Without a doubt, the pandemic has been hard. However, these Filipinas didn’t let the pandemic bring them down. Instead, they used their talents and skills to start a business and we find that hella inspiring! Get inspired by reading their stories here. Happy Women’s Month!
Get Inspired By These 18 Filipinas Who Started a Business During the Pandemic
18. Hannah Jane D. Palillo, 22
Hannah was a professional freelance hair and makeup artist before the pandemic. When Metro Manila was put into lockdown and all of her events were canceled, she decided to focus on BIBI delights, a home bakery business that she was originally only doing on the side. Customers usually send their desired cake designs and Hannah makes them so people can still celebrate events from the comforts of their homes. Hannah admits that she never thought it would work in the middle of a pandemic but now that she is earning more, she has been able to slowly upgrade her equipment and turn one of her grandparents’ apartments into a BIBI Delights’ kitchen studio.
17. Maxine Misa, 24
Maxine Misa is the owner of Triple I Tattoo, which has been around for five years now. However, during the pandemic, she also put up a beauty lounge called Max Beautfor nails, permanent makeup, eyelashes, and skincare. She shares that she started the business to start over and start helping other people by opening jobs again. “I saw how the pandemic affected most of the Filipinos and this is my little way of opening opportunities and helping by opening jobs.”
16. Em Tupaz, 34
The Sticky Oats has been around for 10 months now. During the beginning of the lockdown, it was clear that a lot of people started to share their skills online. Em rode that wave after “unlocking” The Sticky Oats discovery! “The start was going with the flow,” she says. “After that, it was a conscious choice to steward the skill and commit for your endeavor to flourish.”
15. Raleene Cabrera, 31
Online Shop: https://gussy.design/shop-home
Raleene is the co-founder of Gussy, an online e-design platform that also has a curated online shop for furniture and decor. Unlike the traditional interior design services that they offer, Gussy is able to transform homes without doing site visits or meeting in person. Their package rates are quite competitive with online styling services starting as low as Php4,999 and premium home styling packages for Php 19,999. The shop that they have consolidates all of the best furniture and decor brands into one site, which is perfect for homeowners and designers who find sourcing and showroom-hopping tiring.
Since Raleene and her partners were usually super busy with their own businesses and careers, it isn’t until the lockdown when they were finally able to plan and implement all of their ideas. They invested in tons of tech to offer a well-thought-out service to designers and home enthusiasts. They are also currently beta testing a web app, which allows you to design, present, create budget sheets, and purchase all in one window. It already includes all of the items in their shop, so designers don’t have to browse through tons of catalogs to find the perfect pieces for a space.
14. Raizza Monique N. Encinas, 31
Raizza is the owner and co-founder of The Bow Tie Duck, an online delicatessen delivery service that caters to Metro Manila and nearby cities. Some of their bestselling items include Échiré butter, Polanco Caviar, Valrhona chocolates, Beillevaire french cheeses, and Cinco Jotas Jamons. What sets The Bow Tie Duck apart is how everything revolves around the customer. “We are more than just an e-commerce shop,” Raizza explains. “We offer a specialized shopping experience through a concierge that is personalized to every client.”
When stricter guidelines came into place during the beginning of the lockdown, Raizza saw a complete change in how people did things. Without the freedom to go out, it became harder to find quality food. She knew that she could provide high-quality items. She knew that she could educate people and be transparent on where food is sourced and produced. She knew she could work on a process where people could get their items in a timely manner. Still, it was a real challenge.
During the earlier days, Raizza exerted a lot of effort and time in finding accredited importers and partners, curating quality products, researching and writing enlightening content, carrying boxes of food and wine, quality checking items, managing logistics, and treating every customer as a valued client. Now, she has a team of talented people helping her out who share the same passion and commitment.
13. Nikki Tabberrah, 28
Life by Casa is a local lifestyle brand that aims to celebrate each and everyone’s spaces with handcrafted home and self-care pieces that help make one feel right at home. This business started as a passion project last August 2020 when Nikki, a hotelier, was trying to make sense of the situation we found ourselves in. “It is undeniable that the pandemic caused a financial strain,” she admits, “so I was also looking for ways to slowly diversify my income due to the severe financial impact on the tourism and hospitality industry.”
In the beginning, Nikki merely wanted to share her creations and discoveries with others; but with the support of her friends and the community, she turned it into a business using only Php2,000 as capital. Along with her fiance, Andrew, they started selling vacuum-packed ready-to-bake bakery-style cookie dough packs and eventually transitioned to non-perishable, locally-made items like handwoven buri mats from local weavers of Quezon so they could also continue to earn a living. After seeing their business’s potential, they decided to experiment with their very own home decor product: premium handcrafted soy candles offered at pocket-friendly prices that aim to promote a sense of calm and wellness during this time.
