Face masks, coffee, chocolate entrepreneurs turn limitations into opportunities

Face masks entrepreneurs opportunities
Arnie Cotecson of White Beard Coffee (Siargao), Inabel face masks distributor Regina Escolin of Kanami Supplies (Quezon City), and Dalareich Polot of Dalareich Chocolate House (Bohol) have digitized their business to cope with the Covid 19 pandemic limitations.

Inabel face masks distributor Regina Escolin of Kanami Supplies (Quezon City), Arnie Cotecson of White Beard Coffee (Siargao), and Dalareich Polot of Dalareich Chocolate House (Bohol) shared their respective stories of hope via a short YouTube video to inspire other entrepreneurs coping with the challenges of the ongoing pandemic.

The sudden changes that the past year has brought had everyone face challenges that they have not encountered before. While struggles differ from one to another, a common goal stands: to pivot and stay afloat.

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Such is true for small business owners. Despite movement restrictions caused by community quarantines, micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) are taking on these challenges by being creative and innovative online.

This is the motivation of MSMEs Regina Escolin of Quezon City, Dalareich Polot of Bohol, and Arnie Cotecson of Siargao. They persevered in sustaining their businesses by responding to customers’ needs during the pandemic, and by shifting from brick and mortar shops to digitizing their businesses.

Regina Escolin’s ‘fashion-forward’ shift

Regina Escolin decided that shifting gears is the answer to challenging times. The former marble exporter is now a supplier of Inabel face masks.

After seeing that her marble business was not doing well given the situation, she focused her attention on ways to keep her clientele through a different venture. “I thought of a way to reach out to my clients who like me cannot go out. I searched for suppliers of different items that were needed to fight COVID-19. A friend of mine from Ilocos mentioned that she was making Inabel masks. I got some–a hundred pieces to start off–and it sold out in just an hour.”

Besides giving customers a fashionable option for staying safe, Regina’s Kanami face masks also proudly showcase artful Filipino designs which caught the attention of customers from Europe and the U.S. “It’s a good way to introduce the art of the Philippines to the world,” shares Regina. “Compared to other businesses, Kanami is really small. But Google My Business helped me show up my store on Search and reach more people online–not just in the Philippines, but also abroad.”

From marble to masks. After her marble business dwindled, Regina tried selling Inabel masks as COVID-19 came and they easily sold out. With Google My Business allowing her business to be visible and discoverable on Search, she was able to both attract local customers and introduce the art of the Philippines to clients abroad.

Regina shares the struggle of other business owners like herself during this time, but she believes that supporting each other is key. “Lahat tayo parang tinapon sa tubig na hindi mo alam paano ka aahon. (It’s as if we were thrown into the water with no idea how to rise out of.) I learned how to go with the flow and think out of the box. We can go through this together and survive this while helping each other.”

Arnie Cotecson diversifies to ‘brew’ more life into his coffee business

After working in Singapore for 10 years, Arnie moved back to Siargao to reunite with his family and started White Beard Coffee. His coffee shop, which is known for brewing locally-grown coffee beans from Mt. Apo, saw a decrease in customers due to flight restrictions. As locals in their area also observed staying home, he saw an opportunity to bring his products to them instead.

Arnie innovated into bottled, ready-to-drink coffee and offered free delivery with no minimum orders to give his customers more leeway to choose between dine-in or takeaway, which he made known through his Google My Business profile. “When dine-in service was prohibited, I offered free delivery with no minimum orders. In that way, I won the hearts of my clients and they keep ordering from me, from one cookie all the way to bulk orders,” he shared.

Understanding his customers’ growingly-limited resources, Arnie also shared, “I initiated a flexible, COVID-friendly price for all of my products.”

“We also offered a reward system for our customers,” he noted, which generated brand loyalty, even among the island’s non-coffee drinkers.

Arnie concluded, “Dun talaga nag-boost ang importance ng Google My Business kasi parang full package na siya sa mga customers ko. As a business owner, in order to track down kung paano nila nahahanap yung store ko, yung answer talaga nila is Google Reviews.” (That’s where I saw the importance of Google My Business because it’s like a full package for my customers. As a business owner, I found out that they discovered my store through Google Reviews.) Arnie underscored the helpfulness of Google My Business which allows people to discover his coffee shop on Google Search, Maps, and Google Reviews.

Bottling it up. Arnie started to bottle his famous coffee drinks for customers who prefer to order takeaways instead of dining in. Even with lesser locals and tourists passing by his shop, he is still able to draw more customers and recommendations through Google My Business which allows his coffee shop to be visible and discoverable through Google Search, Maps, and Google Reviews — which are now at 4.5/5 with 128+ reviews.

Dalareich Polot’s ‘sweet’ success online

Inspired by her mom who started their chocolate venture with just a small pack of tablea, Dalareich Polot of Bohol started Dalareich Chocolate House, the first chocolate factory in the province. Regardless of how well-loved they were by locals and tourists, their thriving business was among the many that had to close its doors. “When COVID-19 happened, we closed our chocolate house. There were no more tourists. The hotels and the resorts also closed down,” she shared.

Not willing to take a challenge lying down, Dalareich saw the opportunities with boosting her online presence on Google Search through the free Google My Business tool so she could still connect with her customers and keep them updated. As a result, people searching online for “chocolate shops in Bohol” would immediately see her shop’s contact details and link to its website, along with other relevant information.

Having a Google My Business account has given her access to insights that guides her customer outreach strategy. “Getting all those insights–what day customers called us, what day they researched about us–also helps with our social media content strategy and postings.”

The Boholana entrepreneur stayed determined and maximized online tools within her reach. To her fellow business owners, Dalareich’s advice is to be adaptive to new ways. “This is really a challenging time for local businesses but we can still be innovative with the use of several free online resources like Google My Business.”

Putting the Philippines in the ‘chocolate map of the world’. Dalareich Chocolate House is Bohol’s first chocolate factory and is a tourist attraction. The pandemic continues to challenge Dalareich’s operations but with Google My Business, she is able to have her chocolate house to be more visible on Google Search, harness useful insights, and keep her customers updated online.

For business owners who want to get a Google My Business listing/account, please visit https://ecommerce.dti.gov.ph/reboot-package/googlemybusiness/.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to these face masks, coffee, chocolate entrepreneurs who turned the limitations of Covid into opportunities.

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The Good News Pilipinas Team
The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.