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Live your Passion

And other success secrets from startup entrepreneurs


By Jacky Lynne A. Oiga

Every business starts with one big idea. Whether this idea becomes a success or a fluke depends a lot on the entrepreneur behind it, especially in startups or fast-growing businesses that develop a product or an idea on demand. How not to succumb to collapsing under your own weight, falling victim to competitors, or failing to get any momentum and relevance from the beginning? These thriving—most of them, despite apparent success, still cringe at the word “successful”—startup entrepreneurs share their tried and tested business tips to taking that one big idea to a one big hit.

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I think the single biggest reason Filipinas like Happy Skin is because we fulfill not just their beauty wishes but equally address their frustrations with makeup. It’s women’s complaints and needs that inspire our products. It was a challenge creating a beauty brand in an environment where the word “local” was yet to be embraced by consumers attracted to anything “imported.” The cosmetics industry is also an arena 90 percent dominated by imported brands. But we wanted to change this. From day one, we aspired to be a global Pinoy brand, proudly homegrown with Filipino minds behind it and committed to offer world-class quality. Creating a beauty business in an era of social media also allowed young, local brands like ours to thrive. Social media and the Internet are Happy Skin’s strongest marketing tools. We started in 2013 with just five counters and now, we have almost 100. Had we entered the era of TVC and billboards, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. But thanks to social media and to all the genuine Happy Skin fans, our homegrown brand has a voice. Social media has become a great equalizer for all brands.—Rissa Mananquil Trillo, Happy Skin co-founder

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Entrepreneurship is not easy at all. When you run a business, the biggest problems will always land on your lap and there is no one else to whom you can pass it on. Running a business requires tough and painful decisions. Entrepreneurship is a huge gamble. All entrepreneurs start out with “big plans” and “sure winners” but as we all know, not all businesses turn out to be successful. Success in business requires determination when faced with problems and tough decisions and a whole lot of courage to take risks. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted. For lack of a better way of putting it, success in business requires cojones (balls). —Michele Chan, Tryst Studio founder 

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I believe grit is crucial to success. Our business is an inclusive one and we designed our whole value chain around our values and mission to partner with community artisans around the Philippines. Because our model is very artisan-centric and impact-centric, it is very, very challenging to survive, sustain, and scale. There is no one formula, no previously paved roads to follow, and not a lot of books. We had to—and still have to—create the formula, pave the roads, and write the books ourselves. Without grit, we could not have survived and reached this stage. Grit is our capacity, tenacity, and audacity to keep going even when the hype is gone and the going gets tough. —Reese Fernandez Ruiz, Rags2Riches, Inc. president and co-founder

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It is our belief that what we are doing in our business is how we express our faith. That it is our way of serving God. If you think about what you do in that manner, in no way or circumstance will you give up. —Camille Meloto, Human Nature co-founder and social entrepreneur 

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For me, I think it’s a combination of seeing opportunities and converting it into a grand vision; having the grit, passion, and perseverance to execute the vision; and a little bit of luck. I want to highlight having grit because it’s what determines whether or not a person will be successful. A lot of people have great ideas, but easily give up on the first signs of hurdles. A gritty person will passionately persevere day in, day out, over many, many years, to overcome the challenges and make sure his or her vision comes true. —Richard Sanz, owner of brands Bibingkinitan and Lava Cheese Tarts

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It’s not a clear cut formula but for Happy Skin, we started with a clear vision of where we want to take the brand. I also believe there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. I spent a decade of my career handling beauty brands and understanding women. The insights I gathered and the business acumen I have learned is crucial in running the business. It gives me the confidence to take calculated risks and be more decisive, which I feel is important for a startup. —Jacqueline Yuengtian-Gutierrez, Happy Skin co-founder

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Passion and purpose are my entrepreneurial secret. Whatever stage your business is in, finding and running a business you are passionate about can make work seem less like work, makes challenges more surmountable, and gives us fuel to keep us going for our goals and dreams. Add purpose to passion and this gives business a whole new meaning. Finding purpose beyond the bottom line, as well as working for a cause more than self-gain, sets you up for emotional rewards that can make life more meaningful. —Janice Villanueva, Mommy Mundo, Inc. founder

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