SME Interviews

Mommy Ginger shares interviews with momtrepreneurs that will inspire you through and through!

Plush and Play: Interview with Fabien Courteille

I have heard so many great stories about people starting social entrepreneurship businesses. Two of my friends have successful social entrepreneurship businesses, Ron and Nikki or Bayani Brew and Kat of Aurelia and Amelia!

Today, I’m so proud to share with you a story of another founder who started a social entrepreneurship business called Plush and Play. His name is Fabien Courteille.

The Fabien Courteille Story

I was born on January 29, 1989 to a middle class family in Normandie, France and was raised by loving and caring parents. After graduating in a science high school, I took up Bachelor of Business Administration in a public school before migrating to the south of France to take up Master in Entrepreneurship. At the age of 21, I was still looking for a real concrete business idea to start with and was questioning the role of businesses in the society in terms of ethics, social and environmental responsibility.

I have been looking for my purpose and to be able to do something meaningful with my life when I heard about Gawad Kalinga’s social entrepreneurship vision. I started out as a volunteer when I first came to the Philippines. After being immersed in the countryside, I have experienced the world-famous Filipino hospitality. I was living with the GK beneficiaries, sharing meals with them (Adobo every meal… haha!) and sleeping under the same roof while having absolutely nothing in common with them. They taught me how to expand my definition of family.

My foster mother was an orphan at an early age but still managed to take care of herself. She eventually became a seamstress in a factory until she lost her job due to the retrenchment of the manufacturing facility like many others. Her undying commitment and love for her children to be able to have a good education was her driving force to take any underpaid and limiting opportunities in order to earn a few pesos. Often times, her earnings were still not enough to provide for their meals. I found it unfair that millions of mothers in the Philippines are exactly like her – too much effort on really strenuous physical activities with a bad compensation system. Basically, I just wanted to give them a real chance to succeed. 🙂

Interview with Fabien of Plush and Play

Ginger: Hi Fabien! Can you tell everyone what your business is all about?

Fabien: Plush and Play is a social enterprise born in the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, highlighting the undervalued sewing skills of the mothers of Bulacan to create proudly Filipino toys. Ultimately, we envision to be the leading Filipino global toy company inspiring generations of young heroes and nation builders and contributing to the ultimate goal of Gawad Kalinga which is to end poverty in the country for 5 million families by 2024. Our major goals are to provide sources of income for over 500 poor families in the countryside, to inspire a new generation of Filipino children, to improve local standards in the toy industry and to make the Philippines a country where no children will ever grow up without toys.

Being based in a farm, our first line of products is composed of fruits and vegetables with names inspired by local icons like Manny Pakwan, Buko Martin, and Anne Kamatis. We also make customized plush giveaways or mascots for companies like Maynilad, Landbank, Shell, Accenture, Mentos, etc.. Moreover, we conduct toy making activities in order to teach kids how to handcraft their very own plush toy.

Our tagline is “Hand-Stitched with Love, Stuffed with Dreams!”

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? Can you give us the insight behind this market?

Fabien: Our target market is three-fold:

  • We target socially responsible, nurturing and loving mothers. We offer them affordable, socially responsible and safe products handcrafted with love and inspired by Filipino values and sense of humor, unlike imported toys from China that are of poor quality and many of which are also hazardous to their kids’ health.
  • We target corporations and government agencies that want to strengthen and reward the loyalty of their clients and employees by gifting them with original giveaways. We offer them highly customizable and world-class quality products made with love.
  • Finally we target the young at heart, mostly with age demographics between ten to twenty years old, that want cute, fun and meaningful items like toys, keychains, tote bags, pouches, etc…

Ginger: How did you come up with this idea? What made you decide to start this kind of business?

Fabien: I chose this industry for three main reasons:

(1) To restore the sewing industry

First, the province of Bulacan used to be the Philippines’ pride when it comes to sewing and garments but over the past decade hundreds of factories have been closing down and thousands of mothers have lost their jobs and were left behind with the only option of becoming domestic workers in Manila or abroad. There were mothers in the community who used to be seamstresses but were left jobless when big textile companies started outsourcing their production to China or Cambodia.

(2) To come up with safe toys

Second, we realized that the local market was flooded with low quality imported products, including children’s stuffed toys without any connection to the local culture.

(3) My love and fondness for kids

And lastly, I was becoming the godfather of plenty of kids in the community and I never knew what to offer them. Inspired by the thousands of kids in the GK Communities, I went for the idea of creating stuffed toys.

