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Work hard… but work smart – Antonio Aguirre Jr.

Antonio Aguirre Jr. – the CEO of Sole Slam Industries Inc. – started doing online one-on-one coaching earlier this year, around January. But he now makes a living from this, while affecting people’s lives.

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Antonio Aguirre Jr. – the CEO of Sole Slam Industries Inc. – started doing online one-on-one coaching earlier this year, around January. But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and “it was difficult to do my… coaching in person,” he recalled.

This didn’t discourage him, though, since “I had to find a way to do it online, and this opened new doors for me.”

Coaching is a good biz move, he said.

“Since I only needed my laptop or my phone, and a stable internet connection, I didn’t really need to spend on anything at all to do it. I basically created my own curriculum/program that I teach all of my students, depending on their needs,” Antonio said.

“My father always told me, ‘Stop chasing money, let money chase you.’ You’d be surprised what that kind of mindset will bring to you.”

Looking back, “I never realized… that I could teach. I thought that I needed to have some sort of degree or educational attainment to teach something that I knew by heart that works, which I did.”

As a little backstory, Antonio created a brand called Sole Slam Industries Inc. in 2011, and with its success even sans spending a single peso for advertising, “many companies reached out to me for me to teach them how social media marketing and branding works. From there, my expertise just continued to grow as a consultant for major companies and also for other types of businesses.”

It must have been around 2015 when Antonio first did a public speaking gig for a prominent university. “It was at that moment that I knew that I could teach what I knew that actually works, and people started paying attention to what I did and how I did it. From public speaking events, keynote speeches, private engagements for companies and webinars, I continued to teach branding, social media and marketing.”

Antonio added: “I think being engaged in a lot of public speaking engagements and getting paid for it got my interest going. I figured that if I am not great at 98% of the things in the world, the 2% which I’m good at, is something that I can become great and become an expert, which I found out is a huge commodity for a certain niche that they would actually pay for, just to be able to pick your brain.”

Antonio said he never thought this would be a line of biz he’d be in. “I graduated from DLSU-College of Saint Benilde with a degree of BSBA-Computer Applications. It is completely not aligned to what I do now at all.”

“I think time management is really important here when you actually adhere to schedule, because I value the time I spend with my students as much as they value the time they spend with me every time we meet online.”

Also, “I’m a true example of an introvert. Growing up in school, facing a huge crowd or being on stage frightened me so much, I would freeze. But when I did my first public speaking engagement back in 2015, talking about Digital Marketing, I could talk and talk for over an hour without any fear or hesitation,” he said.

Now, apart from coaching/teaching, “I, together with my wife Kristina, run a few businesses together, mostly in retail fashion, essential supplies, F&B, online trade, to name a few. I also am a consultant for various companies now, but due to the pandemic, the opportunities to grow have been a lot harder like most people now.”

The change in the market is – obviously – a challenge.

“Honestly, just finding more time to coach more people one-on-one every day (is a challenge),” he said. “I teach about 12-15 people a week for about 30-45 minutes a day, and even if I wanted to take in more people a month, I value my personal time and time with my family more than ever, so I try to limit the time I spend online.”

For Antonio, “I think time management is really important here when you actually adhere to schedule, because I value the time I spend with my students as much as they value the time they spend with me every time we meet online.”

This is a profitable venture, Antonio said.

“As long as you have a certain knowledge in something that’s of value to anybody, you will find your target market guaranteed. This is part of the value that I teach my students who are enrolled in my classes,” he said.

“If making money primarily is your primary intent, you will not be happy doing it. But if you do something you’re passionate about, and you’re motivated and dedicated to it every single day consistently, the money will follow you.”

He admits that “this has been existing in other parts of the world, particularly in the US, but not really in our country yet, so I consider myself as a trailblazer in this type of service that I provide.” This is an edge for him. “The massive value I bring for the cost that they spend is well worth it. Most of my students have learned from my business strategies and have applied it to their own businesses to grow it way better and faster than they used to.

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Antonio give?

“I believe in working hard, but I also believe in working smart. I think what’s important is, whenever you’re trying to start a business, begin with the end in mind with what your intentions are really. If making money primarily is your primary intent, you will not be happy doing it. But if you do something you’re passionate about, and you’re motivated and dedicated to it every single day consistently, the money will follow you,” Antonio said. “My father always told me, ‘Stop chasing money, let money chase you.’ You’d be surprised what that kind of mindset will bring to you.”

Wanna get in touch with Antonio Aguirre Jr.? Head to antonioaguirrejr.com, email antonio@soleslam.com, send iMessage/text to +639989941104, DM Instagram account @AntonioAguirre.Jr or FB.

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Rise from tragedy, helm a business – Connie Hina

Connie Hina’s daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was robbed, stabbed and left for dead over eight years ago. She survived, and is now baking as part of her therapy. And their biz’s offerings are good, too, now making a splash.

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The formal start of Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner was on June 9, 2020, “when one of our neighbors bought our first banana loaf and other neighbors signified their interest to buy,” Connie Hina said. “We decided to have a formal online launching by creating an FB Page on June 20, 2020.”

