Award-winning regtech startup UNAWA signs 5-year partnership deal with Taytay, Palawan LGU to revitalize local tourism

Pioneering regulatory tech (regtech) startup UNAWA and the local government of Taytay, Palawan have signed a Memorandum of Agreement which aims to revitalize local tourism through Pasaporte, an innovation powered by UNAWA’s Digital Transaction Hub, a suite of solutions that accelerate the digitization and signing/completion of important business documents. This digital suite includes UNAWA SafeForm, which allows the municipality to securely collect and digitize tourism data.

MOA Signing screenshot

The 26-page Pasaporte will be issued to visitors upon payment of the mandatory conservation and sustainable tourism fee (CSTF). It comes with a QR code, which will be scanned at each destination, as well as practical tourist information. To be launched by the last quarter of 2021, the regular Pasaporte is valid for one year while its VIP version is valid for five years.

“Data-driven policy formulation is essential to our thrust of sustainable and climate-resilient tourism development,” said Joie Matillano, Municipal Tourism Officer of Taytay, Palawan. “Pasaporte allows us to monitor tourism statistics in real-time, standardize CSTF collection and ensure its transparency, and minimize health risks.”

CSTF revenues will support the day-to-day operations of the municipal tourism office, environmental conservation efforts, capacity building initiatives for tourism stakeholders, and infrastructure development projects.  


Winner of Asian Development Bank challenge

UNAWA’s Digital Transaction Hub was one of the two winners of the Digital Against COVID-19 Hackathon organized by the Asian Development Bank last November 2020.

“Out of 149 participants who entered 47 solutions from 31 countries around the world, UNAWA made it to the Top 5—and eventually ended up as a winner—showcasing the impact of its Digital Transaction Hub in helping both local government units and MSMEs reopen and transact digitally, securely, and legitimately amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Attorney Monalisa Dimalanta, Chief Executive Officer of UNAWA.

“We’re staying true to our mission of accelerating ease of doing business and creating meaningful impact for our hard-hit sectors,” she added.


Taytay, Palawan: A bridge to new discoveries

Approximately 200 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City and an hour away from El Nido, Taytay (which originated from the word taytayan, or “bridge” in the Tagbanua language) is known for its pristine beaches, superb diving sites, stunning wildlife, and thrilling outdoor activities. It was one of the 12 finalists in the 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards organized by World Travel & Tourism Council. The revitalization of its tourism industry is expected to boost the local economy, providing opportunities to local residents who would otherwise seek employment elsewhere.

Palawan’s Sagguniang Panlalawigan has already stated its intentions to implement the Pasaporte project across all municipalities in the province.

Remote notarization is now available with UNAWA RNotary

Lockdown restrictions and health risks have made it challenging to physically execute critical documents related to deeds, contracts, and loans, to name a few. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of the Philippines’ 2020 Interim Rules on Remote Notarization of Paper Documents states that individuals need not physically go to a notary public’s office to have documents notarized.

Pioneering Philippine regulatory technology (regtech) startup UNAWA makes remote notarization even more convenient by offering UNAWA RNotary.

Initially available in Makati City, UNAWA is working towards making UNAWA RNotary available across the Philippines. Rates start at Php500 and will vary depending on the type of document to be notarized. 

Visit the UNAWA RNotary website to create an account. Once logged in, simply follow the instructions to get your first document remote-notarized.

Are you a notary public that wants to be part of our RNotary pool? Contact us!

Remote Notarization in the Philippines: What You Need to Know

Extended lockdowns, health concerns and continuously evolving travel policies have made it challenging to physically execute critical documents related to deeds, contracts, and loans, to name a few. Fortunately, the situation has inspired innovative policies such as the Supreme Court of the Philippines’ 2020 Interim Rules on Remote Notarization of Paper Documents, which states that individuals need not physically go to a notary public’s office to have documents notarized. While institutions overseas fully remote notarizations, a mix of online and offline procedures are still required in the Philippine setting.