Ginger: Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these? What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business in your country?

Fabien: Well, I believe being an entrepreneur is all about facing obstacles and finding ways to overcome them every day. My role is to keep the business running, to continue growing it and to reach out to more beneficiaries. We started venturing into an industry where I was totally ignorant, I have never used a sewing machine before coming to the Philippines so a lot of things had to be learned by doing.

Since I am not Filipino I have to deal with the various restrictions in the Philippines in terms of ownership, position or signatory rights and it is not necessarily easy.

We also started our company without capital. We started with only five thousand pesos so our team had to be extra careful on how to spend every peso and make sure to get the best value out of it. If you can’t afford anyone to do something, you need to do it yourself.

The industry that we are part of is very seasonal so we need to keep on finding ways to keep our cashflow in a good position for the rest of the year. Moreover, this is a market flooded by extremely cheap products so we also have to show and create more value for the customers to be able to generate more sales.

Since we are a social enterprise, we deal with communities everyday. Everything that happens within the community and their household affects the operations of the company and vice versa. Of course having fifty families living and working together creates a lot of situations, tensions and arguments therefore it is always difficult to keep it professional.

Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder should have when starting their own business?

Fabien:

  1. He or she should be committeed. It is not a hobby and it is more than a full time job.
  2. He or she should learn how to surrender himself/herself with the right people as it takes a team to run an organization.
  3. He or she should lead by example, be ready to do whatever job needs to be done and definitely understand the needs of all stakeholders (customers, the beneficiaries, staff , etc…)

Ginger: Unforgettable moments or lessons that you learned as an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder

Fabien: One of the most unforgettable moments is when we brought the first Filipino toy to Toy Kingdom. It was a big statement and a big celebration for our seamstresses. We were also the only Filipino brand to take part in the toy expo held at SMX Convention Center. On a personal note, making it to the Top 5 of the BPI Sinag out of 150 entries was something to remember as well.

It was very important for me to understand the situation of the mothers in order to properly work with them and support them. Since I am not a Filipino, nor a woman nor a mother, I thought to be with them for the past six years to ensure that I can connect with them and to fully understand their needs. Aside from that, I knew that I had to make them experience things outside of their usual environment so they can also understand the concepts of quality control, excellence, and customer expectations. We would take them to Manila from time to time and have a fieldtrip for them to see other products in high-end malls like Rockwell. Until today, I am still striving to understand their needs and vice versa. It is a constant learning experience for all of us as our enterprise continues to grow and thrive.

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?

Fabien: My advice is something that I have heard so many times before which is to not give up! Furthermore, one should not compromise or take shortcuts. It takes hard work and integrity to build a solid enterprise to be proud of. Do not mind the negative comments or words of discouragement because the more people say that you are crazy the more you should move forward. After all, the greatest inventors and entrepreneurs in history were either crazy or different so there is nothing wrong about it. HAHA

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Fabien: I believe that everyone should be entrepreneurial, be pro-active, and be on the look out for innovative ideas wherever you work or whatever position you hold because this is what the organization needs to constantly improve. However, I am not sure if everyone should start their own enterprise because running an enterprise is not easy and is not a one man show. You need to bring in people into your organization that have complimentary skill sets in order to move forward with the over-all company objective.

Ginger: What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Fabien: From the beginning we have been financing all our operations through our cash flow. This is achieved based on our own sales revenues and we just received two sets of grants to build our new workshop of about three hundred square meters in Bulacan. This will allow us to increase production capacity, which would have a potential increase in revenues.

In addition, because of being one the winners of the BPI Sinag competition, the bank gave us access to their credit line whenever we feel the need to make a loan. Also, we have been able to establish preferential payment terms from some our clients such as fifty percent down payment since they understand our commitment to pay the salaries of our community partners on a weekly basis compare to the usual 30 to 90 days payment terms.

Aside from these, several investors have approached us and we plan to open our capital to new equity investment from impact investors this year. This will be used to invest in opening our own concept store in the city, improving our marketing efforts and increasing our staff members.

Ginger: How do you market your products? Growth strategy?

Fabien: We sell our regular toys at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan. Since we know that the market is in Metro Manila we have partnered with several retail stores that are carrying our products. These are Toy Kingdom SM Megamall, The Parenting Emporium, The Philippine Artisan Trade, Yiippee Store, Able Store, and Hop/Bop Shop. Another growing platform in the country is online sales so we established and partnered with some online sites such as our own website, Lazada, Shopinas, and The Good Store. We also sell in bazaars and sometimes participate in a corporate road show.  All in all, we are currently retailing in 6 outlets in Metro Manila with the possibility to expand to thirty-seven other Toy Kingdom outlets. We are also looking into starting a partnership with Toys ‘R Us in the near future.

