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7 most common

challenges of Pinoy
businesses
Find out what these successful entrepreneurs did to overcome common business
challenges.
By Peter Imbong | Aug 27, 2015
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“Wala talaga kaming capital,” says Jowee Alviar, referring to his joint venture with
fellow UST graduate Mon Punzalan upon graduating from college in 1997.
The two Fine Arts majors had one thing on their mind: to build their own design studio.
Gathering their own equipment in an unused room in Alviar’s house, the two set
themselves to work.
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“After graduation,” says Punzalan, “we became goal-oriented and began to list down the
things we wanted to happen.” Eighteen years later, the two have managed to become a
formidable team in the country’s design—and lately—fashion scene.

For some, Alviar and Punzalan’s name may be unfamiliar, but for many, their brand is
universal—or local—depending on how you look at it. They’re the team behind Team
Manila, a design studio, T-shirt designer, and retailer.

Like Alviar and Punzalan, finding the right idea, conceptualizing and creating your
product or service, getting funds to finance your business venture, and letting customers
know that you exist are just a few of the challenges every new business owner
encounters.

However, once you’ve settled into the shoes of being an entrepreneur, you’ll soon find
out that the process doesn’t end there. The challenge for an established business is not to
merely sustain itself, get back the money you invested, or not go bankrupt. The challenge
is to grow.

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Entrepreneur shows you how four homegrown businesses in four different industries—
the retail sector; food and beverage; health, beauty, and wellness sector; and service—
rose to the challenge of growing their brand, and in consequence, their assets. Because in
every business, the only way to go is up.
1. Lack of experience
“We started in a small room in Jowee’s house in Parañaque,” says Punzalan. Now that’s
homegrown, literally. And for Alviar, his business partner and fellow creative director,
the decision to create their own design and graphic studio was natural. “We knew what
we wanted to happen and the things we wanted to do.”
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In 1999, Alviar went to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree in graphic design,
while Punzalan worked as a creative director for a local ad agency. The two sought to
hone their skills in design.

In July of 2001, Alviar returned to Philippines and they finally launched what was to
become Team Manila in his home.

For two years, they were as Punzalan called it, “a fly-by-night” operation. With their PCs,
a printer, and a scanner, the team worked on design projects for corporate companies and
media outlets: designing album covers and books, directing music videos, creating
Websites.

“We didn’t really set up like a company,” says Punzalan, pooling the money whenever
they simply needed to buy new equipment. For a year, Team Manila was a two-man
team. That was perhaps the first obstacle: the late nights, personally delivering their
projects, contacting clients.

“For us,” says Alviar, “we were just going through it for the experience lang talaga.”

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This lack of experience in the entrepreneurial world was the same force that drove Ystilo
Salon to become a force to be reckoned with in the beauty and wellness industry.

“We started conceptualizing way back in 1997 over bottles of beer,” says Federico
Moreno, Ystilo’s president and CEO. “My sister-in-law, [actress] Vina [Morales] wanted
to have a salon. And during that time, my wife Sheila, wanted it too.”

With 11 people on his staff, including stylists, and a total of investment of P850,000,
Ystilo Salon opened its first outlet in 1999 in Fairview, Quezon City. With his wife
managing the day-to-day operations of the salon, Morales handling the marketing side,
and Moreno, a trader by profession, the business began making waves—and curls, and
layers.

Moreno soon realized that he needed to learn more about business. He left his job and
decided to take up a Masters in Franchising at the Asian Institute of Management.

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“It took us a long time to put up the franchise system. We had to educate ourselves about
the franchising aspect of the business.” But in time, they learned that beauty goes hand-
in-hand with business.
2. Finding the right people
Back then, the number one problem Ystilo Salon had was finding good people—stylists
to be more specific. He said: “That was the main challenge. During that time there was a
void in terms of very good stylists. People were going abroad.”

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Because of this, pirating stylists from competing salons became the norm. “We sat down
with all our partners and came up with something to avoid or lessen that: taking care of
our stylists by paying them well, loving them.”

For Team Manila, Alviar and Punzalan also found employing good people a necessity.
“At the beginning, we would be the ones doing the deliveries. When we transferred to
Makati, we felt like we needed a messenger. So we got one,” says Punzalan. “We also got
a secretary to do the billings. With the messenger, we were four already.”
In 2003, they officially registered themselves as a company: Team Manila in Graphic
Design Studio.

In April 2005, they launched Team Manila Lifestyle, as the retail arm of their design
studio. A cramped and humid four sq m garage in Makati City served as their first
physical store.

In front, they’d sell their unique shirts, totebags, wallets, and several art works. Behind
they’d be silk-screening their products one by one.

