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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.

BizWiz

Turn your hobby into a biz – Gem Zapanta

When Gem Zapanta established “Put It In Paper” in 2017, with a start-up capital of PhP5,000, it was because of a hobby. But she made it work, earning ROI in just few transactions.

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When Gem Zapanta established “Put It In Paper” in 2017, with a start-up capital of PhP5,000, it was because of a hobby. 

“Journaling/crafting was my hobby and there were items I’d like to have but didn’t come cheap so I ventured into offering my crafting services and reselling stationery,” she said.

She was actually initially apprehensive entering this line of business. “I was brought up with the thinking there was no money in this field,” she said.

But inspired by her sons, she persevered, eventually not just getting back her capital, but earning profit.

Nowadays, Gem said the big challenge is completing tasks by the deadline. This could also affect creativity. Nonetheless, she said: “Deadlines are easy to face as I work with grace under pressure. For creative blocks, that’s quite hard to (face)… but I push myself into creating even if I’m not in the mood to create because this is where I get money to pay bills.”

Since she also engages her clients to ask them what they really want, it makes the tasks easier since Gem said she no longer has to create something from scratch.

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

“Let’s admit (that) my industry is not essential, and with the pandemic right now, you need to be practical and realistic. Competition is brutal and logistics is a challenge. But if you really want to go into the world of stationeries and crafting, you need to find your niche, build your brand, target your audience and be consistent,” Gem ended.

Want to get in touch with “Put It In Paper”? DM via Instagram: @putitinpaper (https://www.instagram.com/putitinpaper/).

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Go out of your comfort zone – Lia Monica Chua

Meet Lia Monica H. Chua, who opened The Holy Crab PH with a starting capital of PhP50,000, but got ROI in just a few months. Every venture is a risk, she says, but challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone.

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In October 2018, Lia Monica H. Chua opened The Holy Crab PH with a starting capital of PhP50,000. “We initially targeted being a supplier to restaurants and concessionaires,” she recalled, although “there, the competition was fierce, especially when it came to pricing. This nudged us to thinking of other ways to further build our business with the resources we had available, which then led us to coming up with an online food business with crab and shrimps as our main offerings.”

Lia said that going into any business always entails risks. But her former mentor (also currently a partner in Holy Crab PH) of three years encouraged her to start a business. “As a mentor, he has always inspired me to challenge myself and to go out of my comfort zone. Now, we work together in building our brand, our selection and our reach,” Lia said.

But Lia said she was always fascinated with entrepreneurs, including her father. “He always encouraged me to start my own business. There will be a lot more challenges, and a lot more uncertainty but being a business owner would prove to be fulfilling, just as my dad said.”

It helps that Lia graduated in Business Administration.

“But in terms of the actual cooking, I’m afraid I still need more experience,” she smiled. “As our line of business is largely dependent on how we prepare and cook the food, I relied on my partner as he has the know-how on sourcing our ingredients and on the actual cooking.”

But The Holy Crab PH is succeeding; so what they are doing is obviously working.

Lia said that “what sets us apart is our attention to detail, receptive customer service and how we value customer feedback.”

“The need to know and study about the facets needed in your business is important, but do not let your hesitations tie you down. Just take the leap.”

There remain challenges.

For one, “given that our line of business is food, it was critical to ensure the consistency of the taste and quality in the platters we serve. We needed to intensely train our staff on how to properly prepare and cook the food. However, we are directly affected when there is a movement in our staff (resignation, new hires, etc). We had to come up with a system to make sure that there will be minimal disruptions to our processes despite any changes,” Lia said.

Another ongoing challenge is product development to “keep your brand relevant to the market. Without this, the business will stagnate. Product quality is the main reason why your customers will order again from you. This is why it is essential to always, always get customer feedback.”

There is also the issue of scaling up. “When’s the right time to scale up? This was a question that we continuously pondered on. It was a big decision as it would mean we would be investing on equipment, ingredients, manpower, marketing efforts and so on. We were hesitant. But seeing as our sales trend was consistent enough to sustain our investments, and with the common aim to grow our business, we took the risk. There were areas where our investment did not return any income, but this did not dishearten us. Rather, we took the time to reassess what went wrong, and how we can do better. In time, we were able to see our overall sales go beyond our expectations.”

“There is always something new and change is constant. It is essential to be able to stay relevant and be aware of the trends. By being curious, you develop the urge to learn and become open to ideas.”

Nonetheless, looking back, Lia said that “every time we encountered problems, we always had an open mind and faced them head on. No shortcuts, no excuses. As long as you do not lose sight of your main objective in growing the business and are fully determined to give your utmost effort to meet that goal, you will be able to overcome any obstacle.”

For people who may also want to go into this line of business, what tips can Lia give?

First, she said, “don’t be afraid to the take the risk. There will always be doubts when you try out something new, but it’s always best to start somewhere than to never start at all. There are some who have the tendency to overthink to the point that they do not make any decisions any more, which is disastrous in any business. The need to know and study about the facets needed in your business is important, but do not let your hesitations tie you down. Just take the leap.”

Second, “surround yourself with people you aspire to be. This was the major turning point for me where I wanted to become more. Mindset for me is the hardest to change, but once you are able to shift your perspective, everything will follow. That is why it is important to surround yourself with the people you usually look up to, since you will unconsciously try to keep up with them and be inspired by them. Ultimately, you will keep pushing yourself forward and you will be able to reach to their level.”

And lastly, “be curious. There is always something new and change is constant. It is essential to be able to stay relevant and be aware of the trends. By being curious, you develop the urge to learn and become open to ideas,” Lia said.

For a business that reached ROI less than three months after opening,  Lia knows what she’s talking about. And yes, this could definitely help others too.

For more information about The Holy Crab PH, head to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theholycrabph) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/theholycrabph/); or email holycrabph2018@gmail.com.

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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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