We asked 5 entrepreneurs on how to start an online business amid pandemic

Jun 13, 2021 0 comments

When the pandemic hit last year, everyone was forced to go on lockdown. No one could leave their homes unless for essentials, restaurants and stores had to close, and many people lost their jobs. When you think about it, it’s no surprise that the situation led to the boom of online small businesses. 

From food and drinks to plants and self-care products, it seemed like anything was being sold on social media. Instagram and Facebook turned into online marketplaces and cashless options and motorbike deliveries became the name of the game. More than a year since the pandemic hit, these online businesses continue to thrive and increase in number. 

Read: Here’s How One Woman Started Her Own Community Pantry in Marikina

We won’t be surprised if you’ve toyed with the idea of starting your own business as well. If you’ve got some hesitations about it or you don’t know how to start, we’ve asked some online business owners for tips and advice that can help you get going. 

Donna Aquino (The Literary Culture) 

Veering away from the usual food, beverage, and skincare businesses you find online are Donna, 31, and her business, The Literary Culture, which she started just this year. A huge bookworm who has been active in the local book community since 2018, Donna started with selling coffee, some tote bags, and “pasabuy” books. 

Eventually, she decided to focus on themed boxes that are full of merchandise and alternative dust jackets for books. Since February, The Literary Culture has been solely a bookish merchandise box business. “I came up with the idea of being a book merchandise box business because in the US and the UK, book boxes are a huge thing and we don't have any that are based in Asia,” she explains. “So, I aspire for The Literary Culture to be the best book box in the Asia region.”

But given the niche her business focuses on, Donna worried if she’d even get enough orders or even breakeven. Working with other artists also proved to be a challenge as she wanted the art on her merchandise to be really good and to easily capture attention. Despite the challenges, however, she still encourages people to find their niche. “If you start your business based on something you are interested in, then it won't feel like such a huge effort. You're doing something you love,” she says. “If you're scared of risks, start with something that you can afford. My first collection was solely funded by myself, and my only wish was to breakeven (and I did) and when it eventually blew up, we had to reprint/reproduce double the amount of the first printing.

It’s also important, she adds, to “find great people who will cheer you on and help you promote your business/products.”

To learn more about The Literary Culture, you can visit their websiteFacebook, or Instagram

Read: 6 Fun Skills to Learn to De-Stress during the unending COVID-19 Pandemic

Gabriel Se (Croute Boulangerie) 

“I’d be lying if I said I always knew I wanted to be a baker,” says Gabriel, 28. “But after I started baking regularly, I realized just how fulfilling it was for me. I decided, with the egging on of loved ones and family, to start selling to friends around 2018.” One year later, he eventually put up his own online business, Croute Boulangerie, and sold sourdough bread in different flavors and other baked goods to a wider range of customers. 

Despite his surefire love for making bread, he knows that putting up a business is and will always be a risk. “It was a gamble,” he admits. “I had no idea if it was even going to work out at all. That was and still is my hesitation to this day.”  

But, as they say, no risk, no reward. Gabriel was determined to make the gamble work in his favor. “Put in the work,” is his advice to those who second guess the gamble of putting up their own business. “It’s a daily pursuit and your passion for what you’re doing is what will drive you to keep onwards day in and day out.”

You can order Croute Boulangerie’s bread and other baked goods via Facebook and Instagram.  

Princess Erika Co (Erika Bakes)

Erika, 29, started her business at the end of last year after her husband suggested that she pursue her childhood baking hobby. Their small business started with only their siblings as their customers but have since grown to cater to people they don’t know. 

It wasn’t an easy start for the newlyweds either. They currently live in a condo, meaning space was an issue and Erika had to have a customized cooling rack made so she can cool her baked goods without taking over their whole home. Deciding on what and how many to put on their menu proved to be challenging too, but they eventually decided to just launch their business and just add new items along the way. 

“Do what you love or something you are passionate about,” is her advice for those mulling on starting their own business. “Mistakes will be part of the process of learning. Do not be ashamed of asking for help. Ideas may come unexpectedly so be ready.to jot them down.”

You can check out Erika Bakes by visiting their Facebook or Instagram

Herbert Kawson (The Thingy Trader Ph)

Herbert, 27, describes himself as always wanting to “try out having a small business but also one of those people who are constantly in search of a ‘million dollar idea’.” After several researches, he learned that improvements in tech and logistics meant he didn’t need such a large capital to start a business and, after monitoring multiple online marketplaces, opted to focus on nutritional and skincare products. 

He launched his buy-and-sell business, The Thingy Trader Ph, in September 2020. Given the nature of his business, Herbert makes it a point to keep up with competition. “Being in a buy-and-sell type of business, price competitiveness is very important,” he says. “I see to it that I check on how my competitors are doing and try my best to be competitive in terms of both price and customer service.”

When asked what his advice is to those who want to enter a similar type of business, he says “I think the best advice is to keep learning as challenges come along and to be ready for changes as their businesses get bigger.”

Check out The Thingy Trader Ph via their Shopee pageFacebook, and Instagram

Jonylle Pineda (Fully Milch’d)

Some might say that milk tea is an oversaturated market, but that didn’t stop Jonylle, 26, from giving it a try by launching Fully Milch’d last August. “I needed an extra source of income during the pandemic, then I thought why not try something out of my comfort zone, like getting into sales,” she explains. “It's worth a shot, so even though I'm awfully shy, I tried marketing quality health products that I drink for personal consumption.”

She found a specific niche in the beverage market she could focus on: keto milk teas and health juices. Despite the familiarity of her products, she said that she was still afraid of rejections at first, but eventually realized that it doesn’t matter what others think as long as you’re excelling and have passion for what you’re doing.

“Find your deepest why,” says Jonylle. “Always do everything to achieve your goals, because we are the pilot of our own life. You'll never know what will happen unless you try it. The sooner you can taste the ups and the downs, the sooner you'll be prepared to do it full time.”

You can order milk teas and fruit juices from Fully Milch’d via their Facebook and Instagram

━━ Written By  Bella Javier
━━  Art By Ara May Tanagon

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