Victoria Kristina Pariña of Likha Studio, Emmanuel Caguimbal of XPERTO, and Yuki Higson of Style CatBusiness Features

Young Filipino entrepreneurs show passion and purpose amid pandemic

Studies have shown that the greatest motivators for millennials are finding purpose and a sense of responsibility in their work. Being more adept with technology has also helped them to find innovative solutions in reaching their market despite the community quarantine restrictions.

Three young entrepreneurs Victoria Kristina Pariña of Likha Studio, Emmanuel Caguimbal of XPERTO, and Yuki Higson of Style Cat have found ways to make their businesses thrive through the pandemic while also helping fellow Filipinos.

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Victoria Kristina Pariña of Likha Studio

Sustainable initiatives for living spaces

Likha Studio is an architectural and interior design initiative with a focus on sustainability. The inspiration behind Likha was to create a design with true sustainability in homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities that is backed by data. Victoria Pariña, 28, and her business partner Architect Butch Nera officially launched the startup in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, with the goal of helping clients find sustainable, eco-friendly solutions for their spaces.

“With the limited movements, unforeseen lockdowns, and the uncertainty of the future, it was a big risk,” Pariña said. “We were also uncertain if we were going to get enough projects during the pandemic. But I guess since most of the people have been working from home, they have found the perfect time to finally revamp their spaces.”

Although there were times when construction and site visits had to be put on hold due to lockdowns, she said they were able to rely on technology to get the job done.

“Our suppliers also shifted to online product presentations and online communication,” Pariña said. “I guess what really saved us is our clients. Their trust in us and their positive reactions after project turnovers is a very humbling experience. It makes us feel like we’re going on the right track.”

They started with small projects like several bathroom renovations until they were referred to bigger companies.

“We are grateful to have worked with the local government of Taguig to design their telemedicine office and lounge in Taguig Pateros District Hospital to cater to their local residents during the pandemic,” she said.

They have also previously worked with Kutis 2000, a facial and skin clinic in Quezon City, for clinic renovation. They have ongoing residential projects and they are also the LEED contractor support for the JP Morgan Chase office project in Taguig and to Arthaland for their ongoing Sevina Park Villas project in Laguna.

Emmanuel Caguimbal of XPERTO

Encouraging continuous learning

XPERTO is a digital solutions provider whose goal is to help professional societies thrive in the digital world and empower professionals as lifelong learners. They developed a web-based platform that hosts virtual events for professionals and students, with the addition of end-to-end services, including registration, payment collection, virtual event platform setup, and certification.

For his startup, 34-year-old Emmanuel Caguimbal draws from his own frustrating experiences in attending conferences that started late or were delayed because of registration issues, technical glitches, or inadequate staffing.

“Instead of having an enjoyable time where I could’ve gained additional knowledge or furthered my professional growth, I was instead left with the memory of an undesirable experience I’d rather soon forget,” he said. “It dawned on me that these problems occur because planning and managing professional development events, like seminars and conferences, become a challenge for professional societies because of limited manpower and lack of technology. And these limitations hinder them from effectively managing programs and events that require a lot of administrative work.”

They have thrived during the pandemic, given that the lockdowns and other health protocols forced professional societies and organizations to go virtual and use videoconferencing apps for meetings and conferences. There was an increase in the number of organizations that are encouraged to embrace digital transformation and this gave the opportunity for XPERTO to do well. He reveals that despite their earlier financial challenges, they have built their customer base and proven the viability of their company which has garnered support from startup incubators and won a number of grants along the way.

His five-member core team, comprised of Sam Beljon Catapusan, John Bibal III, Ginwene Rueda, and Czarina Vijulet Jusi, caters primarily to the professional societies and organizations, especially the organizations of professions regulated by the Philippine Regulatory Commission, such as the different engineering organizations in the Philippines.

Yuki Higson of Style Cat

Generating jobs and helping new enterprises

Style Cat exports stylish bags and accessories to different countries while The Sewing Room is a local garment manufacturing factory for RTW, swimwear, and loungewear.

Creative entrepreneur Yuki Higson established her business in 2009, making handmade accessories to sell to her college block mates. When the pandemic began, she founded The Sewing Room, which employs highly skilled sewers who were displaced from their jobs. The 29-year-old said her business not only provides employment for her 10 seamstresses, but they also help other MSMEs. Their “low minimum order quantity” offering provides locally made garments for online businesses and local brands.

“At first, it was difficult to build our customer base since we hurriedly set up our business to give livelihood but we’re happy to have built a pool of regular clients, mostly online brands that also started during this pandemic,” Higson said. “We have helped our clients to comfortably build their businesses from home. Our team of seamstresses can provide them with quality clothing, ranging from swimwear to RTW.”

Resiliency to rise

The three millennial entrepreneurs harness their strengths and draw on their resilience to grow their businesses. They also say that strong networking skills, have enabled them to spread the word about their products and services. Parina and Caguimbal are members of BNI Philippines, which helps them to connect with like-minded individuals at their regular meetings.

Caguimbal shared these tips for those who are looking to jumpstart their entrepreneurship journey.

“Do not be afraid to take risks, but at the same time, before you do, make sure that you have all the information you need at your disposal so that you can make informed decisions,” she said. “Also, continue to be engaged in a culture of learning. A perfect plan is no good if no one executes it.”

“Go for it! Never let other opinions dampen your spirit,” Higson said.

“Do it and trust yourself,” Pariña said. “At first, I had doubts and hesitations when my partner encouraged me to put up our own business. But I think being afraid is sometimes a good thing. Those fears, they’re good to have because they push you and they make you assess yourself and your actions. You wouldn’t know what you’re capable of unless you try.”