Business mentor: an entrepreneur in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
Pacita U. Juan, better known as Chit, is the founder of ECHOstore Sustainable Living, a pioneer in the retail of eco, organic and natural products established in 2008.
Even before sustainability became a buzzword, ECHOstore established itself in shopping malls in the NCR and in non-mall locations in Davao and Cagayan de Oro.
She is also the founder of many start-ups like a chain of coffee shops, a Filipino quick-service restaurant and a farm-to-table restaurant.
Today, Chit manages its fulfillment center by making its store its warehouse and shipping area. Turning a cafe into an e-commerce hub.
AOB: Hello Mrs. Juan. How have you been over the past 12 months? Anything new with ECHOstore? How does a serial entrepreneur cope with these difficult times?
PUJ: I was included in a resilience survey conducted by an academic institution, and to really cover my case, I was interviewed last December, May and another in December 2021. Experts want to document the challenges that I have encountered since COVID -19 started and how an entrepreneur, MSME, addressed the issues posed by us — lockdowns, logistical challenges, shopping center closures, health protocols, supplier issues, management of stocks and even personal decisions.
AOB: How did you feel about being the subject of such an investigation?
Thought this was such a good account of where we’ve been and where we’re going for the foreseeable future. As I was answering the academic’s questions I sometimes closed my eyes (turned off my video) and reflected on what happened in the past 14 months, 15, 16 and surely another year. about. Times are really so different already.
AOB: Can you share with us some of the questions that are asked of you?
Here are some of the questions I was asked …
How have you changed in dealing with problems or issues?
I have become more realistic if not fatalistic. I have learned to accept change and to accept change. And rather than being angry or frustrated, I have become more grounded, willing to learn new things and accept the ones I cannot change. (It looks like Desiderata).
How did your partners cope with these difficult times?
We met and decided to take matters into our own hands. We have remained true to our mission no matter the tough times and have agreed as a group that our business model will have to change. We decided as a group to close all our stores in shopping centers and to focus only on online sales, hence the desire to improve our e-commerce site.
What did you learn last year?
In addition to learning to think like a millennial to manage ecommerce and technology, I had to learn new terms, new ways of doing business, and learn a little more about technology – Search Engine Optimization or SEO , User Experience (UX) and “pixels” and other technical terms that I used to delegate to young people.
Would you do something different when this is over?
I don’t think “it” will be over. I think “it” is going to be that for a long time. We all need to change maybe our business models, maybe the business itself, or maybe decide how long we can go on. One thing is certain: we do not know how long “this” will last.
AOB: Wow, that must have been a revelation for you and your partners! Did this help you think about the next steps?
So, as I was going to sleep that night, I thought it was a good interview. It got me thinking and thinking about what me and the team have been doing for about 14 months now… not bad at all. It got me thinking about how I have handled my own feelings and how we have navigated so far, both in business and personal life. Would I do it again? Would I start another business?
AOB: What can you advise our entrepreneurs facing the same difficult questions?
So, for those who are still stuck waiting for the containment to ease, better think of other things to do. Maybe think about not needing as many employees as you used to, maybe rethinking your inventory and making quick, smart decisions if you like retail because things expire, food expires. and a lot of things are getting stale, overpriced, and out of date.
Think about your material possessions. Will you still need them or would you be better off selling them cheaply, freeing up space or not needing to stock and get a warehouse for them.
Think about your intangible assets. What happens to your brand? Do you park it and relaunch it at some point? Did you remove your signs and posters and any telltale signs that your brand was there? It’s the first thing you need to remove, actually. Don’t let people see your brand as closed, in need of repair, or disappearing in a sign.
Think about your employees. Talk to them about the state of the business. Be honest and tell them what you are going through. Maybe they will even help you make decisions.
Think about your stakeholders. Talk to your suppliers and service providers. Let them know that you are also thinking about ways to mitigate the effects of the business closing or slowing down. They might be the same ones that will help you in your next business. Be realistic and seriously show them what your plans are.
AOB: Thank you for this self-examination tip (s). What else should we watch out for?
Keep your mind on you. Never be the stressed out or the weakest link in your system. Stay healthy, maybe not so rich, but wise. There is nothing like a healthy body and a healthy mind to keep the business going, no matter how smaller or slower the business gets. It’s best to avoid health issues so that we can tackle bigger issues like business continuity and meeting our mission.
Be sane, sober, and in good health. Find the time to do this exercise and you may be heading towards a better Chapter Two of your business.
AOB: Thank you, Chit, for sharing part of your journey with us. I am sure our entrepreneurs will find your suggestions useful.
entrepreneur advice, business advice, MSME, small business, personal finance, Pacita Juan, ECHOstore, social entrepreneur