Monday, January 27, 2003

Journey on Entrepreneurship: Rejoinder

NOTE: This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section.

Thanks to our readers for their participation in our Journey on Entrepreneurship.

From Dr. Josie Isidro (

“I thought the entrepreneur is always on the look out for profit. You were just having fun it seems when you set up your store. Now this never-ending search for profit is something interesting. Since when did it start and why has it so addicted all of us that life pretty much revolved around it for majority of us.”

From Nonet (

“Hello. I have just read your article and maybe could compare with those that have been successful (but not really in the big bucks league). Just like the nephew of my wife who has a regular stall in the sidewalk of Tutuban, Divisoria (for which they pay only P6,000 a month). Their capital of P30,000 earned double in their first month. They start selling at 7 p.m. and end around 12 midnight. They usually sell girls’ items like bags and dresses; but this year’s bestsellers are novelty necklace and bracelets (very popular among the teenagers and those who still like to act like one).

“I do not know if these items are some of those you tried selling in Eastwood. They usually cost P50 each and can be sold at P100 to P150 each. Considering the place (Eastwood), people go there to have a good time but not really buy something. People go to Divisoria to shop.

“You really need something that will catch the interest of the Eastwood crowd. Novelty bags could also sell; those worth P100 can be sold for P200 to P250. We have observed that specialized items sell more, as in, if you go selling bags, then sell only bags. Food and delicacies will also sell. It’s really hard to sell in that place stuff like mugs, dolls, shirts, toys. I don’t think items worth more than P250 could really sell well in Eastwood since the market there is still the middle class.”

I also received text messages and phoned in comments from my friends who read the column last Monday. I have taken the liberty of translating a number of these reactions from Filipino to English:

• Ah, so you have plenty of money. Why didn’t you just loan the money to us?

• Why did you go into such a high-risk venture? You should have just spent your money traveling and shopping instead of losing it. Not to mention the time and effort you put into your business.

• You should have done this ...

• You ought to have done this ...

• You should have sold food items. People will always buy food even if they don’t have money.

• Employment is better than going into your own business. No losses. You rake in profit every 15th and end of the month no matter what happens to your company.

• Wow! I admire your courage. I wish I were as courageous.

• You mean you actually convinced people to splurge last Christmas? You contributed to the commercialization of Christmas. Shame!

• I envy you. I have long wanted to go into business myself. But I am terrified.

• May I join you in your next venture? But let us plan it very well so that we can ensure profit.

• I will invest in your venture next time.

• Maybe you don’t have a business and marketing plan, that is why you lost. You should have made lots of profit.

• I don’t like that. Working during the holidays? I need at least eight hours sleep every night. What about my social life?

• You are both hardworking. You are employees during the day and businessmen at night. Wow!

• I went to Eastwood. I did not see you there. I should have bought something from you in the name of friendship.

• If I did not buy so many umbrellas from you maybe you would have lost a lot more.

• Why did you lose? Don’t you know your accounting? High operations cost, low markup? What kind of business strategy is that?

• There are really many entrepreneurs among employees. They sell everything in the office from food items to jewelry. Teachers are entrepreneurs by necessity.

• Your column is inspiring and educational. Write more about entrepreneurship.

• Okay, now we will buy and read Manila Times. We want to read your “dyaryonovela.”

From Jong Villanueva (

“Late last year when I resigned from work I went to Alaska, upon the advice of my friends, to look into possible business ventures.

“There is, indeed, a big opportunity for Filipino entrepreneurs in Alaska. There is a sizable market with high purchasing power among the Filipino-American. There are, at least, 12,000 Filipinos working and living in Alaska. The majority is in Anchorage. They are not your ordinary caregivers and teachers. They work in the canning, health care and oil companies. They are mostly highly skilled and technical employees. A number are in managerial positions. Alaska offers the highest wages in all of the USA plus financial subsidies. These wages are state-tax free.

“Some of the likely products an entrepreneur can introduce in the Filipino community are Filipino films and TV shows, entertainment offering Filipino music and food, shipping of balikbayan boxes, dollar remittance services to the Philippines, and many others. Think of what sells here that could also sell to a Filipino anywhere.”

You could easily surmise from these comments who are hunters and who are farmers; who have the entrepreneurial motivation and who would be content with the trappings of employment. It will be fun and educational to have more readers participate in this workshop.

So on to our Journey on Entrepreneurship. Next issue: What pro-ducts sell? We shall first concentrate on entrepreneurs who actually own and run their business. We shall answer all those issues raised. Much later, we could tackle being entrepreneurial as an employee, boss or subordinate.

Ms. Moje Ramos Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Consultants and will be happy to receive your participation via

Monday, January 20, 2003

Journey on entrepreneurship: Paying the price of freedom

NOTE: This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section, and also at the following web address:

Hello! I am very happy to be writing for The Manila Times and to be touching your mind and heart, dear readers. Some of you, perhaps, have read my column, “Recipes for Learning,” in another newspaper these past two-and-a-half years.

