Because of the adverse effects of the lockdown, many Filipinos are now looking into starting their own businesses to make a living. You may have seen stories of recently laid-off employees or overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) turning their setbacks around by going into entrepreneurship and becoming their own bosses.

That was the topic of UNAWA’s recent free webinar: “From Zero to Hero: Leap from Unemployment to Entrepreneurship.” We invited self-made entrepreneurs who were able to grow their businesses from scratch, to share their insights on how their fellow Filipinos can start their entrepreneurial journeys.

Here are three of the tips they shared:

1. Do your research

Before Rolandrei Viktor “Zark” Varona became an entrepreneur, he wore many hats in various food establishments, most notably as part of the cold kitchen staff of a cruise liner for two years. However, throughout his professional life, he still stuck to one dream: open and run his own restaurant.

When he finally opened fast-food chain Zark’s Burgers in 2009, he had to take the leap from being a chef to being a restaurateur, and it wasn’t easy. On that end, Varona shared one simple but very important tip for other aspiring entrepreneurs: doing extensive research about what they’re getting into.

“‘Yung biggest challenge para sa ‘kin, nag-jump ako from cook [tapos] naging entrepreneur (The biggest challenge for me was jumping from being a cook to being an entrepreneur),” said Varona. “Ang ginawa ko, mas doble effort para pag-aralan yung mga best practices ng mga nauna na, ng mga malalaking brands (What I did was to exert double the effort in studying the best practices of the ones before me, of the big brands).”

He also added that he was able to ask for advice from his colleagues in previous jobs. As these were experienced restaurant managers, he was able to apply their insights into his own business.

Humingi ako ng tulong sa mga supervisor, sa mga manager ko sa dating trabaho. Buti naman, we shared the same vision, same values, so tinulungan nila ako magbuo ng company (I asked for help from my supervisors and managers from past jobs. Good thing we shared the same vision, same values, so they helped me build a company),” shared Varona.

2. Don’t be afraid to fail

One of the biggest reasons why most people are scared of starting their own business is all of the risk and uncertainty that comes with it. It’s almost guaranteed that an entrepreneur will first need to put in money when they start the business, and it will take them some time to recoup that initial investment.

Rodel Anunciado, co-founder of agritech firm BINHI Inc., has a unique way of viewing the losses entrepreneurs incur from running their businesses. For him, it’s best that business owners treat these losses similarly to the tuition fees they pay to study in a university, except the school in this case is the business.

“When you lose money doing business, it’s a form of tuition fee,” said Anunciado. “With all the challenges, with all of these things that happen to you and your business, you just have to fight on. Learn and move forward.”

He added that most aspiring entrepreneurs are afraid to start their own businesses because they are pressured to make it as perfect as possible, and to execute their strategies without making any mistakes. Anunciado stressed that it’s not about doing things perfectly, but doing things as best as you can and then improving afterwards.

“My mindset [is] positive action more than perfectionism,” he said. “You get things done whether [it’s good or not], and then you go back and make it more ‘perfect’. Use data and then do it, because once you don’t do it, you don’t know whether it will work or not.”

3. Look into government programs for help

For those who need extra support in starting their businesses, the government has various programs aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs learn the necessary skills needed. Various government agencies offer workshops, training programs, and other useful programs that can help an entrepreneur get started, scale up, and become successful.

One of these agencies is the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA. In the webinar, Rosalina Constantino, Assistant Executive Director of TESDA’s Planning Office, talked about TESDA’s various programs to help Filipinos start their entrepreneurial journeys. She highlighted the TESDA Online Courses, which are free and accessible resources for anyone to learn more about entrepreneurship and a variety of other topics and industries.

“We have programs to help Filipinos upskill and retool themselves and prepare them for a job and a livelihood after,” said Constantino. “We have this battle cry, ‘TESDA abot lahat’ (TESDA reaches all), [which means not just] towards global competitiveness or workforce readiness, but also those who are unreached, [the] social equity part of our responsibility.”

The webinar also featured a special guest speaker: Melvin Santiago Rojo, who runs Iloilo-based bakery Myrnz Cakecreations with his wife Myrna. Rojo shared his story of how he and his wife used to work as OFWs in Brunei, but then came back to the Philippines because they wanted to start their own business.

What was able to help the couple was the Negosyo Center program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). With the support of the DTI, the two were not only able to grow their business into one of the most well-known cake shops in Iloilo, but also promote their cakes around the country through DTI’s roadshows and exhibitions.

Take the leap

These three tips only scratch the surface in terms of what entrepreneurs will need to start their own business, but we hope they were helpful all the same. As Anunciado puts it, you’ll never know whether or not your business will work until you try it out and take the leap.


We hope this article was helpful. To get more information, insight, and inspiration,check out the other articles in UNAWA Explainer for more tips on how your business can navigate the new normal.