Another sales channel is creating customized giveaways for corporations or individuals (special gifts, event giveaways, etc). We also started organizing tailored community outreach programs with our corporate partners. Our biggest revenue comes from our corporate clients, some of which have contracts that are as big as twenty thousand dollars. GK is working with 700 corporations and other private institutions. Among this number, we have engaged with over 30 corporations already but our margin for growth is extremely high as we are reaching out to more of them every week.

We have also started making school mascots with the prestigious school of De La Salle University, with over thirty thousand student population with hundreds and thousands of alumni which are now key decision makers in the country. Once successful, we will then replicate this model and work with other private schools in the country.

Aside from selling products, we also conduct toy making workshops and activities for schools and other celebrations. It is a growing channel right now.

In marketing, we leverage the networks of Gawad Kalinga and the parenting community such as The Parenting Emporium. We also greatly use our own social media channels to gain more awareness about the company.

Partners in Malaysia, Singapore, United States and Europe have approached us already to expand beyond the Philippines. This is a key step to a future regional expansion and eventually outside of South East Asia.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Fabien: We are mostly active online: We have our own wordpress website and eshop. We are also proactive on social media including Facebook Ads.

Ginger: Thank you Fabien for that wonderful story. I’m sure other people who want to start their own social enterprise learned a lot from reading this! Thank you for sharing your talent and for helping the Philippines in ways you know how.

If you want to know more about Plush and Play, here are their contact information and links:

Website: www.plushandplay.com

Email address: plushandplay@yahoo.com

Mobile Number: 09175264941

Facebook Page: https://web.facebook.com/PlushAndPlay

Instagram account: http://instagram.com/plushandplay

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/plushandplay/

 

Nitro 7 Coffee and Tea bar

It’s so nice to see and reunite with friends. A few days ago, I met up with a friend whom I haven’t seen for the longest time. I think the last time we saw each other (but didn’t really get to talk) was when he and his wife attended our homeschooling conference in 2016. So when I found out that he had a new coffee business, I took the opportunity to catch up and interview him for my blog!

Today, i’ll be featuring Richard Torres, one of the owners/founders of Nitro 7 Coffee.

Richard’s Story

I’m a family man. Nothing helps me de-stress more than spending time with my beautiful wife, whom I’ve been married to for 5 years, and our 2 boys.

I love business, coffee, arts and design, and just finding ways to make things work. Many describe me as a handyman, a fixer-upper. And I think I have a pretty good eye for design.

I started out as a small-time salesman in college, selling real estate, pagers, mobile phones and odds and ends. After university, I worked as business development manager for a mobile content provider company, and then later on built my own ad agency and production house. On the side, I did take on some marketing consultancy jobs. Eventually, I tried out designing, building and selling condo units and houses. Nitro 7 is my newest venture.

My goal is really to build a global brand!

Nitro 7 Coffee’s Story

Ginger: Hi Richard! Can you tell our readers what your startup or brand is?

Richard: It’s called Nitro 7 Coffee and Tea Bar! 🙂

Ginger: What is it about?

Richard: Nitro 7 is a coffee retail brand that serves nitrogen-infused coffee and tea products. #Nitrocoffee is an 18-hour cold brew coffee that’s later on infused with nitrogen gas. It has a full-bodied flavor with very low acidity. Nitrogen gives our drinks their added sweetness without the sugar, and a thicker, creamier mouthfeel without the milk.

Ginger: How long have you been in business?

Richard: I’ve been in business since college, but Nitro 7, which is my first retail startup, has been operational for 9 months now.

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? 

Richard: So far, our patrons are from a broad demographic. Each bar seems to have a different market. But generally speaking, millennials love us, and we love them back. We’re a delicious cup of coffee that’s very reasonably priced. The drama of our nitro coffee, it’s cascade and crema, and our whole setup is very visually appealing and attracts a lot of active social media users as well.

Ginger: How did you come up with this idea? What made you decide to start this kind of business?

Richard: Both my partners and I are actually bible-study group mates. We’re all businessmen and coffee aficionados. We wanted to create something that would be pleasing to God, and that we could personally patronize because we loved the product so much!

Initially, we considered putting up a regular coffee shop, but there were so many of those in the market already. So after extensive research and product testing, we came across Nitro coffee, which is huge in the US.