“Learning” is basically a learning column, a seminar-workshop. It is a virtual training program. Our basic objective is to start you thinking and open your minds to possibilities about certain aspects of your balanced life. We shall not focus entirely on your business and career life. We shall also relate these topics to your social, personal and spiritual life. We shall not tell you what to do. Take note, I said, “start you thinking and open your mind to possibilities.” We shall be helping you clarify, define, acquire, deepen and develop your competencies or your knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to enable and empower you.

We shall employ me­thodologies such as discussions, caselets, paper and pen exercises, personal assessments/inventories, even structured learning exercises. I shall also write “lecturettes” or my own views, experience and insights on the topic at bar and quote as many authorities/experts as possible. We shall make this training program as interactive as possible. Please don’t just sit there and read. I shall appreciate your participation and reaction through snail mail or email.

I also suggest that you consider having a learning buddy. Somebody whom you could engage in a live discussion, pick each other’s brain and challenge each other’s ideas, concepts and even ways of thinking, reasoning and expressing feelings. Or you could form your own learning group. Could be your family, workmates or friends. The more, the merrier. The more fun you are having, the more you are learning.

Now, for this our first outing, we shall embark on a Journey on Entrepreneurship. Please have paper and pen on hand.


Recently, I had the opportunity to put into practice my entrepreneurial knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. My friend Rene Mayol and I put up a store (H13-Gifts Unlimited) at the Eastwood Night Market last Oct. 1, 2002 to Jan. 5, 2003.

We lost quite a sizable investment. Money-wise, it was a losing proposition from the very start. The expenses were too high (stall rental of P2,500 per night, plus electricity of P60/night, plus, being HR people, we gave our saleslady a handsome pay), our profit margin was too low (10 percent to 30 percent), and Filipinos were in no mood to splurge and spend their hard-earned money or they didn’t have extra money to spend during the holidays. Many went to the night market to look and be seen. This is an interesting study of the Filipino consumer. We’ll take this up next column

Luckily for Rene and myself, we are both dreamers. We are true blue entrepreneurs. Our motivation is to discover and use our potentials unshackled by formal organizational rules and routines. We were willing to pay the price of freedom. Initially, there were three of us. But when our resources were running empty and the expected income was not forthcoming, our third partner left “to cut her losses.” She was motivated by money and saw no enjoyment nor future in the venture. She lacked that entrepreneurial spirit.

Dean Nieves Confessor of the Asian Institute of Management dropped by and asked the oft-repeated question: “How are you making money here?” Our answer was simply, “This is better and cheaper than enrolling in an MBA or entrepreneurship course. We are learning a lot about business and about what we can, we cannot, we should and should not be doing. We are learning a lot about finance, marketing, selling, operations, administration and more.” After a lively discussion, Nieves and her husband Rod ended up buying a lot from us. One lesson we learned is that people buy on the basis of emotions, not price or reason. Let us discuss this further later.

I am gladdened to read Seth Godin, author, marketer and entrepreneur, writes in the magazine Fast Company, “In retrospect, people will say that 2003 was the best year in a decade to start your own company. Even better, the people with the guts to do it fast or the perseverance to do it slow will be happier, healthier and more in control of their lives, their ethics, and their contributions to the world.”

Having learned from my night market experience, I am now restructuring my financial resources and I shall open a regular store soon. Watch out for it. I am a born entrepreneur. Are you?

In his book, Attention Deficit Disorder, A Different Perception, Thom Hartmann wrote about that time when all our ancestors were “hunters.” They hunted to live. Then farming was discovered and made lives more secure and stable. Farming replaced hunting as the way to put food on the table. Hunting is only a sport for us now.

Hartmann listed the dominant characteristics of a hunter. The hunter is likened to the entrepreneur. Take a stock of yourself and see how entrepreneurial you are:

• Constantly monitoring their environment

• Able to throw themselves into the chase on a moment’s notice

• Flexible, ready to change strategy quickly

• Tireless, capable of sustained drives, but only when “hot on the trail”

• Results-oriented, acutely aware of whether the goal is getting closer now

• Visual/concrete thinker, clearly seeing a tangible goal even if there are no words for it

• Independent

• Bored by mundane tasks; enjoy new ideas and excitement

• Willing and able to take risks and face danger

• No time for niceties when there are decisions to be made

Hartman also listed the farmers’ traits, the opposite of hunters. They are also the ones afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

• Distractible

• Attention span is short, but can become intensely focused for long periods of time

• Impatient

• Poor planners; disorganized and impulsive (make snap decisions)

• Distorted sense of time; unaware of how long it will take to do something

• Don’t convert words into concepts adeptly, and vice versa. May have a reading disability.

• Distorted sense of time; unaware of how long it will take to do something

• Have difficulty following directions

• Daydream often

• Act without considering consequences

• Lacking in the social graces.

Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur? Or are you a contented farmer who simply marks time languishing in ADD? Being an entrepreneur does not mean that you should quit your job (if you are currently employed) and set up your own business. You can be an entrepreneurial employee. Think about it.

I shall be with you Monday hereafter. Join me on this first leg of our learning adventure, our Journey on Entrepreneurship.

Mushi-Mushi. I am one of the speakers at the HRD Japan 2003 Conference this Feb. 4 to 7. Please join me. Visit their Web site for the program details, schedules and registration procedures.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and welcomes your participation through