Inspiring entrepreneurs turn limitations into opportunities
The sudden changes that the past year has brought had everyone face challenges that they have not encountered before. While struggles differ from one to another, a common goal stands: to pivot and stay afloat.
Such is true for small business owners. Despite movement restrictions caused by community quarantines, micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) are taking on these challenges by being creative and innovative online.
This is the motivation of MSMEs Regina Escolin of Quezon City, Dalareich Polot of Bohol, and Arnie Cotecson of Siargao. They persevered in sustaining their businesses by responding to customers’ needs during the pandemic, and by shifting from brick and mortar shops to digitizing their businesses.
Regina Escolin’s ‘fashion-forward’ shift
Regina Escolin decided that shifting gears is the answer to challenging times. The former marble exporter is now a supplier of Inabel face masks.
After seeing that her marble business was not doing well given the situation, she focused her attention on ways to keep her clientele through a different venture. “I thought of a way to reach out to my clients who like me cannot go out. I searched for suppliers of different items that were needed to fight COVID-19. A friend of mine from Ilocos mentioned that she was making Inabel masks. I got some--a hundred pieces to start off--and it sold out in just an hour.”
Besides giving customers a fashionable option for staying safe, Regina’s Kanami face masks also proudly showcase artful Filipino designs which caught the attention of customers from Europe and the U.S. “It’s a good way to introduce the art of the Philippines to the world,” shares Regina.
Regina shares the struggle of other business owners like herself during this time, but she believes that supporting each other is key. “Lahat tayo parang tinapon sa tubig na hindi mo alam paano ka aahon. (It’s as if we were thrown into the water with no idea how to rise out of.) I learned how to go with the flow and think out of the box. We can go through this together and survive this while helping each other.”
Arnie Cotecson diversifies to ‘brew’ more life into his coffee business
After working in Singapore for 10 years, Arnie moved back to Siargao to reunite with his family and started White Beard Coffee. His coffee shop, which is known for brewing locally-grown coffee beans from Mt. Apo, saw a decrease in customers due to flight restrictions. As locals in their area also observed staying home, he saw an opportunity to bring his products to them instead.
Arnie innovated into bottled, ready-to-drink coffee and offered free delivery with no minimum orders to give his customers more leeway to choose between dine-in or takeaway, which he made known through his Google My Business profile. "When dine-in service was prohibited, I offered free delivery with no minimum orders. In that way, I won the hearts of my clients and they keep ordering from me, from one cookie all the way to bulk orders," he shared.
Understanding his customers' growingly-limited resources, Arnie also shared, “I initiated a flexible, COVID-friendly price for all of my products."
"We also offered a reward system for our customers," he noted, which generated brand loyalty, even among the island's non-coffee drinkers.