“What do you want to do when you grow up?” That first existential question every toddler is plagued by. Some kids have an answer ready, as suggested by mom and dad. A doctor, a lawyer, a flight attendant… A few moments later I answered my mother with a heavy burden on my chest, “Should I only pick one?
Indeed, years later, I became a professional slasher — employee/ freelancer/ entrepreneur/ volunteer. And being around entrepreneurs, to me, is like hanging out out with slasher best friends. They understand the struggle, they gladly offer strategies and advice, not to mention, the latest business trends and market rumors! Now, imagine a room full of these kinds of friends together for the next three days. That is how the Go Negosyo: Youth Entrepreneurship Development Workshop (YEDW 2015) Manila leg felt like.
At the pilot run in Manila, I was lucky enough to be in the roster of 47 entrepreneurial youths out of 163 applicants. The YEDW 2015 is expected to run also in Iloilo, Batangas, and Zamboanga. Some of the topics discussed were product development, accounting, use of technological platforms, funding and franchising. Our speakers and (tor)mentors, who were frontliners of their industries, shared their expertise which we absorbed in three action-packed days. The event is capped off by our own business pitching exercise. Sharing with you some valuable takeaways:
YEDW 2015 Lesson #1: Pitch it!
Us entrepreneurs are often very secretive about our business ideas, probably in fear of credit grabbing or of being criticized and gunned down at its early stages. I understand the threat, as there are things called “company secrets” that need not be divulged, as well as well-meaning family members and friends who may not provide the right kind of support and business advice.
But I learned from YEDW 2015 that we should not be afraid of putting our ideas to the test early on, and publicly, if we are really serious about them (much like courtship!). This is thru business pitching to investors, partners or co-founders. At YEDW 2015, we were evaluated by panelists who are in the field of business mentorship and are experienced entrepreneurs themselves. They offered valuable free advice and addressed some loopholes in our business plans. If we did not pitch, it would be more costly for us to discover those loopholes during our operations!
Even on lunch breaks and free times that I got to chat with my co-participants, talking about our business ideas fostered an exchange of useful information. More than once, I have been approached by co-participants who had suggestions on how to further improve my business idea and even give encouragement, just because I said things out loud. So, there’s no need to be overly shady! Ideas are cultivated in a healthy environment, not in a vacuum.
YEDW 2015 Lesson #2: Think about scalability
The top question for entrepreneurs who wanted to produce a business out of their hobbies (say, fashion designing or crafts) is: “Is this a passion project or a business?” True enough, just because we can create stellar company videos or offer superb web developing services does not mean we can make a business out of them. A living or a sideline, maybe. But not a business.
As such, it is important to identify first a unique selling point — something that sets our business apart from what already exists. We should also design our business in such as way that it is sustainable and replicable for future growth and not just early-stage profit. Long term value means not just focusing on profitability but also on scalability.
YEDW 2015 Lesson #3: Get your finances in order
As an entrepreneur, accounting and financial planning is my least favorite work. But being conscientious about the sales, operating expenses and income is a splash of cold water to the face. We should not be afraid to confront the hard truths and crunch the numbers to determine if our business is earning enough and fast enough. Measurement also allows intelligent and quick iteration. Otherwise, no amount of marketing strategy will save a business that was doomed to drown financially at the very start.
At the same time, getting finances in order will attract future investors to the business. If we demonstrate with clarity that the business actually earns and has great potential, we are more likely to earn the trust of future partners and collaborators.
At the end of the workshop, 10 participants were chosen from the two categories: Existing Business and New Business Ideas. Luckily, I was part of the Top 10! One winner from each category also received funding from partners such as the US Embassy. We will be seeing each other again on November for the workshop that coincides with the APEC Summit 2015, this time, with the chosen delegates from Iloilo, Batangas and Zamboanga.
Thank you very much, GoNegosyo organizers, and to our beloved mentors for putting all this together! 🙂