Small Capital, Big Needs: How The Pandemic Gave Rise To Local Businesses in the Philippines
Five Pinoys share the beginnings of their small online business amid the global pandemic.
The implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March 2020 affected the global economy so bad that the business outlook has since been bleak. But on this side of the world – and Pinoys being Pinoys -- we always rise to the occasion. As industries declined, those who lost their livelihood began tapping their entrepreneurial skills as a way to cope financially.
If there is a bright side to the pandemic, it’s that it nudged small business owners to jumpstart new passions, boost productivity, and pursue business ventures. Sometimes by a sheer need to survive or just an itch they need to scratch, finding their calling as entrepreneurs in the world of online businesses came to these five individuals at a time they expected it the least. Here are their inspiring stories.
Cookie N’ Amo
Katherine Ocampo, a former pre-kinder teacher, began her cookie business in May 2020.
“Unfortunately, the school I was teaching at decided to make retrenchments. This gave me more time to plan my wedding and to make my baking fantasies a reality,” she says, “and legitimize my cookie business.”
Apart from teaching, Katherine used to bake occasionally for her family and friends, but mostly for herself, as she loves to munch on snacks. With the turn of events and her friend Alex’s affirmation after sampling the cookies, she set out to work. Katherine bought ingredients, baking pans, cookie boxes, and other supplies with her starting capital of Php 5,000, which came from her wedding funds.
Besides being her passion, the cookie business has also helped pay Katherine’s bills and other expenses. “The pandemic gave me the time and opportunity to pursue something that I really wanted to do for a very long time,” shares Katherine. This is the fulfillment of a childhood dream, and she would always get that kilig feeling when customers say they liked her cookies.
As a piece of advice, Katherine says to never be discouraged by competitors. “Always explore your creativity and pursue your passions.”
Cookie N’ Amo’s best sellers are the Chunky (Php 42) and Nutty (Php 50). To order, send them a direct message on Instagram.
Slow Burn MNL
“I’ve always thought of starting my own food business and I saw the opportunity during the pandemic,” says Chrysoberyl Morales, owner of Slow Burn MNL, a food tray business that offers creative and restaurant-quality food. He officially began in September 2020, with his younger brother Dale Morales and his best friend Matthew Ignacio as co-owners.
“[I’ve been] conceptualizing different food concepts and flavor combinations and spent a lot of time experimenting on various recipes in the kitchen until we finally have what we use now,” shares Chrysoberyl.
While he began his career in the academe, his inherent interest in food inspired him to shift to the hotel and restaurant industry. “Now that I have started our business and we have a very united and talented team, I recently accepted a part-time teaching job,” he adds.
He dedicates his food business to his late grandfather, Edilberto Hernandez, and is proud of the fact that through Slow Burn MNL, they were able to give opportunities to those who have lost their jobs. “We were also able to provide businesses to our suppliers and we had a primary source of income without leaving our home,” shares Chrysoberyl.
“Offer something unique and of good and safe quality, and if you do, your customers will buy again and recommend you,” advises Chrysoberyl.
Slow Burn MNL’s main offerings are the Turf & Surf (Php 899/half tray) and Surf & Surf (Php 999/half tray). To order, message them on their mobile at 0956-0270730.
Growing up with parents who loved plants, it came naturally for Anne De Leon to develop an interest in collecting and propagating plants herself.
Anne recounts the beginnings of Plantarium MNL, which she co-owns with her partner Janet Garcia. “During the ECQ, we wanted to replace our pots with new ones so we started painting terracotta pots with our own designs,” shares Anne. Seeing their creations, family and friends began to ask how they could buy the pots. Anne and Janet eventually decided to sell plants as well.
Before the pandemic struck, Anne was associate director in a BPO company. She took a break for a month and was supposed to return to the corporate world, but that changed when Plantarium MNL was born.
“Prior to Plantarium, we had been [looking into] several business ideas, but I think it is really different when you start doing something that you love,” she says. “Passion is the key.”
“Needless to say, the plants give us so much joy and relaxation. Making people happy during this period also makes us feel successful,” shares Anne.
Plantarium MNL sells a variety of plants like Golden Pothos (Php 800), Sansevieria Laurentti (Php 650), and Fittonia Frankie (Php 590), among others. They also have repotting services. To inquire, send them a direct message on Instagram.
Virtual yoga sessions
After losing her full-time job as Head of Marketing for a live streaming app, Jennifer Non ventured to teaching yoga at studios and gyms while searching for a new opportunity. But with community quarantine in effect, fitness centers also had to temporarily stop operations. Jennifer shares that the studio she was affiliated with adapted to the digital space and offered limited schedules only.
“That meant I had to create teaching opportunities for myself -- not just to keep teaching, but also as a means to survive as I had to look for ways to keep earning and to support myself,” she says.
Jennifer says she always had this vague idea to start something but didn’t know for sure what that was. There was also little motivation to do it since she was comfortable with her full-time job.
“Events in the past year certainly had a way of pushing all of us out of our comfort zones, and I finally thought, ’What the heck, let's do this!’” she shares.
In March, Jennifer began teaching online yoga, meditation, and HIIT Pilates classes for free via Facebook and Instagram Live, then later moved her sessions to Zoom.
By April, Jennifer had a feeling that things may not go back to normal anytime soon. “I had to take matters into my own hands [and] create my own destiny. The need for yoga and meditation [became] even greater with the pandemic and quarantine situation and so, ‘Move Well With Jen Non’ was born.”
Now, Jennifer teaches virtual yoga classes daily at Php 200 per session and holds private classes. She recently launched a 16-week program called ‘Yoga For Newbies’, a video-on-demand format, which has an early bird promo of Php 2,000 for lifetime access until the end of January.
“Fortune favors the bold,” Jennifer quotes the Latin proverb as a piece of advice to fellow small entrepreneurs. “If you have an idea, go ahead and give it a try! But be prepared to work hard.”
The pandemic may seem like an off time to set up your own small business, but you just have to do what you have to do. At the very least, it’s a way to unleash your creativity, boost productivity, and generate income. Still, you’ll never know -- your idea might just be the next big thing!