed application for the iPhone was made available for free to anyone interested around the world: the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a free news application developed by Vinta Solutions Inc. for the global organization CFR. To date, more than 4,000 downloads have been recorded in just two weeks' time so much so that the CFR application made it to top 12 downloads list on the iTunes AppStore. Majority of the downloads were made in the United States, with others made in Europe and Asia. Leonides De Ocampo, chairman and CEO of Vinta LLC (the US arm of Vinta Solutions, Inc.), says Vinta is just a small three-year-old family business that's into consulting and outsourcing. He is a mechanical engineer, while his brother, Leon Francis De Ocampo, is an industrial engineer. Both of them are graduates of the University of the Philippines. Leon heads Vinta Solutions, Inc. Leonides also pursued higher studies and finished MS in Mechanical Engineering at Duke University in the US. How Vinta bagged the CFR project is quite interesting. Since Leonides is very much interested in foreign relations and policy and would read the CFR website regularly, he thought of contacting the CFR offices in September 2008 (just when the global financial crisis unraveled and Lehman Brothers collapsed) to offer Vinta's services. Leonides noticed that a lot of news organizations are coming on board the iPhone and thought that CFR would be interested to do the same. "I just contacted them and they were very pleased," he says. "We provide very competitive rates." CFR is an independent foreign policy think tank. Its goal is to help people better understand the world and foreign policies. Even CNN, Leonides says, taps foreign experts from CFR to comment on foreign policy. Membership is stringent as applicants have to possess certain credentials. Among its members are former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, journalists Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer, and actress Angelina Jolie. In the CFR application for iPhone, people can read daily briefs about foreign news, and read expert opinions, interviews and analysis. "CFR sends us a huge chunk of data called a feed. We cut that data into pieces relevant to how the phone displays it," says Leonides. The application can also cache items (create local copies of data on the phone) so readers can go back to previously viewed items easily while connected to the Internet. Leonides says two Filipino developers worked on the CFR application--Luther Estares, a graduate of computer science in Mindanao, and Marni Reyes, a UP Los Banos computer science graduate. "The talent here is everywhere. The intellectual capital we have is very rich," says Leonides. Vinta is also pursuing similar mobile application and data processing projects globally, but the bulk of their work is in doing outsourced AutoCAD services. For mobile applications, current clients are based in the US and Germany. For AutoCAD, Vinta has clients in Canada and the Middle East. The company is also set to launch another free iPhone application in the next few weeks called SabiNila, a news aggregator for the Filipino community. Leonides admits it may be difficult to tap the foreign market at this time because of the global financial crisis. However, with "strong relationships with clients or a strong interest in their business, and the right timing to capture their interest," Filipino companies may be able to get new accounts abroad. He offers two tips for those wanting to tap the foreign market: 1. Go with what you're interested in. You'll then have insight in that market or area. 2. Immerse yourself in the latest trends. In Leonides' case, he noticed how people use phones much and merged this with his interest in foreign news. This gave him material for a proposal to present to CFR. Don't let geography limit you. With the right product, you can pitch that proposal to business prospects worldwide.