Many cubicle denizens dream of becoming their own boss. But before you take the plunge, do you have what it takes to quit your day job?
These young entrepreneurs share how their paths led them to running their own businesses. Some leveraged networks they developed from their work experience; some spotted opportunities in the market and reacted to it, while others took the reins of their family corporations.
A Business Management graduate of De La Salle University, Anna first worked as bank management trainee then as trading officer for the treasury group’s foreign exchange for three years total. After earning an MBA from Asian Institute of Management, she worked as a mall operations manager for a few months before returning to banking as trading officer.
Having left the corporate world in 2004, the 33-year-old mother of two is now managing director of her family’s business process outsourcing company.
“It was my parents who decided to put up a business but they didn’t want to handle the day-to-day operations anymore,” Anna said. “So they asked me and my sister if we were willing to leave our jobs and work for the family business. I had to weigh the pros and cons, and we had several meetings before I finally decided.”
How did she know she was financially ready? “There wasn’t much change, because when I joined the business, I was given a salary a little higher than from my last job. So it’s still like working for a company in that sense, but with a greater responsibility. If I don’t do my job, no one else will. And, if I don’t do it well, the company will suffer.”
She described the first few weeks after her shift from corporate: “It was different, challenging and stressful. There were times when I asked myself if I made the right decision.”
Today, Anna is grateful to have stood by her decision. “Thank God I’m doing well, business-wise and personally. God has been so good in providing us with stable clients, good managers and staff. And my job allows me to work from home (or anywhere) and manage my own schedule (since our office is open 24 hours).
“This was a big plus when I became a mom because I was able to stay home and be hands-on with my boys (and squeeze in work whenever I have the chance, usually when they’re sleeping). I get to bring them to school every day, spend time with them at home.”
Will she ever consider going back to corporate? “At this point, not anymore; business is doing well and nothing beats having a flexible schedule, which allows me to spend more time with my family. Though the responsibility is greater—you practically don’t have a vacation or you still work even while on vacation—it’s very fulfilling.”
Anna’s advice to those considering taking the plunge is to: “Pray for God’s plan. Do your homework—know your market, prepare financial projections, use different scenarios and conservative figures. Analyze the pros and cons.”
Engineer-turned-factory outlet owner
Thirty-four-year-old Jojo Hizon graduated from De La Salle University with a degree in Industrial Engineering, minor in Mechanical Engineering, before starting his nine-year relationship with Nike in 2000 as a mobile coordinator and product training specialist. After four years as regional sales representative and another three years in Singapore as Southeast Asia product line manager, Jojo left Nike in 2009.
Inspired by factory outlet stores across the US, China, Australia, Thailand and Singapore, Jojo returned to Manila to put up MJ46 Center (mj46center.com), a factory outlet in Parañaque that carries premium brands like Nike, adidas, Converse, Asics, Levi’s, Molten and Mikasa at accessible prices.
“I saw a very big potential in doing retail in Manila,” he explained. “I felt I had the tools to make that plan work. If I didn’t do it, I would feel bad, regretting it for a lifetime.”
As to how he knew he was financially ready, he revealed, “After being with Nike for close to 10 years, I had learned a lot, and had gained a lot of values which I think would be necessary to make my plan come into fruition. I had some savings, plus my best friend of over 23 years was to become my business partner. Inspired by Nike’s founders, I made one of the biggest decisions in my life.”
The change in schedule and lifestyle wasn’t easy for Jojo. “The first few months, it was totally hard for me to adjust to the setup,” he said. “First, I wasn’t getting the same monthly salary I used to get. But after realizing that this is my own business, I was back on track. Second, I was used to traveling a lot, and with my relocation to Manila, I am unable to do it anymore. It’s really hard if you lose focus on your ultimate goal—mine was to have something which would help me reap lifetime rewards for all the things I had to give up.”
But the gamble eventually paid off for Jojo. “I am very happy because I get to spend more time with family and friends. Being far from family, especially during sad and trying times, was something I couldn’t take. I felt I needed to be back to be a pillar of strength,” he said.
“Business-wise, I think we have grown after two years. We are expanding to areas where big schools are situated, with concept store setups. The new store we are opening is Sole Academy. I am my own boss, and I am able to control my time,” said Jojo.
Going back to corporate is not an option for him. “I don’t think I ever will, because that would mean I am entertaining the idea of failing.”
