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My practical advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

I am often approached for advice on entrepreneurship. This comes as no surprise as I have been visible in this field for nearly two decades in my work in Go Negosyo, as an adviser for entrepreneurship under two presidents, not to mention my duties at the MSME Development Council.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed that I’m being asked for entrepreneurship advice more often than before. I take this as a good sign. According to a survey by OCTA Research, as of the third quarter, Go Negosyo’s awareness rating among Filipinos remains high at 81 percent in the NCR and 81 percent nationwide. This is perhaps because we’ve been pushing non-stop to reach potential entrepreneurs young and old, men and women, even OFWs, to nurture that awareness with more knowledge about entrepreneurship and hopefully encourage more people to found their own enterprises.

When mentoring entrepreneurs, I often share universal truths that hold true for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business.

First and foremost, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. We have to stop being pessimists. If there are problems, let’s not make it worse. Try and look at the bright side. A positive attitude will come in handy in navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

This brings me to my next piece of advice: embrace failure. Every entrepreneur faces significant challenges, and failure is a natural part of the journey. It is through failure that we learn and grow. One cannot become a successful entrepreneur overnight; it requires experience, learning from setbacks, getting back up and trying again. I have had my share of failures and I’ve made mistakes as an entrepreneur, but I’ve learned never to let failure get in the way.

Successful entrepreneurs are lifelong learners. Doing well in life does not depend solely on doing well in school. Emotional intelligence, common sense and exposure to various experiences play a significant role, too. I still like going to malls to observe and see new food concepts. When you’re in another country as an OFW or as a tourist, opportunities can be found everywhere if you open your eyes and observe. Learning doesn’t end the moment you leave school.

Discover your passion and align it with your skills. Passion serves as the driving force that propels you forward, but it must be complemented by the necessary skills. We’ve seen some former cruise ship cooks come home and start successful food businesses. At one of our events, a former OFW who worked as a beautician told us how she came home to put up a business specializing in eyelash extensions. See what you can do well and try that first.

Copying is OK, but it is essential to add value and differentiate yourself from the existing product or service. For instance, when we launched Pop Cola, we took cues from what made Coca-Cola a brand leader and then decided to compete on price. By offering the same taste at a lower price, we became a serious competitor. However, it is crucial to note that copying a business idea differs from merely riding on a trend. Trends come and go quickly, and by the time you notice them, it may be too late to enter the market.

Being different and having a unique selling proposition is crucial in the world of entrepreneurship. A successful business must have a differentiator that sets it apart from competitors. Milk tea shops are a dime a dozen, so if you’re planning on opening one, offer a unique twist. Being different attracts customers and creates a competitive advantage.

Planning is another fundamental aspect of entrepreneurship. Before starting a business, it is crucial to be prepared. This is especially true for OFWs who cannot oversee the day-to-day operations of their businesses back home. I always tell them to prioritize the basics, such as building a home for the family, setting aside emergency funds and protecting their savings. Don’t use your retirement money to start your business; otherwise, if things don’t work out, you might have to go back overseas to work. Remember that in business, there is always a risk. And that brings me to some important advice to OFWs who want to put up a business back home: Entrust the business to a capable person, whether a family member or not, especially if you plan on starting a business while working overseas.

Explore new tools. Today, digitalization has made marketing more inclusive and accessible. If you’re to succeed as an entrepreneur nowadays, you must learn how to use digital platforms to promote your product or service. I’ve met a few Gen Z entrepreneurs who’ve decided to use social media and become their product’s endorsers. This never ceases to amaze me, having come from a time when our company would spend millions to sign a celebrity endorser, and millions more to buy advertising space and airtime.

While I have shared my insights and advice, fostering entrepreneurship among a larger population requires going beyond individual mentorship; it must be complemented by a broader approach. That is why the partnership between the private sector and the government is so important in supporting and nurturing entrepreneurship initiatives. This collaboration amplifies our individual efforts and paves the way for a stronger and more sustainable environment for entrepreneurs. We’ve seen this happen with our work with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Training Institute and, on a regional scale, with the countries of the ASEAN through the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network. It is a successful partnership I am sure we will achieve together with the Department of Education, where we plan for students to develop a working understanding of business and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset at an early age.

Efforts to teach more people the skills and mindset required for successful entrepreneurship are not only beneficial on an individual level but also hold great promise for the future of our country.

Source: Go Negosyo -


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