Today, our 9-month old baby, is the first Nitro Coffee and Tea bar in the Philippines, and has 12 branches strong.

Ginger: Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?

Richard: Too many to mention! Haha. Retail was new for me, and I had no technical know-how in terms of the draft system or using nitrogen. I had to learn along the way. But like I said, I enjoy making things work, and this is what I did for our setup and system.

Other obstacles are being overly dependent on third-party suppliers, and having to manage different kinds of people.

In a start-up business, you really have to step up and learn how to do everything yourself.

Ginger: What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business in your country?

Richard: Innovating– creating new products. Engaging trial. Encouraging loyalty. You have to open-minded and be willing to wear many hats.

Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder should have when starting their own business?

Richard: Creativity, perseverance, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?

Richard: I try my best to live by these 4 P’s:

  1. Give Praise – Praise God and have a thankful spirit. Remember that you are one of the blessed ones who’s given the opportunity to have a business to bless others.
  2. Be Persistent – Believe you can do it! Be determined to make things work. You have to have that drive and dedication to your business so it overflows and motivates your team. You have to learn how to do everything yourself, especially in the beginning. Be willing to get your hands dirty!
  3. Pray – and then pray some more! You can never pray too much. Ask for the guidance and the wisdom to get you through you day to day. Lift everything up, and remember that ultimately, your business belongs to Him.
  4. Be Patient – Learn how to wait and how to endure. There will be a lot of obstacles swinging at you from left and right, from top and bottom. Patience and endurance will build you character and entrepreneurial spirit.

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Richard: As an advocate for entrepreneurship, I’d like to say yes, but the truth is, no, it’s not for everyone. There are a lot of brilliant people who aren’t wired to be entrepreneurs, and that’s okay.

Ginger: What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Richard: You’d be surprised by how many of the people you know are looking to invest in something. Just share your concept to people who you think might be able to help you.

Ginger: How do you market your products? Growth strategy?

Richard: We consider our bars as our billboards, but social media is our friend. We also intend on maintaining a product that is consistently high-quality and delicious. We’ve also been getting a ton of franchise inquiries and are looking at this as a logical next step.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Richard: We have a POS system and inventory management system. But in general, we have not maximized tech tools at all. All of our activity online is organic.

Ginger: Other things that you want to mention which you think are important

Richard: I said it before, I’ll say it again. Business can be overwhelming, and PRAYER is so important.

Ginger: Keep the faith, dude! There you have it, readers! Wise words from Richard Torres of Nitro 7. Hope you can visit their branches! Thank you again, Richard, for sharing your experiences!

Contact information about your business:

Website: www.nitro7.coffee
Email address: hello@nitro7.coffee
Mobile Number: (02) 621-9340
Facebook Page: facebook.com/nitro7.coffee
Instagram account: nitro7.coffee

Learning about Seaweed and My Natural PH

This month for me has been knowing more about skincare and the different ingredients that I should look for or watch out for. There is a plethora of products that you can choose from in the market, and the challenge really for retailers now is how do I stand out and what will make me unique and different. Looking at different skin care products from Korea and Japan, you would notice that they make use of quite interesting products like snail, lava, horse oil, orange, grapes, and even “unicorn tears” (I wonder how they got that! haha!). Then I got myself looking at Filipino made products, too (of course!) and one brand caught my attention, and that was My Natural PH. They make use of Seaweed.

I wanted to know more about the whats, hows and whys of My Natural. This is why I interviewed, Marina, one of the co-owners of My Natural PH.

Mommy Ginger and Marina Morada

About The Moradas

Marina is the daughter of Noel Morada, who started the business. Noel is a UP Alumnus and has an MBA in Marketing and Finance. He is a graduate of Business Administration and is a businessman who has been in the seaweeds industry for more than 20 years.

Marina is an IMC Graduate from UA&P (yeeeeah! same school and course as me!). She is also a graduate of Masters of Applied Business Economics. EJ Morada is the younger brother who helps in the business. He graduated from Ateneo de Manila University (Business Management).

Interview with Marina of My Natural PH:

Ginger: Hi Marina! It’s great to meet you. Can you tell everyone what My Natural is about and how long have you been in business?

Marina: We’ve been in the seaweeds business for more than 20 years but our personal care line  made out of seaweeds was only launched June this year after 2 years of research and product development.

