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Finding Opportunities in Crisis

By Mio de la Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:35:00 03/01/2009

Filed Under: World Financial Crisis

TIMES are tough. With more overseas Filipino workers heading home after losing their jobs in the midst of a global recession, the competition for the limited jobs available here has become even more ruthless.

To cope with the rising unemployment problem, government has turned to livelihood training and re-training as export markets shrink, BPO (business process outsourcing) clients drift away and multinational companies decamp for cheaper shores.

Going into business as an entrepreneur and being one?s own boss has been touted as a solution, but this is not an easy task. According to the United States Small Business Administration, over half of new business ventures fail in the first year of their operation and 95 percent are doomed to fail in the next five. Considering the Filipinos? general lack of experience in running a business and insufficient capital, their rate of business success is short of encouraging.

But the Technology Resource Center (TRC), the official livelihood training arm of the government, remains undaunted, noting how enrolees in its livelihood seminars over the years have always exceeded its attendance targets. Likha de los Reyes, TRC?s senior technical expert, cites some of the agency?s successful trainees like Tintin Berzola-Babao and the people behind Nutrilicious, Go Donuts, and Cordillera Coffee.

The semi-government agency expects to be busier this year after being tapped by the Overseas Workers? Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide special livelihood assistance for displaced OFWs. De los Reyes reveals that OWWA members who have been laid off from their jobs abroad from October 15, 2008 to the present are entitled to free two- to three-day livelihood training seminars and P10,000 worth of livelihood package. OWWA members may likewise avail themselves of non-collateralized loans of up to P50,000, payable in two years at a 5 percent interest rate per year as working capital for any business of their choice that is within TRC?s training programs. This includes the food business, junk shops, hardware store, swine production, laundry shop, as well as perfume and cologne manufacturing.

TRC director-general Antonio Ortiz believes in the wisdom of starting small even if an aspiring entrepreneur has a lot of money to spend. This approach, he explains, keeps entrepreneurs focused on strengthening their business and making it big in the long term.

Like the TRC, Lourdes Rivera, a former government employee who now owns and operates the Ultima Entrepinoy Center and Spices & Foodmix House along E. Rodriguez in Quezon City, believes that training and capitalization are indispensable ingredients in any business venture. She says an ordinary investor needs at least P30,000 to have a reasonable fighting chance in the food business, although she knows some who have started with less and have still succeeded.

Rivera, a gifted public speaker and a food technology graduate of the University of the Philippines, has been described by many as the ?meat processing guru of the Philippines.?

?I had the good fortune of being sent to many places around the world to learn various meat processing techniques, which I then shared with trainees under the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), and now with anyone who cares to listen.? The 71-year-old grandmother charges P400 per session. She considers the training she gives as part of her mission to empower ordinary Filipinos to be entrepreneurs and become wealthy. ?I offer a holistic approach in my training,? she claims. ?I provide everything people need to know in food preparation to get the best returns without sacrificing quality.?

With training and guidance provided by the TRC and individuals like Rivera, entrepreneurs going into the food business seem assured of success. Indeed, food, being a very basic need, has always been considered the ?safest and most viable? business in times of crisis.

Ironically, another viable business is catering to high-end needs, what some might consider as pure luxury. This is what young couple Don and Anne Quibilan found out. The Quibilans did not have the benefit of attending any formal training session when they opened their art gallery business Urban Chic at the Alabang Town Center more than five years ago. Don, a business graduate of De la Salle University, has always been fascinated by his parents? personal collection of paintings, antiques, and other artworks, so he decided to open an art gallery to cater primarily to Ayala-Alabang?s high-end market that collects art pieces for profit, prestige and passion.

Don travels all over the country in search of unique new products that would interest both casual hobbyists and serious collectors. He defines a serious collector as one who thinks buying a particular painting?like one of the pieces of Oscar Zalameda, Charlie Co, Nonie Alvarado or Dennis Ascalon?is not an expense but an investment, a way of replacing cash with another form of asset with future added value. Which explains the gallery?s expensive inventory of paintings and one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture ?that cannot be easily copied.?

From their earnings, the couple has bought a property in nearby BF Almanza where they plan to build an art school this summer. ?We do not want to throw our chips into one investment, especially at this time,? Don confides, revealing for the first time his apprehension about the uncertain times ahead.

Among the hardest hit by consumer fears is the banking sector, although bank sources are quick to say that it?s business as usual insofar as most local companies are concerned. ?Some people these days are just more cautious, but otherwise there is nothing unusual in the business environment,? says Allied Bank New Manila branch manager Annabelle Sinense. In her area of operation, she reports that the food business, super-markets, and construction companies continue to generate a high volume of business.

?As always, we are cautiously optimistic, but that?s the nature of banking?conservative and always cautious,? she says. She advises the public to be conscious and conservative as well in making a business decision, whether the economy is in crisis or not. When a bank, or any entity for that matter, offers you a business proposition with high returns, you should also be aware of the higher risks involved in the transaction, she counsels.

Other sources identify domestic tourism as another sector that can offer opportunities in the midst of crisis. With less money for trips abroad, people just might settle for local travel. Again, with less shopping cash to spend, local tourists might want to part with their money on locally-produced souvenirs or even imported stuff that they can get here. Why fly to Hong Kong if that designer bag is available at a high-end boutique locally?

So what business remains profitable in these days of uncertainty?

High profile tycoon Donald Trump says it best when he defined business as nothing more than finding something that people need, and filling it?be it in food or computer technology or art pieces. Obviously, Don and Anne have done this for their market in Ayala Alabang. You too might want to identify your market and its need. And then there?s the TRC and Rivera. ?

Technology Resource Center, TRC Bldg., 103 J. Abad Santos cor. Lopez Jaena Sts., Little Baguio, San Juan. Tel. 7276205 loc. 208 and 209

Ultima Entrepinoy Forum Center, Nutrition Foundation Center of the Philippines Bldg., 107 E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave., QC, tel. nos. 4111349, 7420826, 7427866, email: lulu_sfmh yahoo.com, www.spicesandfoodmix.com

Urban Chic, Home Zone Area, Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City, tel. no. 8091441

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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