As a business consultant for start-ups and SMEs in the Philippines, I have often been asked, “What is the best business to set up in the Philippines?” Honestly, that’s not an easy question to answer.
There are many factors involved in starting a business; especially in the Philippines; but, it all boils down to what you’re passionate about and what you’re willing to do and endure to achieve your purpose. Having said this, however, I feel that there are some ideas worth looking into.
During our year-ender special on the SME Forum, Alvin and I discussed what we felt would be the 10 best business ideas for start-ups in the Philippines. This list wasn’t just a figment of our imagination. Believe it or not, this was a result of an entire year of research and experience. Well, I won’t leave you hanging any longer; here’s my list:
Number 10 – Business Consulting Services:
Just a couple of years back, this might not have been that lucrative. However, DTI reports a marked increase in the number of new and various consulting services registered between 2009 and 2011 (a 67% rise from 2009 to 2011). In fact, my own business consultancy has actually picked up in 2011 (this is despite the number of new business consulting agencies that have sprouted up last year).
Some years back, the government and the private sector, seeing that jobs were scarce, pushed for entrepreneurship. Many believed that starting a business was the way to go; and many got burned. Those who embraced entrepreneurship did so without knowing what they were getting into; hence, experts in various aspects of business were needed to aid these would-be entrepreneurs in their endeavors.
Number 9 – Virtual Services:
A long time ago, starting a business in the Philippines meant renting an office space and hiring a number of employees. Today, however, many Filipinos, weary of the rising cost of real estate and salaries, are turning to virtual offices, virtual assistants and other virtual services to reduce costs.
It makes perfect sense! Why spend a lot during the start-up phase of your business? Going virtual is a great way to save money while “incubating” your business. If you have some building space lying around or a service (secretarial, writing, etc.) you could offer online, this could be a very lucrative business this year.
Number 8 – Social Entrepreneurship:
I was watching Rachel Botsman on TED TV some months back discuss “collaborative consumption” and she mentioned something intriguing. Rachel said that the power drill we purchase will be used around 12 to 13 minutes in its entire lifetime. This is an amazing fact and shows just how much we WASTE.
Now, how does this connect to social entrepreneurship (or to business in general)? Well, Wikipedia describes a social entrepreneur as one who “recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change.” In the case above, the social problem is “wastefulness by NOT SHARING”.
I met a group of well-to-do college students in 2010 that showed me how social entrepreneurship and collaborative consumption could actually turn a profit. Since these students were well-off and had their own cars, they would each take their cars to school; that is until one of them came up with a brilliant idea. The idea was to car-pool (since they were all schoolmates and lived near each other) and put up a car rental business for the cars they did not use. It worked perfectly! They not only saved on gas money; they also earned on the side.
Now, I could mention some other ideas that combine social entrepreneurship with collaborative consumption, but that would take up too much time. I leave it to you to figure out how to use these concepts to your advantage.
Number 7 – Backyard Farming:
Last year, I interviewed Ms. Daisy Duran, a big-time vegetable dealer who started out as a fish-ball vendor, on the SME Forum. It turns out; she started her million-peso enterprise with a simple backyard farm. This actually inspired my wife, Helen, to start a backyard farm of our own. We may not be selling our produce (yet), but we’re saving a bundle on grocery expenses.
You don’t need a big backyard for this! Take, for example, Ms. Ulyssa Marie Torbiso (owner of Cebu Hydroponic Garden – the Hydro Garden); she is barely 21 years old and started her business in her small backyard. It has been growing ever since. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were to parlay this into a big business soon.
Number 6 – Online Training:
With rising travel, lodging and training costs, how do companies assure that their employees get quality training? The answer… Have them trained online. In my case, I have successfully been using some online tools (like Digital Samba) to reduce the price of the training programs my company runs.
My client, who is based in Davao, had wanted to send only two of their employees to attend management training in Manila; but they couldn’t because it would have been too expensive to spend for travel, lodging and the actual training. By providing online training to these two employees, we were able to eliminate their travel and lodging expense, and reduce the training cost by 30%.
If you’re a trainer or a consultant, bringing your training programs online not only saves you a lot of money; it may also open new doors for you in terms of clients.
Number 5 – Online Trading:
I know you’ve all heard stories of people getting rich by selling online. These stories are true. Take the cases of Angelo and Eireen Brenardo, and Chris Angeles. They have made a lot of money from online marketing.
Ten years ago, Angelo and Eireen bought truckloads of antique soda bottles and auctioned them off and sold some on eBay for three times their value. After that deal, Eireen was hooked. Her passion for eBay, selling collectibles, antiquities, art, etc. all over the world, grew; and within a year, the couple became eBay Power Sellers.
Chris, on the other hand, started selling rubber wristbands on eBay just to raise extra money to augment his college allowance. Two years later, Chris made millions selling those wristbands to bulk buyers in the USA.
These stories, though inspiring, don’t show us the real picture. They don’t tell us how dedicated and passionate these people were in doing their business. You don’t simply post your items on eBay and hope they sell. You still have to work at it. If you put in the work, however, the rewards are great!
Number 4 – Local Outsourcing:
Just like “virtual services”, local outsourcing is fast becoming popular; especially for start-ups and SMEs. In fact, whole departments (like Human Resources, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Information Technology, etc.) can be outsourced at a reasonable price to companies who specialize in these services. This will help entrepreneurs focus on their core competence; creating quality products and services.
Another benefit we get from outsourcing is that we are sure we will be hiring highly experienced, competent and focused agencies (or departments). Why? Simply because these agencies have been focused on the same type of job, and have been doing it for different industries for some time.
Starting your own outsourcing company may not be easy at first; but if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, it won’t be long before you start building a good reputation and start earning.
Number 3 – Alternative Power:
Several years ago, offering alternative power solutions (solar, wind, compressed air, etc.) would have been too expensive to market. However, nowadays, if you know where to look, you will find very cheap sources of alternative power.
As a matter of fact, I really can’t understand why these solutions were so expensive in the first place. Take solar cells, for instance. Their main component is silicon. Did you know that silicon is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth? Why pay so much for something that is literally the dust under our feet?
If we do our homework right, we could make a lot of money with this venture; and help the environment in the process.
Number 2 – Electric Vehicles:
Here’s another venture that would have taken our main-steam car companies forever to implement if it hadn’t been for China. Yes… China! Chinese vehicle makers got the jump on a lot of these main-stream vehicle makers by coming up with their own fully electric vehicles (e-vehicles) long before the main-streamers could launch their own.
In the Philippines, e-vehicles are not yet that common. Yet, congress and the senate have already submitted legislature that would greatly favor buyers and sellers of e-vehicles. Once this law gets passed, expect an influx of e-vehicle sellers. If you’re going to ride the wave on this, now’s the time.
Number 1 – Recycling:
When we Filipinos think about recycling, we usually imagine poor people pushing carts, collecting plastic bottles, metals and paper from garbage cans around the neighborhood. Well, what we don’t see is that recycling has already become a dynamic, money-earning business.
Certain enterprising individuals have actually found some creative uses for garbage; from hollow blocks (used in building houses) to compost fertilizers to methane fuel, and more! In fact, in one of the future episodes of the SME Forum (hopefully in February), I will be interviewing Mr. Jayme Navarro, whose Pyrolysis Technology can actually convert Trash Plastics into less sulfuric Diesel, Gasoline, & LPG! Isn’t that amazing?