Pioneering Philippine regulatory technology (regtech) startup UNAWA makes remote notarization even more convenient by offering UNAWA RNotary. We’re answering your most frequently asked questions about this service.

Q: Why should documents be notarized?

A: There are certain documents that are required by law to be notarized. In addition, notarization has legal implications since it converts a private document into a public instrument. Under Philippine rules on evidence, once a document is notarized, this becomes proof of the document’s authenticity. Moreover, the Philippine public tends to rely on notarization as a source of legitimacy for their transactions even in cases where it is not required.

Q: Can I have all documents notarized?

A: As mentioned, not all documents need to be notarized. But if it does need notarization, the same will be acceptable by RNotary. However, UNAWA’s RNotary Launch will be for single signatory documents only.

The next update will allow for more document types.

Q: Does this mean then that all notarized documents are valid?

A: Not necessarily. A notarized document can still be nullified or invalidated in case there are errors in notarization, for example:

  • Incomplete notarial certificate
  • Incorrect venue/signer’s name
  • Illegible/expired notary seal
  • The seal is stamped over text
  • The use of correction fluid

A nullified document will have no force or effect. This means you will need to hire a lawyer and even go to court to prove the document’s legitimacy. This can be costly and time-consuming.

Q: What are the benefits of remote notarization?

A: With UNAWA’s RNotary service, you can have important documents notarized securely from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

With UNAWA, notaries registered with the service have an existing notarial commission, ensuring that all notarized documents are valid and recorded.

Q: How does remote notarization work?

A: RNotary’s remote notarization service entails three steps:

Step 1: Signed document is securely delivered to the notary by personal or courier service

The following requirements must be prepared by the Principal or the person sending the document: 

  • Document to be notarized, in as many copies as may be needed (important: aside from the number of notarized copies that you need, please prepare at least two (2) additional copies, which will be kept by the notary)
  • Two (2) copies of the principal’s valid I.D.
  • Secure envelope for transmittal to the notary
  • Video clip showing that the principal actually signed the document to be notarized. While the Supreme Court states that the video can be saved on a USB drive or sent as an email attachment, these options have corresponding risks: USBs could malfunction and confidential information sent via email might be hacked. Files uploaded on RNotary’s system are encrypted in transit for added protection. You may use a laptop or phone camera to record the signing, then save as .mp4 for a lightweight video version.

If you’re a company representative and are signing on behalf of a business entity or a corporation, please add the following requirements:

  • Two (2) certified copies of the document granting the principal authority to sign in such capacity (e.g., Corporate Secretary’s Certificate, signed Board Resolution, or Special Power of Attorney)
  • Two (2) copies of the valid ID of the person who signed the authorization document

Once these requirements have been completed, RNotary will facilitate the pickup and delivery of the documents to be notarized.

Step 2: Notary verifies the principal's identity and the document's legitimacy

  • The principal has to open a GPS navigation app (i.e., Waze or Google Maps) on his or her mobile device and show this on screen to verify his or her location 
  • Notary opens the sealed envelope and asks the principal to confirm the identity of the document; the latter is required to show original copies of that document being notarized
  • The document must be kept in the principal’s full view at all times during the video call
  • The principal will be asked to affix a handwritten signature on a blank piece of paper for comparison, confirm that the signature on the document is his/hers, and that he/she signed voluntarily. 
  • Representatives will be asked to confirm that they were authorized to sign on the principal’s behalf.
  • Notary examines the principal’s demeanor and surroundings. Other persons present during the videoconference might be requested to leave if needed

Step 3: Notary signs and affixes seal on the document

  • Notary completes the notarial certificate, affixes signature, and sets his/her seal
  • The certificate shall state that the notarial act was done through video conferencing facilities in accordance with the Supreme Court rules
  • During the videoconference, the principal avows to the whole truth of the contents of the document under penalty of law

Q: Where can I avail myself of the RNotary service and how much does it cost?

A: While RNotary will be initially launched in Makati City, we are working towards making the service available in every city across the Philippines. Rates start at Php500 and will vary depending on the type of document to be notarized. 

