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Building your business against the odds: 8 practical tips from successful Chinoy entrepreneurs

As inspired one can be to create an empire one day, there is no doubt that starting a business from scratch is an intimidating task that is not for everyone. 

It also does not help that we are in an unpredictable market because of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Because of these, inflation and instability can prove very difficult for current business owners to handle. Nevertheless, if you have the heart and mind to pursue a business, do not let these things discourage you.

Nothing worth having comes easy, which is why we’ve rounded up these 8 practical tips from the very Chinoy entrepreneurs themselves that everyone looks up to in the industry. Find out their top pieces of advice when it comes to building your business during a pandemic and hopefully follow their successful footsteps in the world of business.


1. Offer something unique – Mr. Roye Gerik Chua (Head of Operations, Eng Bee Tin)

When starting a business, expect that you will have hundreds or even thousands of competitors offering the same, if not better, products or services. This is why one of the golden rules of starting a business is to offer something unique. Sell products that your customers haven’t seen yet before. Make them choose your product over hundreds of others.

This is exactly what Roye Chua and Eng Bee Tin did that launched their food business as the go-to for every Filipinos’ hopia and tikoy needs. Although hopia is already a popular snack, the company recognized that they needed to stand out from the rest of hopa vendors. Their solution? Reinventing the Chinese snack– from the famous ube to custard-filled to sugar-free hopia, Eng Bee Tin has got you covered, which led to its success today.


2. Invest in making an online presence for your business – Ms. Myrna Yao (CEO, Richprime Holdings, Inc.)

With Richprime Holdings being the country’s leading supplier of branded children’s products like Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels, and Barbie, one may ask how Yao’s company made it through the pandemic where children are not even allowed to go outside? Their solution? Invest in online shopping.

Recognizing the boom of e-commerce where almost every Filipino is shopping online for their needs, Yao and her company took advantage of this by providing the option of online shopping. This allowed their products to go straight to the end-consumer, making the process more efficient and smoother. Even if the pandemic finally ends, Filipinos have realized the convenience brought by online shopping hence, it is an industry that will not die down anytime soon. If you are planning to start a business, every entrepreneur will now say that you should invest in the digital aspect of your business as well.


3. Choose a good location for your business – Mr. Johnlu Koa (CEO, French Baker)

With community restrictions easing to the lowest alert level, more and more people are now going outside. This opens up once again the door of opportunity for businesses that need physical venues, which usually includes food and retail. If you think your business needs a physical venue, Koa strongly advises to strategize and look for a good location. 

Choosing a place to build your establishment may make or break your business. This location will determine your brand’s visibility, proximity to competition and how much it will attract your market. For French Baker, you will notice that it is usually situated near or within supermarkets. This makes French Baker restaurants easily seen since supermarkets are always filled with all kinds of consumers. 


4. Diversify into similar markets – Mr. Glenn Yu (CEO, Seaoil)

Yu highlights the need to be resilient as crises are inevitable. Having experienced numerous economic recessions during his lifetime such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, 2008 recession, and now the COVID-19 global pandemic, if there’s anything that the Seaoil CEO had learned, it is that economic crises are also opportunities for growth.

Take advantage of this growth by diversifying into similar markets. For instance, oil companies may expand to other alternative sources of energy such as geothermal energy. Through this, the company is able to supply a newer and unsaturated market as compared to the oil industry. This helps keep them afloat as they do not put their eggs all in one basket but instead, grow into other similar markets.


5. Make use of digital marketing – Ms. Michelle Tiu Lim Chan (VP for Finance, Support Operations, and Export Sales, Mega Global Corporation)

Ignoring digital marketing is like opening a business and not telling anyone. With the power of social media today, there is no denying that it is one of the most powerful marketing avenues. With almost every person owning a smartphone and using social media, digital marketing allows businesses to reach more potential customers much more than any amount of physical marketing can do.

The same goes for Mega Global Corporation, makers of Filipino-favorite Mega Sardines. Although they were not as hard-hit by the pandemic, they still utilized digital marketing to keep their products relevant among consumers.


6. Accomplish legal permits and documents as early as possible – Rikki Dee (CEO, Foodee Global Concepts)

Although this is not usually what startup owners give a lot of attention to when they start building their business as compared to other aspects such as marketing and product development, accomplishing all documents and permits is just as important and Dee advises to finish it as early as possible.

Some business owners get so caught up with operations and management when their business goes up and running that they may forget to prioritize legal documents needed from them. As chances for growth and long term opportunities start to open, it will likely require proper permits, certifications and documentation from the government so accomplish it as early as possible to avoid inconveniences.


7. Go where opportunity is – Michelle Lim Gankee (Sales and Marketing Director, Sterling Paper Group of Companies)

The Sterling Paper Group of Companies started out as a photo album and stationery company but is now also a conglomerate with business ventures in various industries such as real estate, agriculture, pharmacy and call centers.

Their success in different fields is proof that going where the opportunity is, no matter how far it is from your original business, can still result in success. Although their business ventures are unrelated to each other, Gankee and the company carefully invest in each of them and make sure that all their products and services in different fields are still reflective of their branding and values.


8. Never forget to give back to the community – Dr. Cecilio Pedro (CEO, Lamoiyan Corp.)

It’s easy to make a buck, it’s harder to make a difference. Indeed, giving back to the community is a different type of reward and Dr. Cecilio Pedro, the man behind the Philippines’ first and proudly Filipino-made toothpaste brand Hapee, makes sure that his company, Lamoiyan Corp., is grounded and makes a difference in the community in their own ways.

As a philanthropist with a heart for the deaf-mute population, one of Pedro’s projects for the community is offering individuals from the community grants and opportunities for scholarship. By investing in their education, Pedro believes that his company is able to play a role in nurturing deaf-mute scholars with the hopes of passing it forward and opening even more opportunities for the community.

Not to mention, this is also a great way for the market to know that it’s not all about money and income-generating as your business also cares and has the heart to serve the marginalized.

Building a business is definitely not easy but these 8 practical tips will surely make it easier for you to jumpstart your career and pursue your passion of becoming one of the successful entrepreneurs of today.

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