So you want to breakaway from routine, do something else on the side, or resign from your job altogether and start anew. In fact, you’ve already been fantasizing about putting up your own business. You think it’s easy.
Until you come across some article or television feature showing people your age, or even younger, proclaiming their entrepreneurial success to the world, some achieved with generous financial help from their supportive folks! Instantly, all hopes of building your own empire are dashed. You need lots of money to make money, and you don’t have that. So you figure you might as well forget about it.
But you shouldn’t give up so easily, say the experts. “People usually think you need lots of money (to start a business),” says Arturo Mangabat, chairman of the Training Department of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP-ISSI). “But it’s just a matter of learning how to start small and estimating how much minimum capital you really need because you don’t need to have a large capital to begin. Huwag munang bongga kaagad.”
Carmen Dawson of the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship of the Asian Institute of Management agrees. “Even those who have money start small. And those who have no money start ‘micro’.”
“Micro” meaning “micro-business”. And this is where you come in. Businesses falling under this category are those with capitalizations of only P150,000 and below. Here you will already find various opportunities for business as well as support from numerous government and private agencies.
However, both Mangabat and Dawson say that it is important for you to first find out what you really want to do and if you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Going into business takes a lot more hard work than most people think.
“When you have decided that you want to become an entrepreneur,” advises Managabat, “you have to identify what the appropriate project for you is. When you’ve done that, then it’s time to prepare. Find out all you can about the project before you invest. Prepare a business plan or feasibility study, or something that will guide you and give you information about the project you are about to undertake. Dapat alam mo ang mga pasikut-sikot nito.”
Mangabat says you should ask yourself questions like: Can I become an entrepreneur? If I become one, what rewards can I get (from being one)? What are the risks and trials I have to face? Am I ready to have a drastic change in lifestyle?
The easiest way to start is to choose a potential business based on what you already know and enjoy. A hobby perhaps—be it baking pastries or constructing model airplanes or toddler’s toys from wood. It is important that the business you plan to go into is something you actually love to do because it will need your 24-hour attention.
Which brings us to the next step: self-assessment. Mangabat cites what he calls the 10 Personal Entrepreneurial Competencies that one must have in order to succeed in business. Students of the short courses at the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP-ISSI) first undergo a formal diagnostic assessment of themselves to find out if they have what it takes. Check if you have it too by asking yourself these questions:
1. Do I seek opportunities?
Dawson expands this further by citing Professor Ed Morato, head of the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship, when he said that prospective entrepreneurs should be opportunity-finders. They must be able to identify and take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
2. Am I persistent?
Going into business has its own share of problems (people, systems, the environment, etc.) You must be able to weather those.
3. Am I committed to the work contract?
Not only is this the right thing to do, it is also part of building up the trust between you and your clients, suppliers and even your employees.
4. Do I demand quality and efficiency?
You should ask for nothing less.
5. Am I a risk-taker?
Or, better yet, are you a risk-manager as Dawson prefers. He says you should have the guts to deal with things that are new or previously unknown to you. However, it is important that you do it smartly. Prepare yourself well.
6. Am I a goal-setter?
Writing down your goals helps. This will give you clearer directions and serve as a guide as you nurture your business. Know how you will achieve those goals of yours and work towards it.
7. Am I an information-seeker?
It is not enough to know what you already know. Always seek more knowledge about the business you’re in: trends in the market, a better way of doing things maybe, etc. Ask other entrepreneurs. Many are willing to share their experiences. Go to institutions like UP-ISSI which conduct regular trainings on entrepreneurship or the AIM. Find out about trends and other details of the business of your choice (investment profiles) from the Department of Trade and Industry. Get more details from the Bureau of Small-Medium Business and Development. Several “how-to” courses and pamphlets and books are also available at the Technology Resource and Livelihood Center and the Department of Science and Technology. Trade shows also provide an excellent opportunity to meet and learn from fellow entrepreneurs, suppliers and buyers. (SM Megamall, for instance, hosts numerous trade shows in the Megatrade Halls throughout the year).