Visit the UNAWA RNotary website to create an account. Once logged in, simply follow the instructions to get your first document remote-notarized.

For notaries who want to be part of the service, please email us and we will get in touch for the next steps.

Can I use app-based transport network vehicles services (TNVS) to send documents?

A: Yes, you can. Our TNVS partners and in-house couriers will be trained to handle important legal documents required for remote notarization.

UNAWA’s RNotary service is now available. Access a more secure way to get documents notarized

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UNAWA strengthens RegTech leadership and management team with 2 new hires

Pioneering Philippine regtech startup UNAWA has added two distinguished talents to its leadership team, beefing up its roster as it prepares to launch its digital products.

UNAWA welcomes Atty. Gino Jacinto as its new Vice President for Operations and Business Development and Ms. Sally Dimalanta as its new Senior Account Manager. The two bring with them several years of experience in legal services and leadership development, further strengthening UNAWA’s position as a leader in Philippine regtech innovation.

Prior to UNAWA, Atty. Gino Jacinto acts as the Chief Legal Officer of VELOCITY Sports & Entertainment, a Singapore-based boutique agency connecting companies to the sports and entertainment industries, as well as the Chief Business Development Officer of Legalex, a Philippine startup connecting its users with lawyers through an on-demand digital platform. He started his professional career at the MVGS and Q&A Law Offices before moving to the corporate world as the Head of Legal for an importation and distribution company.

“The Philippine legal industry is ripe for technological innovation, with various analog processes and old traditions giving way to digital transformation. I’m excited to work with UNAWA in exploring this massive opportunity to revolutionize the regtech space,” said Jacinto.

Meanwhile, Ms. Sally Dimalanta was an independent consultant before joining UNAWA, specializing in leadership and people development. She had also worked as the Senior Director of Operations of Alorica and the Senior Operations Manager of TELUS International Philippines, two multinational outsourcing companies providing world-class services to some of the largest corporations in the world.

“Today, businesses value efficiency more than ever, and optimizing processes is key in both growing successful businesses and bouncing back from the challenging global environment. With UNAWA, we’re creating sustainable solutions that will not only make legal processes more efficient for Filipino businesses, but also open these businesses up to massive opportunities in the digitally-enabled future,” said Dimalanta.

Commenting on the two new hires, UNAWA CEO Monalisa Dimalanta highlighted, “UNAWA remains steadfast in its vision to make regulatory compliance as pain-free as possible for enterprises and SMEs so they can focus on bouncing back and becoming real engines of economic recovery. With Gino and Sally joining UNAWA, we’re confident in turning that vision into a reality. We’re excited to announce groundbreaking new products in the coming months.”

Jacinto and Dimalanta’s hirings precede a significant step in UNAWA’s journey—the launch of its digital solutions in the latter half of 2021. From a digital platform providing accessible remote notarization to a web app digitizing legal documents and creating legally binding e-signatures, UNAWA is making ease of doing business a reality for Filipino businesses.

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.

Filipino regtech startup UNAWA wins 1st Runner-Up in regional pitch competition


Filipino regulatory technology (regtech) startup UNAWA placed first runner-up in the Business Plan Challenge of the 2020 Licensing Executives Society Asia Pacific (LES APAC) Conference, a regional competition that featured various startups addressing challenges in intellectual property. It was the sole Philippine startup in the competition, which featured four teams from across the Asia-Pacific region.


“We are honored with this recognition by LES APAC’s Business Plan Challenge,” said Atty. Mona Dimalanta, CEO of UNAWA. “As a proudly Filipino startup, we believe that this win is also representative of the remarkable progress that the Philippine regtech industry has undergone over the past few years.” 


The Business Plan Challenge is a regular feature of the LES APAC Conference, an annual gathering of the region’s experts in the intellectual property and licensing industries. Hosted by LES Singapore on October 22–23, this year marked the first time that the conference was held entirely online, following the theme of “Licensing in the Age of Innovation.”