Mr. Noel Morada with the the country’s seaweed experts

 This new venture is all about providing SAFE, HEALTHY, and EFFECTIVE natural products.  It stems from our belief that having a healthy lifestyle does not stop with developing healthy habits and eating healthy foods but should also include the use of different products for personal  care, home care and air care which are natural and environment friendly. Consumers need such products that will help them sustain a healthy lifestyle. This is the need that we wish to address through MyNatural products.  

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? Can you give us the insight behind this market?

Marina: Our product line generally caters to the health- conscious natural advocates who keep on finding ways on how they could maintain a healthy lifestyle. They have personal preference over natural products knowing its benefits.  

We have 3 brands and each have distinctly identifies the type of consumers to address their needs.

Algynatural: For the regular consumer who wish to have the benefits of seaweeds and natural personal care products which they could sustain for their everyday needs.

Ocean Blue: For the ultra- sensitive skin consumers who are looking for natural, safe, and effective solutions that could help them manage skin conditions.

MyNatureland: For every homemaker that wishes to keep every corner of her home naturally fresh and clean without using harmful chemicals.

Ginger: How did you come up with this idea? What made you decide to start this kind of business?

Marina: Being in the seaweeds industry for several years, we have attended International conferences and exhibits and learned the benefits of seaweeds for skin care and other personal care needs. These are evidenced by numerous scientific studies, presentations and research papers by experts in the fields. More than this is our ardent desire to promote sustainable healthy lifestyle through products that help consumers take care of themselves as well as the environment. Last of course is our determination to provide more livelihood and continuously build self-sustaining and sustainable communities.

Before embarking on this business though, to be viable we asked ourselves 3 basic questions:

– Is there a market for the product?
– Do we have the resources ( capital, human, raw materials, etc.) to be in this business?
– Do we have the competitive advantage?

Ginger:  Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?

Marina: Oh A lot. Putting up a business is always a challenge. But as an entrepreneur, you got to have the grit. You have to be tough – psychologically,  physically, and emotionally, you have to have  the capacity to find solutions to complex problems,  the ability to see the opportunities and potentials of future products to fulfill human needs, the steadfastness to pursue your dreams and strong faith in yourself and God of course.

Ginger: What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business?

Marina: Getting the right product that will address the need of the market. This is the product development stage where you really spend a lot of time, resources and human talent to be able to get a perfect product as much as possible. Then you have the challenge of getting your product to the market. Identifying the right market and communicating to them. How is your product relevant to your market?  What are the right channels to reach your market?  What marketing mix shall you use…  Then you have the logistics side of it so that products get to the customer in a seamless and faster way.  Finding customer expectation and fulfilling them is huge challenge for entrepreneurs. Getting the needed resources is likewise a challenge. 

Ginger: What are three traits that you think a Start-up Founder/Entrepreneur should have when starting their own business?

  1. The passion to succeed no matter what the odds (grit)
  2. Eagerness to learn to keep up with the changing times.
  3. Perseverance / Hardwork

Ginger: Do you have any unforgettable moments or  lessons that you learned as an Start-up Founder/Entrepreneur?

Marina: Think ahead. As an entrepreneur you should always be forward looking. Your decision today may no longer be applicable tomorrow so you should be always have plan B and C.

Learning is a continuous process.

There is an opportunity that lies for every problem. You just have to identify it.

Of course, never give up!

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Start-up Founders/Entrepreneurs?

Marina: Equip yourself with the right tools and mindset before starting a business. Learn from the mistakes of others. Always put your customers first (know and understand your market ) they are the lifeblood of any business. Never stop learning.

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Marina: Everyone has the opportunity but only few succeed. The general ratio they say is 1:10; that means only 1 out of ten succeeds. Being an entrepreneur is a conscious decision that you make to achieve a higher purpose ( change lives, create positive impact, etc) . It’s a commitment you should be willing to make to yourself and to your stakeholders (partners, consumers, investors, suppliers, etc).

Ginger: What is your belief about raising capital? What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Marina: Generally the source of initial capital are personal savings then additional capital from relatives and friends. The formal channels of raising capital like banks, venture capital and other financial intermediaries or institutions and eventually the equity market, come in only in the growth stage  of the business. So raising capital during the start up stage of the business is always challenge.

Ginger: How do you market your products?

Marina: Right now our products can be purchased online through our own website and other online shopping sites like Beauty MNL.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Marina: On line marketing tools and apps. ( Facebook, Instagram, e- store). Automation of the accounting, financial, inventory and customer base.

Ginger: Thank you so much, Marina, for spending time with me! I learned a lot about seaweeds, its benefits and of course, a lot about starting a business!