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3. Continuous learning
Problems persist in every business. “We had no problems with design,” says Punzalan,
“Operations. Now that was hard.”
Punzalan cited difficulties in hiring the proper staff, finding the right and affordable
suppliers: “Before, we’d be the ones who would go to Divisoria (Manila) and buy shirts.
We did not have a POS [point-of-sale] system before; everything was mano-mano (done
manually).”

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But with help from a client-turned mentor—Lex Ledesma, serial entrepreneur and
founder of The One School—Alviar and Punzalan honed their business skills.

For Ystilo Salon, now about 18 years in the business of beauty, maintaining the high
level of quality in all their products and services is challenge. With numerous branches,
some of which are franchised, keeping the good name of your brand is essential.

“Twice a year, we travel abroad and conduct our refreshers,” says Moreno. “We have our
makeup consultants in Hong Kong and Singapore, Elle Academy in Malaysia for our
technical courses. That’s how we update our stylists on the trends and styles.” They also
have a technical center that all their stylists go to for refresher courses twice a year.

Ystilo Salon became mainstream when they created a more concrete business plan which
led to their opening branches in malls in 2003. “They (malls) are a vacuum for people,”
attests Moeno. “If you want to go mainstream in the salon industry, you won’t make it if
you don’t go to the malls. This was the turning point of the company.”

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The future of Ystilo Salon indeed looks beautiful. Plans to open branches abroad are
already underway.

Meanwhile, the future of Team Manila is just as graphic as their now hugely popular tees
and merchandise. Now, Team Manila has stores in some major malls in Manila and tens
of authorized resellers all over the country.
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4. Turning need to business


“This idea that we came up with came from a need, “ says Emiliano “Nino” Caruncho IV,
CEO of Mr. Quickie and son of Mr. Quickie himself.

“My father had a lot of ideas: one of them came about back in the 1970s—he needed to
have his shoes repaired but there wasn’t any place then offering this service.”

While public markets had roving shoe repairmen, Caruncho’s father thought leaving his
shoes to a complete stranger was just too risky. “So with that experience and also seeing
other similar concepts in Asia, we decided to start it here. [My father] professionalized
the shoe repair industry in the Philippines.”

An initial investment of P50,000 got them a 15 square meter space at Virra Mall in
Greenhills, San Juan. Then, hiring and consulting the same people who used to fix shoes
in the public market.
Nino’s father opened the first Mr. Quickie outlet in 1981 in Greenhills and soon after, at
the Harrison Plaza in Manila. “People started to wonder about Mr. Quickie,” says
Caruncho. “It was a totally new concept and the name is kind of unusual. But it
eventually took off.”

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However, Mr. Quickie’s rise to fame wasn’t as quick and easy as its names suggests. Like
all businesses the problem of funding was the most crucial. To do that, “my dad actually
mortgaged our house,” laughs Caruncho.

5. Supplies
Then came the problem of sourcing materials and finding the right shoe repair machines.
“My father looked for overruns from shoemaking companies,” he says. For their
machines, “It was all just mano-mano with the help of small grinding machines.”
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Soon, people took notice of the humorously named shoe repair-shop where you can leave
your expensive shoes and come back for them on the same day.

6. Fast expansion
Mr. Quickie, for putting its best foot forward, has claimed for itself the title, “shoe repair
shop ng bayan.” It was a clever marketing move and indicated the pace at which they
wanted to grow,” says Caruncho. “When we opened, one of the strategies my dad did was
something called the Blitz (from blitzkrieg) which is supposed to be: expand as fast as
you can in the smallest amount of time.”

At that time, in the 1980s, the concept of franchising business was still unheard of. So
Caruncho’s father did the next best thing. “He gave his former employees and shoe
repairmen their own shops. They managed the shops, but we owned—all the income
went to them, but they paid us royalty.”
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The point, according to Caruncho, was to stop competition from entering the market. “It
worked,” he said.

Mr. Quickie has now spread to more than 200 shops all over the country.
7. Marketing
Even for long-established business, marketing is essential in order to cement its
popularity. For Max’s its very first system-wide marketing came almost 50 years after the
business started.

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Recalls Jim Fuentebella, a third-generation member of the family behind Max’s


Restaurant and grandchild of Ruby Trota, who was responsible for the Max’s vision:
“The cousins got together in 1993, and that was the first time we said, ‘We need to have a
marketing calendar.’”

The cousins pooled their resources together, and in 1994, decided to get singer Gary
Valenciano to be their first celebrity endorser. “That was the first time we put ourselves
on the map,” says Fuentebella.

This year, Max’s Restaurant celebrates its 70th anniversary. However, according to
Fuentebella, Max’s changes with the times. “We have to be contemporary as opposed to
modern. As a contemporary brand, we move alongside with time so that we are
appropriate and relevant to a bigger consumer base,” says Fuentebella.

With more than 120 branches around the country, 11 in the United States, four in Canada,
and three in the United Arab Emirates, the once small pit-stop for American GIs has
become a Filipino family destination. Now that’s mainstream.