The startup capital: PhP1,400.

But prior to this, Connie said they have been sharing samples of their baked goods to neighbors and the gate guards (particularly when they had significant events like birthdays). These goods were a hit, and “we gathered positive feedback on the taste and consistency.”

And given the Covid-19 pandemic, “we realized that demand for food products that can be purchased online increased, especially since baked shops and restaurants are either closed or not operating regularly. We saw this as an opportunity to try the market of ready-to-eat products that can respond to people’s cravings for finely and uniquely delicious baked goods.”

A DEEPER STORY

But what not many may immediately know is that Connie’s family’s venture into this line of business was triggered by a tragic occurrence.

Eight years ago, her daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was a fourth-year UP Diliman B.S Political Science student and active student leader. In the afternoon of the 1st of February 2012, inside the USC Office, Vinzons Hall, UP Diliman – while on volunteer duties for the University Student Council – Lordei was robbed, stabbed seven times in the left side of her head with an ice pick and beaten in the face with a metal object.

“Her assailants pretended to be applicants of a booth for the UP Fair,” Connie said.

The most fatal stab wound was the one that pierced through from the left to the right side of her brain (just like “na-barbecue”); likewise, a skull bone fragment of one centimeter in size got embedded in her brain. Moreover, the beating before the deadly stabbing fractured both of Lordei’s sinuses and nose bridge.

“Worst, the suspect locked the room of the USC Office before he fled, leaving my bloody and unconscious daughter lying on the floor. It took about 30 minutes before my daughter’s companion found a key to open the door, after which, she was rushed to the hospital,” Connie said.

Lordei survived as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) victim. But the double brain injuries impaired Lordei’s memory, speech, cognitive and motor skills.

“It is a miracle that Lordei survived; thank God. She was given a slim chance considering the magnitude of damage to her brain,” Connie said.

Lordei was confined in the hospital for more than three months, with almost a month of being in coma. Afterwards, she could not move her body, eat and talk. After her discharge, she continued with her rehabilitation and therapies at home – i.e. occupational, physical speech, neuro-psychology, etc. – to regain her brain-related functions that had been damaged.

Lordei can already walk, talk and eat on her own at present, but her right arm is still semi-paralyzed, she has memory lapses, and behaving like a child from time to time. Her injured hypothalamus affects her emotion and body temperature.

“Thank God she is not violent like other victims of TBI. She is still under continuous medication and therapies up to this moment,” Connie said.

To engage in a productive activity as part of her therapy based on the advice of her doctor, Lordei started baking.

“The business is also a way to help her augment the cost of her continued medication and therapies. As a single mother, I am the sole breadwinner for my daughter,” Connie said.

INSPIRATIONAL MOVE

Lordei is, of course, the inspiration for this business; but Connie said that her son Carlo, and niece Joyjoy (a nurse by profession) helped push this business forward.

“In fact, at that time when my daughter was stabbed, Carlo was baking her favorite, a blueberry cheesecake. It was still in the oven (when the tragedy happened) and the baking had to be stopped as we rushed to the hospital,” Connie recalled.

Looking back, this seemed like a field they were going to go into.

“My late mother – Nanay Inday Silveria – was an excellent cook. She could blend simple ingredients into something very delicious and palatable. The smile of those who ate her dishes was a reward for her,” Connie said. “It is from her where I learn how to cook and bake simple cakes.”

JUST A START

Connie is still planning to own another business – in agri-business, not baking. “I want to have a self-sufficient and sustainable farm in my home town in Southern Leyte; but come to think of it, the ingredients we used are from the farm – so it is more production or adding value of processed farm products,” she said.

Connie completed Master in Management – major in Development Management in her post graduate degree, and a B.S. in Agricultural Business Management in her college degree in UP Los Baños.

So the business is aligned with her expertise because the concept of management in general, and financial and marketing management, in particular are the same across business types. “So this business is like a laboratory for me – where I can apply practically what I learned from my academic studies and in my work experience as international consultant and trainer on financial inclusion and development management.”

FACING CHALLENGES

“Every business start-up is always faced with challenges in various degree as part of the ‘birth pains’. But so far, we encountered only minimal challenges like taking longer time to book courier for deliveries, non-availability of ingredients, especially now that many people are engaging in baking. There are also customers who want to buy right away, thinking that we have a physical store or outlet,” Connie said.

They have been coming up with specialized solutions – e.g. with the courier, they resort to other available courier or, “worst case scenario, we deliver using our car – which we also use for TNVS – like Grab,” Connie said.

For the availability of ingredients, “we buy in bulk so we have stocks.” And for those who want to buy right away, “we inform them to give us time and place the order at least two to three days prior to delivery date. Although there are instances when we have less delivery for a day, we accommodate them and they can order and have it delivered within the day.”

GOOD BIZ MOVE

Is this a profitable venture?

“There is not much of an investment cost here since we do not have a stall or a physical outlet. The main investments are the oven (of which the shelf life is already exhausted) and baking equipment and utensils. We bought a new portable oven though after two weeks to accommodate our batch delivery. I would say the cost is relatively not that much so I can say we already have attained our ROI since we started,” Connie said.