The overall winner of this year’s Business Plan Challenge was asEars, a Japanese startup developing innovative technology targeted at individuals with single-sided deafness. asEars’ product, which resembles a pair of glasses, allows individuals to better communicate with their peers in both casual and professional settings.


Award-winning solution


UNAWA’s pitch focused on its Digital Transaction Hub, an end-to-end solution that enables Philippine businesses to digitize their analog forms, protect their assets, and transact with other businesses securely and efficiently. Through its suite of solutions, UNAWA is helping entrepreneurs create more value, continue closing deals and earning, and capitalize on opportunities presented by the new normal.


“We have built our team and our business to help other businesses understand and navigate the terrain, and make business clearer, more convenient, more cost-efficient, and easier for them to survive and thrive,” said Niña Terol, Chief Marketing Officer of UNAWA, in the team’s pitch. 


Included in the UNAWA Digital Transaction Hub are the following products:

  • SafeForm – A tool that helps businesses digitize their analog forms and processes
  • SignSecure – A digital solution providing e-signature and mobile-verified encryption, making sure that a digital document is authentic and legally binding in the Philippines
  • SignSecure RNotary – A service that gives businesses easier access to remote notarization, as the Supreme Court has recently allowed remote notarization for certain documents  


“Our solutions were made with Philippine businesses in mind, which face various challenges relating to notarization that were only exacerbated by the country’s community quarantines,” explained Terol. “Through the Digital Transaction Hub, we aim to make a difference for our fellow Filipino entrepreneurs, and we will continue this thrust as we scale up to other countries in the near future.”




UNAWA is a regulatory technology startup making ease of doing business a reality in the Philippines and helping them survive and thrive in the increasingly digital economy. Established in 2020, it is a partnership between multi-awarded legal firm PJS Law and inclusiontech startup Talino Venture Labs. 


For more information, visit

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.

UNAWA takes center stage as sole regtech firm in She Loves Tech Philippines 2020

UNAWA takes center stage as sole regtech firm in She Loves Tech Philippines 2020

It represented the regtech industry and its growing potential in the country



Regtech startup UNAWA was one of the 10 finalists in She Loves Tech Philippines 2020, the local unit of the world’s largest startup competition focused on women and technology. UNAWA joined nine other Philippine startups that were also led by female founders and executives. 


“The UNAWA team is honored to have been selected as a finalist for She Loves Tech 2020, and we are proud to represent and pioneer the country’s emerging regtech sector,” said Atty. Mona Dimalanta, CEO of UNAWA. “As a regtech startup primarily led by female Filipino professionals, UNAWA understands and is mindful of its responsibility to deliver innovative solutions to the Philippine market that make ease of doing business something that can truly be at our fingertips.”



The pitch competition was held online on October 8, 2020 in partnership with QBO Innovation Hub, the country’s first public-private partnership focused on the startup community. Established in 2015, She Loves Tech aims to put the spotlight on women-led and women-focused startups around the world, highlighting the importance of female innovators populating the startup and technology industries.  


“We do all of this because we believe that the combination of women and technology is key to solving the world’s greatest challenges,” said Rhea See, Co-Founder of She Loves Tech. “Not having women on the table, not having women in this industry, is depriving us from some of the most innovative technologies that can help us move the needle.”


Fintech startup SukiPlus won the competition, and it will represent the Philippines in the She Loves Tech global finals. Completing the podium are healthtech firm reach52 and e-commerce platform GrocerGenie.


Digital Transaction Hub

Watch Full Event Here!


In UNAWA’s first-ever pitch, the startup presented its Digital Transaction Hub, a suite of regtech solutions that helps businesses participate and succeed in the digital economy. Created in response to the challenges that businesses continue to face in the pandemic, UNAWA equips micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with the tools they need to quickly overcome these challenges and create more value for their businesses. 