Contact information about your business:

Website:  www.mynatural.company
Email address: sales@mynatural.company
Mobile Number: 0917 132 1977 OR 0920 977 1977
Facebook Page : MyNaturalPH
Instagram account: @MyNaturalPH

Purchase from: https://beautymnl.com/brands/algynatural

The Reading House and Teacher D

I’m not sure of my daughter, at age 4, should know how to read words already. What is your experience on 4 year olds? Since I’m panicking, I found this The Reading House online. I found the concept to be very interesting, so I decided to know more about the business. The Reading House is ran by Teacher D and her husband. Read her story here!

Teacher Deidre Story’s

My name is Teacher D and I am a mom to our sweet little Tala. I’m married to Marky, who works in IT Sales.  I have 2 older sisters who have their own families already.

Both my sisters were equally thrilled when they found out that I was pregnant, because finally I’m no longer the “Fun Aunt” and I’m going to parent an actual human being already (haha!). My parents are simple business owners, who like any other grandparents, are “obsessed” with all their apos. Apos call them Abuelo and Abuela. All our kids are lucky to have them.

I have been a teacher for almost 10 years now (and counting). My first teaching job was in Wordlab, a school that specializes in teaching kids with Learning Disabilities. During the years that I stayed there, I taught in the Reading Clinic, a one-on-one learning set up that closely implements reading intervention programs for kids with learning needs, mainly Dyslexia. I became the Head Teacher in that Department. I learned a lot about how to become an effective teacher, one that assures that no child is left behind. But being fairly young then, I wanted a new environment, I decided to resign and try out other types of school. That’s when I applied to Xavier School, something new and also somewhere close to where I live before. I taught 3rd Grade English there for 3 years. I have nothing against traditional schools because I am a product of one, but the ways of it didn’t conform with what I believe as a teacher so I decided to transfer to Keys School Manila, a progressive school. I enjoyed my stay there in Keys. I like that the students are assessed not just as a learner but also as a person and even a citizen.

Then last year, after some waiting time, I got pregnant.

When I decided to resign from teaching, I told myself that I am going to enjoy motherhood in all its glory and I am! I enjoy each day that I get to see her wake up, bathe, eat her first solids, the teething drama, dressing her up in cute outfits (by far my most favorite), story time, nap time and all her other firsts. Apart from all these, what I really enjoy is I don’t need to pump anymore! Yayy! One (sort of) promise that I made to Tala and myself is to do all my best to breastfeed her up until her toddler years. I guess that makes me a breastfeeding believer too.  During times that Tala allows me to have free time (a.k.a. her nap time), I enjoy reading and watching TV series. I’m lucky that I have a husband that is very hands on and just willing to grant me “Me Times” from anytime I ask for it. I’m thankful that we both believe that self-care is an important part of being parents.

 

The Reading House’s Story

Ginger: What is your Startup/brand/business? What is it about? How long have you been in business?

Teacher D: The Reading House is a Literacy Center that aims to help children with Learning Disabilities and Difficulties. The services of The Reading House covers all the sub-skills of reading that we use in order to read continuous passages meaningfully.

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? Can you give us the insight behind this market?

Teacher D: We aim to help children with Learning Disabilities and/or Difficulties. We chose to help these kids because as a teacher, each child learns differently which is why I believe that no child should be left behind in learning.

Ginger: How did you come up with this idea? What made you decide to start this kind of business?

Teacher D: I wouldn’t have learned everything about Reading intervention, if not for my first teaching experience. That is where I will credit this idea to. As a teacher, I know that there aren’t enough teaching facilities here in the Philippines that can help children with learning needs.

Ginger: Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?

Teacher D: This center took me almost a decade to build. I had to learn a lot about the approach that is proven effective for these types of children. There were moments of self-doubt whether I am fit to build such center. There were a lot of questions (largely from me to me) if I am equipped enough. I know that these children need consistency and dedication. I know that because of frustration a lot of them just lost their interest in learning overall.

I studied, did a lot of research and studied again and really took time to further educate myself about Learning Disabilities and what is the best way to help children with these conditions.

Ginger: What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business in your country?

Teacher D: The greatest challenge that I have had ( and so far I am having ) would be how to spread awareness about it. Sadly, the Philippines’ education system is not completely geared to help children with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability is something that we misinterpret as a lot of things, slow, lazy, disinterested and other more. What I want is for teachers to have patience and understanding before tagging a child. I want to convince them that not all children learn in the same way and it’s our job as teachers to determine what way do our students want to learn.

Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder should have when starting their own business?

Teacher D: According to importance, I think that first is to be passionate. I don’t want this to sound as a cliché, but passion is what really pushed me build The Reading House. I think that I gained an interest on helping these children and worked for it to become a passion. Second would be patience, it’s not a secret that putting up, let alone maintaining a business is a lot of work. I believe that every challenge and all the hard work that we pour into it will all be worth it at the end.

My last most definitely not the least choice is, prayer, some of my friends would probably be surprised if they hear me say this. I am known to be the type of person that keeps it to herself and misconstrued as carefree, but throughout this whole process of putting this center up, I found that prayer is a sure fire tool that helped me in all my decision –making, be it a small one or the most major of all. I became more secured and assured when I talk to God about it first, whatever it is.

Ginger: Any unforgettable moments or lessons that you learned as an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder?

Teacher D: This venture is a partnership with my husband. Being in the line of sales, at times, my husband tended to deal with things in a ruthless (for lack of a better term) manner. This would sometimes contradict with how I, a teacher, is used to doing things with diplomacy, gentle and thorough processing and explanations. It’s like he’s the brain and I’m the heart, and we can’t work things together. It’s also heartbreaking that sometimes it happens in front of our daughter, which really truly concerned me. This is the sole reason that brought us to the resolution that we, in the future will really have arguments and sometimes we won’t be able to keep it from our children, but what’s important is for them to see that we make up and fix things at the end of the day. We also made sure that all mealtimes are (and will be) spent together, argument –free.

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?

Teacher D: One advice that I can give other Entrepreneurs is to have a perfect balance of mind and heart.  You have to be logical in all your decisions but at the same time be kind and considerate on how people around you would feel. I also strongly believe that if you treat your employees right, they will in turn develop a genuine love for what they are doing.

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Teacher D: I’d like to believe it, because initially I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur. All I wanted was to help kids with Learning Disability, but with the challenges that came in my way as I am building this center, along with the struggles of a first time mom, I was able to make it possible.  I believe that’s what being an entrepreneur is about, jumping over hurdles and still finishing strong.

Ginger: What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Teacher D: My husband saved up for this. We opted to have a small and intimate wedding so that we can use the money up for something we think is more worthwhile. Aside from these, we pitched the concept to our trusted friends and family and gave them share of the ownership.

Ginger: How do you market your products? Growth strategy?

Teacher D: Our main marketing strategy now is through the Internet. We spent on a website and created a Facebook page where interested people could reach us. We also gave out leaflets to schools that are near our center. We reached out to fellow parents who we think has a great influence on others.  The Reading House sought their help in not just promoting or featuring our center, but more importantly, to raise awareness about Learning Disabilties.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Teacher D: Our “edge” from the other Literacy Centers here in the Philippines is that we use a digital multi-sensory program. The name of the program is iSpire. iSpire fleshes out all the subskills of reading to assure an optimum learning experience for its users.

Ginger: Other things that you want to mention which you think are important

Teacher D: The Reading House is also open to conduct some workshops about spotting and handling children with Learning Disabilities in a classroom set up.

Ginger: Thanks for the inspiring story, all of the advice and for the tips, Teacher D! 🙂

We have a surprise for our readers! We will be giving out ONE FREE  Literacy Diagnosis + Reading Enrichment Session. All you need to do is leave a comment below on why do you think you need to win this! 🙂 We will raffle of this prize on July 25. We will announce the winner on this page, too! 🙂

For more information about The Reading House, check these out:

Website: thereadinghouse.ph
Email address: info@thereadinghouse.ph
Mobile Number: 09178314920/ 09498717901
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheReadingHousePH/

Easy Cures Story (Interview with Entrepreneur Tina Vitas)

I meet a lot of interesting people during the workshops that we conduct at Manila Workshops. One of the interesting people that I have met was Tina Vitas. Tina is the owner of Easy Cures.

Having coffee with Entrepreneur Tina Vitas of Easy Cures

Tina’s Story

I studied in Boston University for college, worked in Los Angeles for 3 years and then worked in New York for 9 years before finally making Manila my home again in August 2003. I got the inspiration to open an online store for natural remedies – Easy Cures – from watching my Mom do this as a hobby for 30 years. She was in the costume jewelry business.

On top of that, I held her hand through a health crisis as she approached her 70’s where we discovered a few different alternative healing modalities that worked for her.

