A TRUE entrepreneur, they say, can see opportunity in adversity.
Several small local business owners in Davao City have exemplified this quality either by bringing in new products or venturing to another type of business as they continue to grapple with the realities brought about by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Innovation and open-mindedness have buoyed their businesses afloat in this challenging time.
Among them is Beboy Food Products. Its original offerings are the Tummiebebs tuna chicharon and famous Korean side dish kimchi but recently, the owners decided to add tofu, soy milk and chilled taho in their product line. The latter is a spin on the Filipino traditional silken tofu dessert that is usually peddled on the streets.
“Nakita namu nga patok sa market karon ang mga healthy vegan foods tapos mao ra ang available na raw product pag-lockdown. Nipatok man so gipadayon na lang (We observed that more people have become fans of healthy vegan food and it was also the available raw product that we have during the lockdown. So, we continued selling it),” Beboy Food Products quality control head Joenna Cindy said.
They started it in April after finding it difficult to source tuna skin from General Santos City due to the imposed limitation of movements. Luckily, their new products became a hit.
“Before, mag-agad lang og trade fair tapos once a week lang production. Karon naa jud mi regular customers then twice or thrice mi ga production in a week (Our production usually depends on scheduled trade fairs and we only produce once a week. But now, we have to produce twice or thrice a week to serve our regular customers),” she said.
She added that they produce a minimum of 50 pieces of their product and it sometimes increases depending on the demand.
Cindy said they also focused their energies on their social media where the bulk of orders come from as Dabawenyo Capsicum, the main stall in Dona Segunda where they can regularly display their products, will remain closed until further notice.
"Free ads lang gyud mi like posting sa FB (Facebook) groups and [being] active sa FB page. Some of our customers kay naging friends napud namo (We just made our FB pages more active in marketing our products)," she said.
Apart from that, they have also employed bank-to-bank fund transfers and online financial services like GCash as payment options.
Entrepreneur Kevin Joven was also pushed to come up with an essential product after Yalabz, his co-working space business in General Luna St., Malvar, suffered a major slump due to the impact of the health crisis.
"Igo kaayo. Ang Yalabz ang pinakadako og contribution sa akong income (It really hit hard on Yalabz which comprised a huge part on my income)," he shared. "[My] water refilling [business] is okay pero hinay pud sya during quarantine ug skeletal workforce (but it slowed down during the quarantine and the skeleton workforce)."
He soon devised SoapBerry, a line of household cleaning materials such as disinfectants, hand soaps, dishwashing liquid, anti-bacterial fabric conditioner, all-purpose cleaning liquid and chemicals for foot baths, among others.
"If wala nag-Covid-19, I cannot have this business. It was because of job loss, that's why we were able to come up and start SoapBerry (We came up with SoapBerry after I lost my job due to Covid-19)," he said.
It was a big help not only for him but to his resellers considering that the demand for this essential household need was higher this time.
“During the quarantine, we have resellers to help us reach our market. For them to be secured at home since they can't go out, I delivered items myself to their customers. It's a way for me to earn and help the sellers earn at the same time. We called our system a Bayanihan collaboration,” he said.
Although it earns a little less compared to the co-working space, he is still grateful for the outcome. He said he has survived "by being resilient and being open to other opportunities."
"When some door closes, another one opens. It was purely a spur of unexpected blessing because of Covid-19," Joven said.
Bagoba entrepreneur Kessia Tar was almost in the same situation as Joven. Her Bagobo-Klata restaurant Maa To Ro has been closed for about six months now. The Kadayawan season could have been a chance for her tribal community to earn from the restaurant but the King of Festival was mellowed down this year due to the pandemic.
From managing a restaurant, she has been selling siopao and doughnuts for the meantime since May. It was also made by her business partner.
"The resto is far from the city. Tapos close pa ang mga silingan namo na mga laaganan like Malagos Garden [Resort] and Bamboo [Sanctuary] (Our neighboring tourist spots were also closed)," she said.
"Considering the spending power sa mga tao nga naa didto, ang naandan mag luto lang sa balay, dli gyud pwede so nag dougnut me and siopao. Okay naman pero ang market, sa Davao ra gyud (People in Baguio District are used to cooking their own food at home so it was impractical to open the restaurant. So, I started selling siopao and doughnuts around Davao City)," she added.
She will be able to deliver 20 boxes and more every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, yet she admitted they are still bootstrapped. The only way to gain enough income, she thought, is to ride on the people's lingering craze for plants.
She is now planning to sell ornamental plants in a Zen Garden that she will put up near Maa To Ro restaurant in Baguio District. She targeted to start displaying around mid-September.
"Maghimo kog Zen Garden sa resto para maka hinay-hinay mig bangon kay ang mga plants, dayuhon man maskin layo kaayo. Big plants na kabuangan sa mga plantitos akong ipamutang (I will put up a Zen Garden near the resto so we can slowly get back up. I thought of plants because people will really come for it no matter the distance)," Tar shared.
She also intends to lure people to their place not only to buy plants but also to buy the produce of Arakan farmers she will put alongside the plants.
"Looy sila. So, para fair price ug maka tabang sa ilaha, mag display pod ko ug gulay (They are in a pitiful situation so I will also display their vegetables as my way to help them)," she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have disrupted the local economic landscape but the Dabawenyos' entrepreneurial spirit has allowed small businesses to thrive and is helping to keep the city's economy alive.