“In a world that has rapidly gone digital, transforming digital transactions creates great value for small businesses and entire economies alike,” said Niña Terol, Chief Marketing Officer of UNAWA, in the She Loves Tech 2020 pitch. “It generates up to 80% cost savings per company, gets business done 21 times faster than paper documents, and empowers MSMEs to be part of the US$300-billion digital economy.”


The UNAWA Digital Transaction Hub includes SafeForm, which enables businesses to digitize their analog forms and create automated workflows; SignSecure, an e-signature service helping entrepreneurs close digital contracts and agreements more quickly; and SignSecure RNotary, which gives clients access to secure and efficient remote notarization services. 


“Through the UNAWA Digital Transaction Hub, we champion She Loves Tech’s mission of creating impactful innovations through female-led startups,” added Atty. Dimalanta. “As we continue to roll out our solutions, UNAWA is keen on empowering more of its fellow businesses to not only survive, but also thrive in the digital economy.”

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.

Is Remote the Next Normal for Notarization?

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly reshaped Philippine society in the span of a few months, thanks to a combination of what has been reported as “the world’s longest lockdown,” ever-evolving travel and access restrictions from both the government and the private sector, and strong health and safety concerns from the public in general. These have forced various sectors to scramble for ways to go about their day-to-day dealings as approximately close to how they used to do so pre-COVID.

The legal services industry has been one of the sectors heavily affected. Notaries public have particularly been hindered, given the heavy reliance on face-to-face interactions with their signatories. 


Notarization, in the Philippines, is generally not a pre-condition for the validity of legal documents. However, many essential transactions require notarization, such as real estate dealings and submissions to the BIR, LGUs, and many other government agencies. Further, even when notarization is not required, the Philippine public tends to rely on notarization as a source of legitimacy for their transactions. Commerce has thus suffered, with parties finding themselves ready to sign a contract or document but unable to proceed with the transaction for lack of access to a notary.


The Supreme Court has thankfully noticed. In July, the Court issued the Interim Rules on Remote Notarization to address these concerns. The Interim Rules do not completely overhaul the notarization system, but they depart from the traditionally “analog” Rules on Notarial Practice in some meaningful ways.


The biggest change comes from the introduction of videoconferencing. Under the previous notarial practice, parties were required to appear before notaries and confirm that they voluntarily affixed their signature on a document presented to the notary (in the case of a notarial acknowledgment), or sign and swear to a document before the notary (in case of an affidavit or jurat). The Interim Rules dispense with this personal appearance requirement, in favor of an online appearance by way of videoconference. 


Under the Interim Rules, a signatory pre-signs the document and, together with their competent proof of identity (e.g., passport, driver’s license, etc.), couriers the signed document to their notary. Upon receipt, the notary schedules a videoconference with the signatory, during which the notary confirms the signatory’s identity, and requests the signatory to confirm that they voluntarily signed the document. The notary then affixes their notarial seal and certificate per usual practice, but with an annotation that notarization was done by videoconference.


An inherent difficulty with any online notarization process is that notarial commissions are necessarily geographical (a notary commissioned in Makati, for example, cannot notarize in Pasig). The Interim Rules have creatively addressed this problem by allowing signatories to present GPS location-enabled devices during the videoconference, in order to validate that they are located within their notary’s commission area. Interestingly, the Rules also allow location validation through landmarks. So if they happen to be in the right location, a signatory can put aside Waze or Google Maps, and instead show their notary the view outside the window.


Bowing to security considerations, the Rules include robust safeguards to ensure the integrity of the notarized document. At the outset, the pre-signed document must be sent to the notary in an envelope sealed with the signatory’s initials. The notary opens this sealed envelope only during the videoconference, and the document taken from the envelope must be kept in full view of the signatory throughout the videoconference. 


The Rules also have redundant measures for the notary to verify the signature on the document: (1) the signatory must send the notary a video clip of themselves signing the document, (2) during the videoconference, they need to sign a blank piece of paper and show this to the notary for comparison with the signature on the document, and (3) the notary is even required to pose searching questions to satisfy themselves that the signatory freely and voluntarily signed the document.