She is obviously a fabulous inspiration for me being an ultra-successful businesswoman. She is also my favorite person in the world, my best friend and my mentor (we have very different ideas about how to run a business since I tend to be more modern, in general).

I thought that bringing these products that have helped us on our journey to health, wellness and happiness to a wider audience online would be a great idea, in tune with the times. After being employed in the corporate world most of my life and having dabbled in a few different businesses (restaurant, food, fashion, fragrance, education), I wanted to do something that resonated so deeply with who I am as a person and where I am on my life journey. I am on a continuous personal evolution and spiritual awareness & awakening.

I am a consistent practitioner of Vinyasa Yoga at Urban Ashram Yoga and Kundalini Yoga at Sat Nam Shala in Urdaneta with Madonna English. I meditate daily for about 20-25 minutes. Although I am not 100% vegetarian, my diet has very little animal protein in it. That is deceiving because I love to eat (chocolates, ice cream and pastries are a weakness, thus, I have to budget them strictly on a weekly basis). I’m dining out with family & friends about 5 to 6 times a week. I lived and worked in New York City for nine years. If I can walk it, I will. I support the Missionaries Of The Poor in Sta. Ana which is my charitable institution of choice and I also support the Library Renewal Partnership. I am a member of the US Alumni Club PH, Asia Society and the Business Professional Women’s Group.

Easy Cures Story

Ginger: What is your Startup/brand/business? What is it about? How long have you been in business?

Tina: Its an online store for natural remedies. Officially started in May 2016.

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? Can you give us the insight behind this market?

Tina: The target market for natural remedies, in my mind, is anyone who has the consciousness that there are alternatives to Western medicine and harsh, chemical-laden products that are commonly found in the market today. But because one of our star products is for aches & pains, the natural market for this would be someone who is a bit older, approaching forties. Or someone, even younger, who is extremely active or has a recurring condition that can be managed with such natural remedies.

Ginger: Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?

Tina: Obstacles for a start-up entrepreneur who is self-funded is almost always the available resources – money, marketing, staffing, logistics etc.

Ginger: What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business in your country?

Tina: What I encountered is that many people still shy away from purchasing online. It will still take some time for Filipinos to be completely comfortable with e-commerce in the way they are with bricks & mortars stores. Having accepted this year, I decided that I have to compliment my online store with offline partner stores who share the same values & mindset at Easy Cures. Filipinos, particularly if they are buying something that needs to be tried and is also not yet a known brand, will want to see the product in person. The actual product experience is important to them. It builds trust and reputation faster than if they just read about the products online. Online and offline work well together and can drive each other.

Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder should have when starting their own business?

Tina: Patience, flexibility and grit.

Ginger: Unforgettable moments or lessons that you learned as an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder?

Tina: Ask for help from others. You’d be surprised at how accommodating and generous people can be when asked.

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?

Tina: A start-up business is very unpredictable. Finding your market who loves you/your products is key to growth and will take time. After you find them, you have to make sure you keep them coming back. Know from the very beginning that you will question yourself many times during this journey and you will also change your roadmap because reality requires it. But if you truly believe in what you are trying to do, keep going at it. You and your goal will find each other, eventually….. It takes time!

This is a product that I love very very much!

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Tina: Nope, not everyone has the ability to handle the unpredictability, the inconsistency and the build-as-you-go structure of starting and running a business. At the start, you will be doing pretty much everything and involved in every detail.

Ginger: What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Tina: Through family & friends. I have raised capital before with another business, through a bank loan. I don’t recommend it. The larger the capital you raise, the bigger the pressure you feel to deliver in a short amount of time. For me, at least, this has resulted in my making decisions that I would not have made had I continued to be self-funded or funded with a limited amount of money.

Ginger: How do you market your products? Growth strategy?

Tina:  Social media and SEO. I also sponsor health & wellness related events. Grow online with the help of offline.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Tina: Online platform for the store, Facebook Instagram, Google Analytics & SEO.

Ginger: Other things that you want to mention which you think are important?

Tina: It’s a long, winding road. Remind yourself always why you started in the first place and have fun! Have a few businesses, if possible, so you have different income streams at any given time.

Ginger: Wise words from a very wise woman! I hope you continue to inspire more people, Tina! 

Contact information about your business:
Website: http://www.easycures.com.ph/
Email address ask@easycures.com.ph
Mobile Number +639178117580 on Mobile, Viber & WhatsApp
Facebook Page: @easycuresph
Instagram account: @easycures.ph
Pinterest: easycuresph