For those planning to leave the comfort of employment, Jojo advised, “I once learned this from a very successful business person: If you want to succeed with the business you are planning, you have to consider four things: Be focused. Trust your instincts. Be confident with your plan. Be ready to take on entrepreneurial pressure. Another thing I learned from my business partner’s mom: You can’t just work hard, you have to work smart.”
IT specialist-turned-wedding photographer
Fresh from his Computer Engineering course from University of the Philippines-Diliman, two days after their graduation ball, Guj Tungpalan started working at Hewlett-Packard in 2005 as an IT support specialist. He had been a solution architect for six months before quitting his day job to make his sideline his main business.
The 30-year-old contemporary destination wedding photographer and aspiring cinematographer now runs RedSheep PhotoCinema (redsheepphotocinema.com) full-time.
“I was really passionate for corporate in the first four years and a half, but I lost steam because I found something more worthwhile and meaningful,” said Guj. “And, yes, I have to admit, more financially rewarding; but that alone wasn’t enough for me to leave. There are other IT companies that are higher-paying, but I didn’t consider transferring.
“I also had a change in priorities. My son Popo was six months old at the time and he was growing up fast! My increased workload at RedSheep had me working seven days straight at times, and there were quite a number of prolonged out-of-the-country shoots and weekday weddings. I felt guilty because I couldn’t give my 100 percent to HP anymore.”
This young father realized he was ready to go on his own when he forecasted two years of weddings, with his income from one wedding shoot equivalent to one month’s salary at HP.
Asked about what the first days were like after leaving the office, he said, “I had more time to do more meaningful things: be with my wife and kid, and do edits and blog posts at a more leisurely pace. There was a time I was editing for the sake of finishing because of my day job. Going full-time brought back the joy to shooting and editing,” he said.
“Leaving the corporate world is a leap of faith—you’ll lose a ‘regular’ monthly income. For our culture, this is important and has been highly ingrained in our consciousness since we were kids. But there’s one thing I’ve learned as well: Trust in God. Pinoys love weddings as well—mangyari na ang lahat, financial crisis and all—but Pinoys won’t cut down on spending for weddings.
“If I didn’t leave my day job and just relied on job security, I would have missed out on the following: our own condominium, a brand-new car, a couple of trips abroad (both wedding and non-wedding related), and precious time with my wife and kid. Nothing beats that.”
Given this, Guj can’t imagine himself returning to employment. “Corporate job, no. But NGO/socio-civic work or church work/ministry, that’s a yes, if it’s aligned with fulfilling my purpose in life,” he said.
“In deciding when to leave, I had to choose: wait for around two years to become a manager or resign and go full-time now. The point of conflict would be those two years: Will what I accomplish in two years on my own compensate for or outweigh what I’ll get being a manager? I got promoted already and I was one step away from becoming a manager,” he explained. “I haven’t looked back. My wife and I have plenty of those ‘buti na lang’ moments.”
His advice for those planning to quit their day job? “Be patient. If you can do both your corporate job and your small business, stay. Lalo na if you’re still single. I stayed in HP for five years, with the last year and a half doing photography on weekends. My managers knew about this; I would just have to align it with them if I would have to go abroad for certain shoots.
“Be practical, and yet be also willing to take leaps of faith, because the day when ‘everything is perfect’ will never come. You will have to let go of something. But just be sure that what you’re getting in return is far greater and worth it. Pray about it, pray for discernment and wisdom. Know your purpose in life.
“That’s the clincher, actually. I know a couple of people whom the Lord has blessed in the corporate world. The corporate world is not for everybody. God has individual plans for us, there’s no ‘one size fits all.’ If the Lord is calling you to be a blessing in the corporate world, then be a blessing there; if the Lord is calling you to do something else, do it with all your heart.”
HR assistant-turned-bakery boss
Franz Echevarria owns and operates Bread Monster, “favorite classic pastries and desserts reinvented.”
The 34-year-old finished his Humanities degree from Ateneo de Manila University, and got his diploma in Pastry and Bakery Arts from International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management before working as HR assistant for two years in a computer products corporation.
After an MBA at Asian Institute of Management, he worked as the school’s institutional marketing manager for three and a half years.
The young father left the corporate world to take more culinary/pastry courses—and plan for his wedding. “I figured, if I wanted to be really serious about putting up a business, I had to do it full-time,” he said.
In gauging his readiness to turn his passion into his main source of income, he explained, “We just looked at the opportunity, if it was not too expensive, and if we could really make a little money. Then we went for it. I knew I had to set up the business before getting married, so I did it on my way out of the corporate world.”