If there is one criticism of the Rules, it would be that they can only be used to notarize documents signed with traditional handwritten or “wet” ink signatures. While other government agencies such as the DICT have made a strong push toward digital methods of signing documents, the restrictions on notarization will undoubtedly dampen the momentum of this shift.

As their name implies, the Interim Rules are only temporary. Applying only to areas placed under Community Quarantine, the Rules will eventually lapse once travel restrictions are completely lifted by the authorities. The Rules, however, are the first step in the right direction. And hopefully the legal community, through the leadership of the Supreme Court, will use the intervening period as an opportunity to take stock of our notarial system and find ways to move it further towards digitization by accommodating electronic and digital signatures on a more permanent basis.

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.

The Future of Tourism banner

The Future of Tourism

With most of the world on lockdown, tourism and all of its related industries have experienced a massive slowdown in operations that is seen to continue while there is no COVID-19 vaccine. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) already predicted that over 100 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector will be lost around the world, leading to a total global GDP loss of about US$2.7 trillion (Php135.8 trillion).

With this context in mind, UNAWA felt it fitting to close its free “Navigating the New Normal” webinar series with a discussion focused specifically on the tourism, travel, and hospitality industries. Its eighth and final webinar, “Travel & Leisure 2.0: Reimagining the Travel and Hospitality Sectors,” featured a star-studded panel of industry leaders who shared their tips and insights on how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in these industries can rise above the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Here are the highlights:

1. Strengthen safety protocols.

In a pre-recorded message, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat shared what the government plans to do to revitalize the industry. She revealed that the DOT was planning to explore the concepts of “travel bubbles” and “travel corridors,” which will link tourist spots in the Philippines with no COVID cases with other tourist spots around the region in the same situation.

“These are the things that we are discussing with our other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) partners, that we can have this travel corridor and travel bubble wherein the tourists will feel safe because they are going to a place in our country which has no COVID,” said Romulo-Puyat.

This highlights that while the DOT is pushing for the reopening of the country’s tourism sector, it is only doing so by taking every measure to keep both tourists and service providers as safe as possible. Internally, it will only be allowing hotels, restaurants, and other similar establishments to operate if these accommodations are strictly enforcing health protocols within their locations.

“All these accredited DOT-accommodations have to follow health and safety protocols, and the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) recently approved that no accommodation can operate unless it is accredited by the DOT,” added Romulo-Puyat. “And again, the DOT will not accredit if we cannot ensure the safety and health of our guests.”

2. Accept the realities—then plan accordingly.

While it is good to look at the bright side of things, it is important to be aware of the entire picture. Jaison Yang, President and Co-owner of travel agency Travel Warehouse Inc., says that it is important for his fellow SME owners in the travel and hospitality sectors to know where the industry is going so that they can plan their strategy for both the short-term and long-term.

“I’m not saying let’s not be optimistic, but I think this is the time to be realistic, because the only way to recover is acceptance,” said Yang. “If you don’t accept that these things are happening, you cannot plan and you cannot recover.”

That reality is how travel agencies such as Yang’s are in a “wait-and-see” scenario, wherein they will not only have to wait for the government to reopen the country, they will also have to wait for other related industries to be confident enough to continue operations as well. While Yang knows that the situation is grim, he nevertheless finds it important for entrepreneurs to take all of these realities into account when planning for the future.

“If I may quote a colleague, some people are sugar coating that the tourism industry is just on vacation. But he said that the industry is not on vacation, but it’s on forced leave,” he added. “For us, it’s a wait-and-see. No matter how many times we plan ahead, it will always depend on the situation within the hotel industry, airline industry, and other partners.”

3. Communicate and build trust with your clients.

Bel Castro, Assistant Dean of the College of Hospitality Management at Enderun Colleges, shared many well-researched insights for SME owners in the hospitality sector, or those who run hotels and other similar accommodations. Among her tips was in response to a question about how budget hotels can compete with 2-star or 3-star hotels who were slashing prices, where she shared the importance of being communicative with prospective customers.