For people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Connie give?

“One must have a passion on something and transform that passion into concrete goals. Set a goal first then break it into do-ables – plan – take the first step to make it happen,” Connie said.

Then look at the market (demand and supply side). “What opportunity can one take advantage of – like in this pandemic – despite the many negative impacts it brings? There are also many opportunities.”

Connie also recommends for people to “be creative and always think of the satisfaction of the customer”; directly communication with customers (e.g. thank them during the first point of contact – regardless if they are only asking or placing order already, get their feedbacks after each complete order and send a personalized note); and for a family business, make sure that each involved member of the family is in the same mindset, commitment and passion.

Lastly, do the business not just purely for profit but on how this business can be of help.

“Our slogan is order for a cause. While the cause is for my daughter, but still, if my daughter can be helped and can get back to normal, she can help a lot more people (she already did before the tragedy happened). She is still hoping that she can be a lawyer someday and help the disadvantaged and discriminated who are deprived of justice and their rights,” Connie said.

In ending, Connie said to “always put God (or whoever one believes in – higher self) first in everything (regardless of what religion you belong to). Seek for guidance and bring Him in what you think, say and do. Have deep faith that in every business or undertaking, it is an expression of who you are – unique creation, regardless of status in life, gender orientation, etc.”

To support Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner, head to Facebook; email lordeiwbc@gmail.com; or call/text 09566090363.

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Do not be afraid to fail and try again – Andrea Austria

Introducing D’s Hive Bee Farm, established by Andrea Austria to showcase nature’s offerings. “Find your passion and do not be afraid to fail and try again,” she says.

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In 2018, Andrea A. Austria and her partner were looking for a business to open. At that time, her partner had been watching bee-keeping in YouTube for a while, “and he got interested with how wonderful and hardworking bees are,” she said.

Paired with their love to take care of animals, they established D’s Hive Bee Farm.

“I always saw myself teaching (as a) licensed teacher (with a master’s degree in special education),,” Andrea said. But yeah, business beckoned.

“Keeping bees in itself is so challenging. We have to consider many things in bee-keeping, like skills in dealing with the behavior of native bees, weather, consumers’ awareness on honeybees, collapse of colony due to wax moth, and application of inorganic chemicals/pesticides in the nearby farms that kill our bees,” she said.

To deal with these challenges, “aside from sending our beekeeper (Jordan Calingasan) to UPLB bee program training to acquire basic skills, we continuously learn from soliciting pieces of advice from experienced beekeepers and learning from personal experiences as well.”

But yes, Andrea said, this is a profitable venture.

Though aside from the monetary earnings, there is also “self-fulfillment since we are working with nature.”

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Andrea give?

“Find your passion and do not be afraid to fail and try again,” she ended.

Check out D’s Hive Bee Farm on Facebook and Instagram. You may also call or text 09566688805.

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In biz, never forget who helped you start – Apple Conlu-Veloso

Apple Conlu-Veloso and her sisters started the branding of Swannie’s in 2018. But during the lockdown, “I saw the opportunity to cater to the needs of my neighbors and later on, I catered to neighboring villages and nearby areas.” It’s now a fast-growing biz.

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Technically, Apple Conlu-Veloso and her sisters started the branding of Swannie’s in 2018. “We were suppose to start selling cooked food back then to help fund the hospitalization of our mother,” she said. But “we weren’t able to really pursue it until ECQ started.”

But during the lockdown, “I saw the opportunity to cater to the needs of my neighbors and later on, I catered to neighboring villages and nearby areas.”

Aside from Apple, the other women behind Swannie’s include her sister and their mom.

Apple didn’t really spend a lot to start the business. “Let’s say a total of PhP50,000… including the chest type freezer, which is about half of my capital.”

It helped that her family was supportive of her. “They really help and push me to do more because they saw the potential and they see that I am happy with what I’m doing,” Apple said, adding with a smile: “Well, anything about food makes me happy.”

Looking back, though, going into business was a path she was going to take.

“I grew up with my mom baking all sorts of cakes and pastries and selling them, so this food business is not really new to me,” she said.

There remain challenges – e.g. shortage of supply, and rapid and sometimes extreme price changes. But “I learned to find new suppliers so if supplier 1 does not have the items that I need, I have supplier 2 and 3 to go to, and so on and so forth.”

She also still has her work, “so juggling the business on the side and still doing mg full-time work is really exhausting,” Apple said.

But that this business is profitable is something Apple said is a must-know, definitely.

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Apple give?

“It’s best to find a supplier who can give you items and do consignment for a start (but please do not abuse them). This way, you will not shell out a big amount right away. Until such time na makaipon ka na, then you will be able to buy your own goods,” she said.

She also recommends not burning bridges as much as possible “especially to the people who helped you start the business. The people who helped you when you were starting are the first people who believed in you. Do not put that into waste because of money.”And lastly: “Always value your family and… friends. And above all, God first.”

Interested to check out the offerings of Swannie’s? Head to FB: @Swannie’s and IG: @swannie.s. Or call/text 09231963487 or 09153482332.

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