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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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‘Don’t be discouraged nor lose hope even if the process is difficult’ – Cyramae Ubaldo

This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000. “Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first.”

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This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000.

“(When) I started planning my wedding, I thought scented candles would make great souvenirs,” she recalled. Though, obviously, these would also be applicable for any other events. And “that gave me an idea to start this business.”

Since she finished BS IT, Cyramae said she never imagined that candle making would become her passion. In a way, this makes the venture challenging.

“Some days I tend to become hesitant if I’m going to pursue this business. (I have) lots of negative thoughts (about this business) – e.g. that it might fail right away, that no one would purchase the goods, that my candles won’t be pleasing compared to others,” she said.

But with the support of her partner, “I was able to push through.”

She has yet to reach ROI, but Cyramae thinks this is a profitable business.

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

“Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first. The most important thing is that you love and you’re happy of what you’ve been doing. Even it is a small progress, it’s still one step towards your goal,” Cyramae ended.

For those who want to get in touch with Candle La Vie, head to Facebook or Instagram.

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Create value for your biz to succeed – Jico Ambrocio

Jico Ambrocio, founder of Elo Athletics, believes in creating value for your customers. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following.”

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Elo Athletics – better known as just Elo – was conceptualized around July 2020, and officially launched via Instagram in October of the same year with an investment of around PhP150,000 to cover startup costs and the initial inventory of products.

It was, perhaps, a line of business Jico Ambrocio would eventually enter.

“I’ve been very close to the fitness industry, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle ever since I was in high school,” he said. “I was an active gym goer before and I pursued weightlifting as my main source of physical activity throughout college and even when I started working.”

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Jico was placed in a similar position as many others – i.e. “I couldn’t keep doing it because all the gyms had to temporarily close down.”

Jico tried exercising at home by doing bodyweight exercises such as HIIT, but he said he didn’t enjoy it as much as working out in the gym “maybe because there was always a feeling of isolation and uncertainty during this pandemic, that I couldn’t push myself to perform intense exercises.”

And then he came across Yoga, “and it really changed my perspective on health. Yoga taught me to be mindful of my emotions and to adopt a holistic approach to fitness.”

The newfound love – i.e. Yoga – led to the establishment of Elo Athletics.

“I… felt that the brand can open opportunities to spread the importance of taking care of our well-being, especially our mental health,” Jico said.

LOVING THE INDUSTRY YOU CHOOSE

It helps that Jico studied Business Administration and Accountancy in college, and “it has always been a personal dream to be able to start and grow my own brand. Back then, I thought my first brand would fall under either the food or fashion industry, and not in the industry that Elo is currently a part of.”

All the same, “thinking about it now, I love the industry that I’m in because I know that the products and services we can create will be valued by a lot of people since most of us really value our well-being. My degree helped me make better decisions for the brand but it was my personal experiences that really pushed me to do my best.”

As a new biz, “we haven’t reached ROI yet,” Jico admitted. Nonetheless, “I’m seeing a lot of opportunities for the brand to grow and I’m still personally investing more money in it so we can create better experiences for our customers. I would say that it’s a profitable venture because we are able to generate a healthy volume of sales, but it also requires a lot of patience to see it through until it eventually reaches ROI. Hopefully that happens soon.”

FACING CHALLENGES

There are still challenges.

“One of the main challenges I face is being insecure about the brand and its progress. I’m constantly aware of the actions of competitors and I tend to compare the growth of my brand to theirs — which has negative effects on my confidence, and belief in our products,” Jico admitted. 

However, “I have learned to overcome this feeling by focusing on the things we currently have. I realized that if I start looking inward — looking at positive customer reviews, or how many customers we’ve served, I am able to help myself view these challenges positively and constructively.”

On the business side, delivery and logistics are also challenging the running of the business. 

“I have to ensure that the products arrive to customers on time and in their best state. This means that I would also put a lot of effort into tracking the status of deliveries and communicating with customers, and consistently working with our couriers and partners to make sure that the delivery process is good,” Jico said.

But Jico is confident Elo will eventually carve its name in this industry.

JUST START

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

“Don’t be afraid to start! The fact that we have to invest money in a business means that we have a tendency to make sure that everything is perfect before launching — because no one wants their money to go to waste. However, the act of actually launching your product/service and getting it out there will really help you create better products/services for the people you cater to. Start with something small, listen to your customers, innovate and improve, and things will get better,” he said.

It helps to do initial research about the industry: the product, the prospective customers, competitors, etc. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following,” Jico ended.

For more information or to order, head to IG: @elo.athletics, or Facebook.

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Believe in your product – Jansen Prado

The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000. “Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.

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The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000.

“Our family loves to cook. We just love cooking and making our guests happy with food.. good food at that… And we always had this plan to launch our family’s heirloom recipes. We want to ‘put them out there’ and share to everyone the love and passion that goes into every dish,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.

In fact, by the end of 2019, “we were already gearing up to launch our mom’s estofado seco; and we planned to sell them in jars.”

But then COVID-19 happened…

Though, initially, “we decided to put everything to a halt… we saw how the pandemic hit so many of our ‘kababayans’. We had to do something.” And so “we aimed to help not just our own kitchen but other home cooks, too, who were displaced by the pandemic. We reached out to people whom we knew can lead us to people that can cook really well.”

And so, yes, The Pantry Project Manila came into being.

The first dish offered was the “badass bopis”, a recipe “loaned to us by our mom,” Jansen said.

Now, why bopis?

“(We) want the public to be comfortable eating bopis. That bopis can be very meticulously prepared, clean and positively distinguished. And that bopis can be gourmet and not be too expensive at the same time,” Jansen said.

ROI has already been reached, and “I am really very grateful.” This is also a profitable business, though “hard work and creativity are really essential.”

In hindsight, “I never thought I would be the one who will be pushing this plan. I have pictured my sisters to make this business materialize. I was so much into what I was doing in the corporate world that I did not see this coming,” Jansen said.

Fortunately for him, he has a degree in Marketing Management that “I find very helpful to the business.”

There remain challenges.

“The biggest challenge, especially during these times in the MSME world, is creating your market, your niche,” Jansen said.

Also, “with our main product, the Badass Bopis, it was hard to convince people that it is worth trying. A lot of people have reservations regarding eating the dish. So yeah, we had to add more to the menu.”

Businesses, of course, need to learn to face challenges.

For Jansen, the approach is to “focus on our purpose and knowing that there are a number of people who depend on the online pantry’s operations; this keeps us going.”

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

“Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going. Always welcome change as it is inevitable. Patience. You need tons of this. Have faith. No day is the same, so stay calm, focus, work harder. Optimism will never hurt,” Jansen ended.

Wanna get in touch with The Pantry Project Manila? Head to Facebook or Instagram: @pantryprojectmnl; email pantryprojectmnl@gmail.com; or call/text 09052700617.

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