Random Thoughts on Starting a Business

Two months ago, a colleague shared that they had started an apartment rental business. It’s going well. She and her husband get their monthly expenses from the business so their salary goes to their savings. We discussed some merits on having your own business, but we both agreed that it requires time, a bit of luck (all their tenants are good payers and take care of the property too), and a focal person who will focus on and handle the business.

Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

This brings my mind to several years back, when a work colleague invited me to a business investment opportunity called “Filtrepreneur” (Filipino entrepreneur), a food cart franchising company. The idea was to invest in the company, buy your products (discounted if wholesale) from the company for a food cart business, and sell them with a marked up price to gain profits. The idea for a food cart business right in front of your home, or any place you’re familiar with seemed appealing, that I was convinced to proceed with the initial investment, shelling out some hard earned money from teaching.

However, I realized that this type of business, while it may work for other people, can’t fit into my lifestyle. My interest on it waned. So I bid goodbye to the money I invested; it wasn’t a big amount so that’s okay. My friend did prosper though. She left her work at a review center, focused on the food cart business for a year or so, then stopped when it became tiring and unprofitable. Then she applied for a more stable job.

Another good business venture is native products, particularly native bags made from abaca. For example, in my hometown in Albay, you can buy from the suppliers directly. There are varieties of designs, shapes, sizes and types of products. The price is also a third of what you can find in shopping malls in the city or even in online shops. My Ate (older sister) ventured into a business with her friends. This was at the time when online shops and Facebook pages or socmed accounts were not yet a thing, so endorsement was by word of mouth. I recall that it was okay for a few months, then, since they were all working, they got so busy and didn’t have time. If only they did, invested money in it, and had a steady supplier and clients’ base, then it would have been very profitable.

This photo was taken sometime in early 2000 in a shop selling native products in Tabaco in Albay.

Then, there’s my younger brother. After he got married about two (2) years ago, he started a food business in Albay. They mainly served log-log and kinalas and as the weeks passed by, their customer base continued to grow. Their small stall became a hit, that it was even featured by Bacacay news online. At first, it was only he and his wife managing the business, but things got so hectic that they got an assistant, then two assistants. Still, they would be so exhausted by the end of the work day, which is actually late at night. Then, a baby came into the picture and they had to say goodbye to their bustling little business. But recently, they still accept some orders through their FB page, of dynamite lumpia (chili stuffed with meat, spices, and cheese), cheese sticks and other Bicol dishes. Since this set-up doesn’t require space and assistants, then, this is doable for them as an extra source of family income.

As for other brother who is a Registered Master Electrician, he has accepted consultancy work for electrical designs of new buildings and structures such as condominium, malls, and others. As a subcontractor, he has handled short-term projects and leads a team. In his line of work, trust and credibility are very important esp. in doing quality work and finishing it on the agreed time. There were some challenges too, such as when the person hired did not do his work properly, which affected the outcome of the project. There was also a time, he said, when a project was unexpectedly given to another contractor, despite an initial agreement on the financing and timeline. The other contractor gave only half of the original quoted contract price, which, my brother shared was impossible since his team has made a careful analysis of the project cost. All these stories notwithstanding, the best part about this work, according to my brother and wife and that they are able to provide a source of income to some people– construction workers, small time electricians, and so on.

One of my brother’s projects

I always consider those who begin a small-time legitimate business as brave. Plus, they offer competition to highly-commercialized products. That’s why, when I have the chance, even if it’s a one-time purchase, I support my acquaintances who strive to start a small business: former students, school mate, office mate, and others. When I was teaching in college, I used to order Graham balls from a student. I have ordered ensaymada from a former student, to be given as Christmas giveaways to my then neighbors, also cookies from a former student to support his child’s medical bills. I also have ordered cheesy garlic bread from my staff, then chocolate cakes to be given as Christmas giveaways (Lexi’s Little Oven is really good!). Last month, I ordered brownies (fudge brownies and cream cheese flavors) from my former high school classmate as Christmas gifts. They tasted really good, not as expensive and overly sweet as the ones in malls! And because we’re friends, she added a special ribbon per box and provided free packaging (she said she wanted my gift to be special). Isn’t she sweet?

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

Some of my colleagues have started business and they seem to be successful. At times, I ponder on that idea too with some of my siblings. There are many possibilities, actually.

One only needs capital, time, dedication and interest on delivering quality service (the profit part is a plus). With the numerous products available to buyers and consumers, offering something new, creative and unique is needed too.

It makes a difference too if the business you will engage in is within the area of your interest, if not your main interest — food? event planning? designing? photography? hairstyle? fashion? farming? flower arrangement? speech center? So many areas.

But practically, a promising business should be something that is needed in the area.

For example, I have always missed the local bakery in our old place in Quezon City, which opens as early as 5a.m. and from where, delicious aroma of bread wafts from afar. I always treasured the short walk from our house to the bakery before 6 in the morning and before going to work, when the cool morning air contrasts with the newly-baked hot pandesal. It’s a lot simpler than the boulangeries in Paris ( I stayed here for almost 4 years) but it remained special, same as the local bakeries of my childhood in Albay.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Where I’m currently residing, there’s only one bakery nearby. Sadly, they don’t bake their own bread so in my eyes, it’s only a bread store, not an authentic bakery. My former driver joked that I should establish one, and that he’ll work there part time, while I’m in the Office. But in case a neighbor will build a bakery that offer pandesal, Spanish bread, pan de coco, pan de monggo, and cheese bread every day, then I’ll be its loyal customer. ❤

Additional thoughts:

Profit is a major consideration of many entrepreneurs. That’s all right. But it ceases to be right when people exploit workers just because they (workers) do not demand more or are not aware of their full rights.

Take the case of agricultural workers. If their produce are bought by middlemen at a very low price per kilo then sold at a whopping price in markets/grocery stores/supermarkets, then that’s not business anymore. It’s exploitation. (See this article about onions in the Philippines as an example.)

In another case, I learned from a senior cultural officer that women in a certain province of the Philippines were paid a measly PhP 100/hour for intricate embroidery of Filipiniana clothing. He was shocked to learn about he fee but more shocking was the fact that the women were only too happy to have a source of income. Sad, isn’t it?

It would be great if people will establish businesses with the purpose of helping the community through giving an opportunity for people to earn a decent source of living and have a comfortable life, meaning, at least having 3 meals a day, having a good place to stay, rest, and sleep, being able to send their children to school, being able to have an hour or so of simple leisure each day, and having an environment that makes develops and /or applies their skills.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tony Jacobs says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think it is very interesting to read an article that shows your personal perspective. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emi_F says:

      Thanks, Tony. Your articles are nice too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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