8. Am I into systematic planning and monitoring?
Operations must run like clockwork, and every development must be given your utmost attention.
9. Am I persuasive? Do I have networking abilities?
People skills are necessary in every aspect of the business. While your greatest joy may be working alone, creating designs for business cards on your computer, starting to sell that business means that you will have to go out of your shell and actually make contact with potential clients, suppliers and other support groups.
10. Do I have self-confidence?
The secret to success in business is a strong belief in yourself!
When you’ve analyzed yourself in the light of these ten competencies, determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then, work on improving your weaknesses and determine how much money you need to start up your business.
Starting Out as a Hobby
While running a business can be an arduous task, starting out shouldn’t be so difficult or costly. Bernice, an architectural graduate, found that her hobby of the moment makes for an enjoyable and lucrative business. She makes pop-up greeting cards.
“I’ve been making those cards while I was still in school” she says, “although I didn’t have much time. Before long, my classmates and their friends and relatives began to be interested in my cards! (I found it) exciting that people actually wanted to buy something I made.”
Bernice says she spent for only a couple of instructional books bought at National Bookstore, as well as the materials needed for the cards like illustration boards, parchment paper, colored linen paper and the like. As for the tools, she already had them as she was using them for her school projects. “For now, I get orders from friends of friends or relatives,” she relates. “When there are too many orders, I just ask for help from my cousin and a former classmate.”
Expanding with Just a Little
Marni, who bakes and sells pastries, and occasionally makes pasta sauce, says that for P25,000 you can expand your food or crafts business by adding a little more value to your products. “Perhaps you can create better packaging, for instance,” she advises. “And maybe, now is the time to make labels or tags for your items.” She says investing a little more makes your products a little bit more attractive aside from improving the products themselves. “I try not to scrimp on the ingredients, I think that’s what makes products like these special.” Selling your products in tiangges and bazaars also helps, she says. “That way, you don’t limit yourself to immediate family or social circle. In a tiangge, other people will get to sample your wares. If they like, hopefully, they’ll buy more and spread the word!”
Cynthia, a Fine Arts graduate and is now working freelance doing graphic design, lay-out and other artwork jobs. Even before graduation, she took it upon herself to learn and hone her skills in design using the computer. It wasn’t long before she realized that she could actually make a business out of her hobby. “It’s amazing how much flexibility a computer can offer,” she says. “And since I’m now freelancing after leaving the corporate communications job I had two years ago, I find this tool very helpful.”
Cynthia was able to save enough to buy a new computer for almost P50,000. She promised herself a new software and some more hardware to make her PC more powerful. She has asked a friend, another freelance artist, to join her. Together, they’re making good business producing stationery, brochures, posters and direct mail materials.
Use Resources You Already Have
Putting up a business for P100,00 or less wasn’t so difficult for Jeannie, 30, a former TV professional who now does video coverages of family events. She already had a Handycam (bought for a little less than P50,000), and a tripod. When she was beginning, all she needed was a tripod, a few videotapes, some lights and a studio to edit the tapes in. She borrowed the lights from her uncle, bought the tapes herself and contracted a small production house that accepts edit jobs for small, non-broadcast projects like these. She also pulled in two of her barkada to help out.
“My first victims were my lolo and lola on their 50th wedding anniversary!” she says, laughing.
These days, Jeannie and her friends still get calls (mainly from relatives and friends) to cover reunions, birthdays, and of course, weddings. They also make short video clips that are shown in these gatherings. (“Things like ‘A Tribute to Lolo’ or something like that,” she says.)
“I’m hoping that soon enough these productions for our friends and relatives will result in more connections, who will be interested in hiring us to produce corporate videos or other AVPs. That should be good!”
Remember, whatever business you choose to pursue, be creative and resourceful. And as your enterprise grows, you may be ready to join the formal sector soon and become a small-scale business. This will require you to register with the appropriate agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Social Security System, the mayor’s office, and the baranggay.
But these are procedures you will learn along the way. In the meantime, enjoy your new project and good luck!