“If you are managing your safety issues, you must communicate, communicate, communicate,” said Castro. “If you go into hiding and you disappear from people’s view… when [people] start planning to travel again, you’re not on their shortlist. Nakalimutan ka na (You’ve been forgotten).” 

She cited research from travel market intelligence agency Skift, which has been publishing various studies on the state of the travel and tourism industry during and after the pandemic. One research she highlighted was how the most effective businesses in the sector were using the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild trust with their clients by actively communicating with them, which will prove helpful in the long run.

“It’s a great quote from Mr. Ali who runs Skift, [who] said, ‘Wear your pain on your sleeve.’ Let your customer know that you are suffering just like them, [that] you are taking care of your staff, because by extension they will believe that you will take care of them. These will pay dividends later on because no one is going to buy your products if they don’t trust you, and that trust has to be built,” advised Castro.

4. Find opportunities to collaborate.

Airlines were among the most impacted by the pandemic, as the global lockdowns meant that they were among the first to be restricted to operate because of the health risks involved. But Atty. Jomar Castillo, Chairman of AirAsia Philippines, revealed that despite all these setbacks, the airlines were still operating in some capacity with the help of the government. 

“It’s wrong that airlines stopped operations completely. All of us were part of the repatriation flights of the DOT,” shared Castillo. “Airlines were operating during the pandemic, so we’re pretty much ready to fly people safely after the lockdowns.”

What Castillo found surprising, though, was how all of the major airlines were helping each other out throughout the lockdown, despite being each other’s competitors. He highlighted that this culture of collaboration should extend to all kinds of businesses, whether they’re competitors, related industries, or even other faraway sectors.

“In this time when we’re all in a crisis, everybody needs to work together. During the pandemic, the airlines were all working together, [even if] we’re direct competitors,” said Castillo.

Itinerary for Recovery

The recovery process for businesses in the tourism, travel, and hospitality sectors will be a slow and challenging one, but we hope that these tips, along with the other great dscussions and insights from the webinar itself, will help SMEs get started. The itinerary for this recovery journey may be long and complicated, but businesses must be laser-focused so that they can successfully reach their destinations.

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.

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Leap to Entrepreneurship

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.

Banner - Overcome These Top Business Barriers

Overcome These Top Business Barriers

With businesses now being allowed to slowly reopen, owners of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are looking for ways to reopen and operate safely, and also refine their business strategy to meet changing needs. Several months of community quarantine have dampened their sales and forced them to adjust to the new normal, so the next few months will be critical in keeping their businesses afloat.

Fortunately, they do not have to do it alone. Many government agencies, large companies, and even fellow MSMEs have rolled out products, programs, and projects aimed specifically to help small business owners get back on their feet. These MSME enablers were the highlight of our sixth webinar, “Ready, Set? Reboot! MSME Enablers in the New Normal.”

In the webinar, the panelists were asked to identify the biggest barriers MSMEs are currently facing in their road to recovery. Here, we list their replies and highlight how each of their organizations are helping MSMEs adapt to the new normal:

Barrier #1: Lack of Information

When Jude Buelva established hyperlocal delivery startup Pandalivery as a college student back in 2017, he found it hard to find resources that would help him start his entrepreneurial journey. He highlighted how this lack of information is a major barrier for anyone who wants to put up their own business.

“As a student aspiring to become an entrepreneur years ago, hindi ko alam (I didn’t know) where to start. Entrepreneurs have a really hard time accessing information,” said Buelva. “Hindi nila alam kung paano magsimula, ano yung opportunity na meron sa kanila, and ano yung available na resources sa kanila (They don’t know how to start, what opportunities are present, and what resources are available for them).”

Today, Buelva is enabling other businesses in Camarines Sur and Albay through Pandalivery, a logistics startup for food, groceries, and medicine. His hyperlocal approach allows Buelva to contribute in building the business community of the Bicol region, ensuring that his fellow entrepreneurs have resources available to grow their businesses.. 