12. Steph Yu, 23
Clean Pantry PH is an online store that carries plant-based staples from around the world. Steph is passionate about health and wellness and shares that she used to love checking out boutique fitness studios and health food stores whenever she traveled. However, when the pandemic started, Steph let her overall wellbeing fall to the wayside. She didn’t fuel her body right and started feeling the effects a couple of months into working from home. That was when she went vegan overnight and worked really hard to change her relationship with food and her body. During this time, she noticed that most of the ingredients or vegan snacks she wanted to try weren’t easily accessible here in the Philippines. That’s what made her want to start a business: to help others who are transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle.
“During a period in our lives when stress and fear are running high, there is more of a need to take good care of ourselves, our bodies, and our minds,” Steph stresses. “The Clean Pantry PH mantra is to help you nourish and flourish by bringing you the best plant-based staples from around the world.”
11. Porshe Caina, 28
During the pandemic, Porshe started a business of handmade wearable art called Porshelana. They are all personally made by Porshe, so no two designs are ever the same. Porshelana aims to embrace the beauty of rawness, inner light, and freedom towards the artistic pursuit of an unconventional lifestyle. Since the business started last March 2020, Porshe has collaborated with other artists and has even had tiny auctions where people really loved bidding and buying to own their pieces of art.
Porshe admits that the inspiration behind the business was simply survival itself and getting away from the pandemic art block. “I wanted to function as an artist even when my day job and outside projects suddenly stopped,” Porshe shares. She adds that she had actually planned this a long time ago, but it was the pandemic that pushed her to finally do it.
Without regular distractions and suddenly being stuck at home doing nothing, making earrings kept her sane and she just started selling online. Everything was as a one-woman team: the designs, video prod, photos, layout, collection ideas, customer service, and shipping. “I am thankful that I was brave enough to try,” Porshe says. “This gave me a better perspective and direction.”
10. Crystel, 26
JapanInABox.MNL is an online store that started its operations in October of 2020. They offer surprise boxes curated with Japanese chocolates, candies, noodles, snacks, drinks, some anime merch, and whatnots. They also sell individual goodies and other products from Japan upon request.
Crystel shares that working from home wasn’t new for her. However, it became absurd and exhausting due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). With so many demands in terms of working hours, meetings, and other tasks; Crystel became very sickly. She experienced panic attacks almost every day and had trouble sleeping. When home didn’t feel like home anymore, she realized that she needed to prioritize her health. Since quitting wasn’t an option, she decided to pursue an online entrepreneurial journey instead.
“I have always wanted to share my love for Japan and I think the best way to do it is by offering its authentic goodies through @JapanInABox.MNL,” she explains. “Even though starting a business in these trying times isn’t solid gold, the amount of support from my family and friends – special mention to my husband and mom – made me decide now is the time. As the Japanese idiom goes, Ichi-go ichi-e 一期一会 — each moment is always a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
9. Stephanie Turiano Sinco
Aside from being the Communications Officer of Seda Nuvali, Stephanie started her business Plains and Plants two months after the lockdown. It happened when she and her husband were redecorating their home and she was looking for one specific plant. When she found it, she thought, “Maybe others would want it, too.” And that’s where it all began. She built her online accounts and started posting in plant groups, amazed by the support that people had for her business.
Since the hotel was greatly affected by the pandemic, Plains and Prints became Stephanie’s avenue for happiness. She started getting clients and was able to grow her love for plant care at the same time. Clients’ feedback pushed her to bring more and more plants into people’s homes. “One thing I really love about having my own business is the time that I get to spend with my family, especially my kids,” she raves. “I can run my errands, deliver plants, and still be able to be with them. It pushed me to work harder and I’ve never been in greater joy.”
6. – 8. Pau, Keena, and Sam, 24
Pau, Keena, and Sam started the online tutorial center, Tutor Lab Manila, in July 2020, after Keena received support and encouragement from her friends and family. As she tried to figure out what to do career-wise after resigning from her teaching job, she found an enormous amount of time during the pandemic to build her own company. She then reached out to people who best suited her vision, and Sam and Pau joined the business.
The idea behind Tutor Lab is very simple: they want to help children and parents adjust to the new normal. Lots of children, especially preschoolers, decided not to enroll in schools while some parents opted for one-on-ones. That’s what they built Tutor Lab Manila for: as a supplementary learning scheme for families at the comfort of their own homes.
