On May 9, Entrepreneurs’ Organization NextGen held their very first virtual event titled “What Are YOUth Up To?: A Start-Up Business Webinar.”
Over 70 EO NextGen members, stuck at home in the pandemic, sat transfixed at their computers, engrossed in the stories of three young entrepreneurs.
Organized by the new EO Philippines NextGen board, the webinar was the first event to be spearheaded by the NextGen members themselves. In the past, events for the NextGen community were put together by their parents, EO Philippines members.
EO, or Entrepreneurs’ Organization, is an international organization of entrepreneurs that started in the United States in 1987. There are 196 chapters in over 62 countries. Members of EO are either the founder, the owner, or a controlling shareholder of a business that grosses the equivalent of at least $1million. Members of the organization learn and grow through peer-to-peer learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and connections to experts.
EO NextGen is a community of EO members’ children aged 13-28 and possibly, as their name implies, the “Next Generation” of leading entrepreneurs.
This year marked the first time EO NextGen members are planning and executing their own events.
Sitting on this year’s board are Javi Ko as chair and program flow head; Mika Velasco as finance and creatives head; Christian Lising as PR officer; and Justine Lee as logistics head.
They will be supported and mentored by EO members Sheree Gotuaco and Lisset Velasco, as well as EO admin Cherry Gumatas.
“For the children of highly successful entrepreneurs, there is that unspoken expectation to also become an entrepreneur,” says Javi Ko. “This event exposes EO NextGen to entrepreneurs closer to their age so they can easily relate. Hopefully, by listening to these stories, our NextGen members can see if entrepreneurship is something they would like to pursue.”
Ko, 19, is a freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University studying Information Technology Entrepreneurship. This is his first year on the EO NextGen board.
The webinar featured three impressive entrepreneurs sharing their journeys to success: Anton Cruz, 19, founder of Sneaker Syndrome, Dan Fabro, 22, founder of Checkmate.ph, and Tal de Guzman, 30, founder and designer of Risqué Designs.
Cruz, also in his first year at Ateneo, started Sneaker Syndrome in October 2018, after observing that there were barely any sneaker cleaning services in the Philippines. He and his brother, Iñigo, first offered their services on Instagram and worked out of their father’s office. They eventually opened their flagship store in Angeles City, Pampanga, in July 2019.
The brothers have done well in setting themselves apart, adopting creative solutions to stay one step ahead of the competition—for example, by making their shop look like a New York subway station. “I try to extend my own ideas and vision to the distinct branding of the company,” says Cruz.
“Despite having a lot of competitors in Manila and Pampanga, we make an effort not to affiliate with their business plans. We always try to lead and never follow.”
Dan Fabro, graduating this year with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Science and Technology, Southern Philippines, founded the edu-tech startup Checkmate: Educator’s Toolkit in 2018.
Checkmate is a groundbreaking mobile app that increases a teacher’s productivity by automating paper checking and grade computation. The app also prevents cheating by giving teachers an alternative to having their students check their own papers.
It wasn’t always easy for Fabro; he shared the hardship he experienced while running his business as the family breadwinner and simultaneously studying to keep his grades up in school. Fortunately, all the hard work paid off. Today, Checkmate has more than 4,000 installs with over 1,600 weekly average users worldwide.
But Fabro isn’t stopping there. While Checkmate’s current features focus on multiple-choice test templates, they will soon be launching new features such as more advanced test types and perhaps even the ability to grade essays. Fabro and his team are constantly innovating, finding creative ways to stay on top of the game and differentiate their product from others in the edtech industry—it’s clear that this is only the beginning for Checkmate.
Always moving forward
De Guzman started her business at 22. Risqué Designs is a footwear brand and manufacturing company that uses Filipino materials, skills and inspirations. De Guzman says she was often the only person doing all the work for her company, from setting up her booth in bazaars and driving back and forth from Marikina to pick up stocks of shoes, to stripping paint from the walls of her first store.
Like Cruz, De Guzman quickly discovered that there is no slowing down in the highly competitive world of entrepreneurship. When asked how she deals with competition, De Guzman answered confidently that she isn’t bothered by it, even when her original designs are copied. As a naturally creative designer, she is always moving forward. “They can copy my old designs,” she says with a laugh, “but I’m already on the next thing.”
Though the physical event couldn’t take place due to pandemic restrictions, “It was presented online successfully,” Ko says. However, he admits that the event was missing the personal connection of real life: eye contact, handshakes, private conversations, mingling and new friendships. Having all attendees turn on their cameras helped to simulate being all in the same room.
“This webinar is the first event we planned for EO NextGen,” says Velasco.
“It was so inspiring to realize that so much can be done even at such a young age.” —CONTRIBUTED