Ghian Marucot, Co-founder and COO of global e-commerce enabler eCFULFILL, recommended that MSME owners seek out enablers like the organizations of the panelists. These businesses, government agencies, and groups have a lot of useful information readily available to any entrepreneur who needs it. 

“[By using] these services, makikita niyo (you’ll see) how easy it really is to recover using online platforms,” said Marucot.

Barrier #2: No Confidence in Their Business

Both Buelva and Marucot also pointed to entrepreneurs’ lack of confidence in themselves and in their offerings as major barriers in scaling up. While entrepreneurs have to face many uncertainties in how their products will be received or how their business models will fare, both of them agree that these are necessary in order to scale up.

“When you talk about scaling up or expanding, parang natatakot sila kasi baka mawala sa kanila yung product (they’re afraid that they might lose control of the product) or they’ll actually spend more,” said Buelva. “But they don’t realize [that] if you don’t risk, you’ll never really grow.”

This barrier is especially close to Marucot’s heart, as eCFULFILL’s platform allows local retailers and merchants to sell and market their products to potential customers all over the world, through global e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Wish, and Etsy. He assured entrepreneurs that their products will find a market abroad, as Filipino-made goods already have a reputation for being high-quality.

“We have very good quality Filipino products. Our brands can be global brands,” claimed Marucot. “The way we present our products, yung mga designs natin (our designs), they’re globally accepted. Be confident with your product, let’s bring it out there. Magugulat kayo (You’ll be surprised) how [receptive] the global consumer is to the Filipino product.”

Barrier #3: Reluctance to Change

The webinar also featured two representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which have been rolling out and promoting various programs that are helping MSMEs cope with the effects of the pandemic. Both also talked about common barriers experienced by MSMEs that they’ve observed in their projects.

Jerry Clavesillas, Director of the Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development at the DTI, highlighted that entrepreneurs must be adaptive especially with how quickly the market is changing. MSME owners who still fall back to their habits and models prior to the lockdown will find it much harder to thrive in the new normal.

“During this time, the challenge for our entrepreneurs in getting back to their operations is the reluctance to change. Nagbabago ang preferences ng market (The market’s preferences are shifting), so you have to change, you have to adapt to the new norm,” said Clavesillas. “The mindset of our people should be attuned to the demands of the times.”

Clavesillas added that having a change in mindset was one of seven Ms that the DTI is promoting to MSMEs in order for them to succeed. For the other six Ms, check out this post from the DTI.

Barrier #4: Low Digital Skills

One of the key programs that the DTI rolled out during the lockdown was CTRL + BIZ Reboot Now!, a series of free webinars that highlight various topics on how MSMEs can enter the digital economy. Mary Jean Pacheco, Assistant Secretary for Digital Philippines and DTI E-commerce Lead, shared in UNAWA’s webinar that hosting CTRL + BIZ has been a great learning experience both for the MSMEs and for the DTI.

For Pacheco, one of the insights she gathered was how there was a general lack in digital skills among many Filipinos and MSME owners. She enumerated tiers of digital readiness among MSMEs, and she noted how many MSMEs were still in the first tier: having an email for their business.

“We have to make sure that our SMEs are digitalized,” said Pacheco. “There are many SMEs who don’t even have an email. Dapat, geared up ang ating mga kababayan to do the basics (Filipinos should be geared up to do the basics).”

On the individual level, Pacheco urged Filipinos to be more productive with their use of the Internet. She cited how Filipinos were among the most frequent Internet users in the world, but also had low adoption of other digital products such as mobile wallets. 

“We spend 10 hours a day on the Internet,” she said. “If we will be more productive [by using] the Internet either as a consumer or as a seller, our e-commerce will really grow.”

Break the Barriers

As Pacheco highlighted, one of the most effective ways to break these barriers is to invest in digital platforms. By using technology to access information, increase confidence in their products, and change their operations, MSME owners can get a head start in their efforts to reboot their business.

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.