Additionally, they were inspired by Sam and Pau’s current situation in school, where teachers get laid off and paid a lot less. “We thought of teachers and tutors who might be in the same situation as us, and those who might be struggling even more so,” they explain. “We wanted to provide side hustle opportunities, while also providing quality service to our clients.”
5. Sunny D, 27
Sunny admits that she wasn’t inspired to start a business. In fact, she didn’t plan or intend for her handmade crocheted items to become business at all. When she was jobless and stranded in her hometown, she simply needed to find ways to cope and fight after almost giving up. One day, she bought a cheap set of crochet hooks and extra yarn from someone’s old stash and made bralettes. While rediscovering an old hobby, Sunny started making things for other people and opened Sunny’s Stitches as her main source of therapy and coping with life.
Sunny has sold stuffed toys to help raise funds for pandemic and typhoon fundraisers. Now, it has become her source of income while still struggling to find a job. “Sometimes, when anxieties lie low and I am feeling better than most days, I don’t worry about my unemployment because I enjoy what I do and I am in control of my time,” she shares. “Despite the loss and painful reality, this business has become my way of fighting in this life and making it a point to live it one stitch at a time. And everything I’ve made has become more meaningful than just handmade with love.”
Sunny’s Stitches was founded during a gloomy and dark time in Sunny’s life, so it is more than just a source of income for her. “It was an opportunity for me to explore and challenge my creativity through the stories of other people. I don’t just make items to wear or use, I create tangible memories and imaginations. What inspired me the most to start and work on this business was the will to make life meaningful and purposeful despite how hard it has been for all of us.”
4. Abbie Victorino, 31
Abbie launched GrocerGenie during the ECQ period in April 2020. She shares that her co-founder had the idea for GrocerGenie when everyone was having a hard time shopping for groceries during that time. Aside from the risk of getting exposed to COVID-19, there were a lot of challenges like no public transportation, the need for an ECQ pass, long lines at supermarkets, anti-hoarding mandates, and not having access to ATM machines. Since Abbie has been in the eCommerce scene for almost a decade now, she figured, “Why not?” They launched the site in just five days and were getting orders before they even figured out who was going to house the operations. “My living room turned into a mini grocery store until the GCQ was announced,” she shares. The rest is history.
2. – 3. Taryn Mae Navarro, 25, and Angela Marie Tiotangco-Alvarez, 29
Taryn and Angela founded Palawan Local Market right on the onslaught of the pandemic to help Palawan businesses reach a broader audience, especially because Palawan’s tourism was massively hit. People also needed a new way to get their fresh produce and local products safely via delivery.
Since Angela is a Palawan native, she perfectly understands how the people need something new and innovative in the island to help the community. Since Palawan’s tourism dropped drastically, their mission is to refocus their market’s attention to another aspect of Palawan, which is the creation of local products. “We thought it’s also a way to give back to the community that has always been so warm and welcoming to us,” they add. “Our merchants have also become our good friends who we can share our vision with. We are hoping that we will finally enter the Manila marketplace successfully so we can promote Palawan-made products and make them realize that there are also other good things in Palawan besides our pristine beaches.”
1. Lyka de Luna, 24
CleverCatch Inc. is a multidisciplinary Advertising agency serving 360° strategic works that include Marketing, Social Media Management, Website and Mobile App Development, Logo Design and Branding, Photo and Video Production, and PR Management and Events. They are an all-in-one platform, providing inspiring content and brilliant ideas to mobilize brands and projects into a grander vision. They aim to empower brands to grow and expand by putting smart marketing tactics into play. So far, they have already worked with several notable brands: Pfizer Vaccines Philippines, SM Development Corporation, Sleepwell Melatonin Supplement, Primehomes Real Estate Development Inc., Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office, and Liang Crispy Roll among others.
Lyka co-founded CleverCatch Inc. last August 2020 and worked almost 24/7 scouting for projects and potential clients. Fortunately, from their first month of operations up until today, their working calendar has been full. In fact, due to the surge in projects, they started hiring an in-house team and are now looking at getting an HQ as they build a bigger family.
Lyka shares that she was an Account Manager in an advertising agency prior to CleverCatch. However, when the agency had to cut off their salaries and she was no longer earning enough to cover her monthly bills, she decided to team up with Neil (co-founder) and build the company of their dreams. “Despite the risk, we could make something awesome out of trying, and now here we are,” Lyka exclaims. Truly inspiring!
Do you know any other inspiring Filipinas we can feature? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a direct message at When in Manila Angeline on Facebook. Interact with the team and join the WhenInManila.com Community at WIM Squad! Join our WhenInManila.com community on Viber, as well!