Franz shared what his life was like in the early days. “It was hectic and stressful,” he said. “The setting-up stage is usually the most stressful. Ang nakaka-stress is really working with your family. We had to convert my start-up sole proprietorship into a corporation during that time.”
His decision seems to have paid off. “Medyo mahina pag summer, super lakas at walang tulugan during Christmas,” shared Franz. “We have three outlets and we’re supplying two F&B establishments. One store is doing very well, one not so well, and one is doing so-so. I’m actually less stressed, more at peace and generally happier now.”
Franz doesn’t see a return to corporate life any time soon. He joked, “I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to hire me; besides, I’m a pain to work with!”
He has this advice to those who wish to follow in his footsteps: “Try to put some money in the bank that will last you two years, just in case your business folds. Make sure you have people helping you: your spouse, girlfriend, a good friend, parents, ‘coz it’s freakin’ difficult to borrow money from a bank.
“Also, make sure you pick a business or something you really, really, really love, something you wouldn’t mind doing every single day even if you weren’t getting paid to do it. That way, you’d still be happy doing it even if your net income is not what you thought it would be.”
Programmer to president
Jeff Sia gave up his corporate life in 2006 to start Rollbase Philippines, a cloud computing company specializing in software-as-a-service solutions. He graduated from De La Salle University with a Computer Science degree, and worked at Land Bank of the Philippines as a systems programmer for three years. He then worked at IBM Philippines as sales specialist for two and a half years, then as software account manager before moving to software company Computer Associates, where he spent seven years as sales director.
“I wanted to spend more time with my family,” the 39-year-old explained. “I figured I could earn the same amount by just doing business, and at the same time have more flexibility with my time.”
How did he know he was financially ready? The gutsy father of two confessed, “I didn’t. It was a calculated risk.”
Jeff shared what the first days were like being his own boss. “I found myself postponing/canceling meetings or rescheduling them, so I won’t have to go to Makati every day. I wanted to have all my meetings in one day to save on travel dates. But this habit slowed me down,” he admitted. “Not a good move. So when I realized that sales were slow, I forced myself to go to the office with or without a meeting.”
Work-wise, he evaluated, “Business can always be better, and as a businessman, you always try to find ways to make it better. You can never rest. But I also get to spend a lot more time with the kids. Working in corporate will never give me the same flexibility I have now in terms of personal time, although I miss working for corporate sometimes.”
If you’re thinking of leaving your job to start your own business, “Go into something you like doing,” Jeff recommended. “Money is always a motivation but it shouldn’t be the only thing. You should enjoy what you do; otherwise, you will never give it your best effort.”
From corporate to making corporate giveaways
Armed with an Industrial Engineering degree from De La Salle University, Raoul Navarette logged in two years as account executive at KMTC-NYK Fil Japan Shipping Line. In 2002, he left his job to explore other career options.
“I went to the US on an adventure and stayed there for six months. I checked out how it is to live there and see the lifestyle of the Filipinos. I realized America is not everything; it’s all work and it’s not like what the balikbayans project every time they come home,” he said.
Yet, he knew going back to the office grind wasn’t for him. “But at 24, I wasn’t ready financially. I had the support of my parents and I wasn’t paying for anything at the time. Everything was free: the house, car, even gas at times,” Raoul shared.
Today, Raoul owns and operates corporate giveaways manufacturer Green Ads & Promats.
“Before I hit 30, I had my own money, but I was dependent in the sense that since I was single then, I had no reason to get my own place. And, every time I needed extra capital, I would still ask for my parents’ assistance,” he explained. “After I got married, my wife and I rented for two years, then we bought our house on our third year.”
Raoul waxed nostalgic about his early days of going solo. “I was always excited because it was my long-time dream to be a businessman. I was enjoying what I was doing, so even if it was not yet financially rewarding then, it didn’t really matter because I was enjoying it.
“But sipag at tiyaga is really on top of the basic commandments of businessmen, no matter how successful they are. I experienced so many sleepless nights, checking production, meeting deadlines, managing people, and I still do it even now,” he said.
“Business is continuously expanding. I have 40 people more or less on my payroll. I have expanded my network, and I have gained the trust and confidence of clients. But it still feels like a new experience every time there’s a new project coming,” he added.
“Personally, almost everything is accessible. I’m still living within my means and managing my finances well. But I still know how to enjoy my little earnings. I make sure I don’t deprive myself of anything which I know I can afford.”
When asked if he misses corporate life, he countered, “I will consider getting more corporate accounts!”
His wise words for those thinking of starting their own business: “Live your dream—BUT note that it will never be an overnight success!”