With most of the world still in some form of lockdown, one would think that everything would be placed on hold. But life goes on… It must go on. Aside from babies still being born during the quarantine, we have seen something else being birthed that gives many of us hope: micro enterprises.
You have probably seen the rise of new business accounts on your social media feed. Perhaps you have received notifications that this business account started following you on Instagram (which we all know is really an invitation to follow them back). You may have also received direct messages (DMs) from your friends, acquaintances, and even strangers about the products that they have on hand. These new businesses have been so active online that even the Bureau of Internal Revenue has taken notice.
I have had my fair share of these feeds, follows, and DMs, so I decided to get to know the stories of some of these startups that were conceived and birthed under lockdown, starting, of course, with those of my friends. Here are some of the lessons I have learned and relearned from them:
Behavioral changes create opportunities. I initially thought that starting a business during a lockdown would be suicide because how would one even get raw materials given everyone’s limited mobility? It turns out that being quarantined at home has allowed people to get hold of their suppliers because they are not stuck in a meeting or in the middle of traffic. Because online transactions have become the norm and everyone is eager for a sale, suppliers have also become more responsive to cold calls, texts, e-mail messages, and DMs. Consumer behavior has also changed. More people are now willing to wait for their orders to be fulfilled because it is not as if we can just walk over to another store if the salesperson takes too long in attending to us. In a way, the lockdown has leveled the playing field for both startups and existing businesses because whichever one you choose to buy from, you will have to wait.
You can always choose what to do with your time. I asked my friends what had motivated them to start their business despite the lockdown. Some of them said they need additional sources of income because the pandemic has negatively affected their original livelihood. Some of them discovered a new hobby that they wanted to share with other people. Some of them had always thought of starting a business around their hobby but had never really found the time to do so until now. Some of them are using their new ventures to help other people make a living by hiring them for production or delivery. Whatever their reasons, they wanted to be productive during the quarantine.
“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” This Marianne Williamson quote is embodied in the stories of the handful of friends that I talked with about their new micro enterprises. Many of them were hesitant to jump into business until they saw another friend take the plunge. The risks that people see you take may be that last nudge they need to do something great, and I think that should count for something.
Micro enterprises have always made up the majority of listed businesses in the Philippines, which means that their success can very well be our economy’s ticket to bouncing back. Their success, of course, depends on our support. So, go ahead and reply to your friends’ DMs. Try their products at least once and give them honest feedback so that they can improve. Help them figure out their value proposition if they have not already done so. If you are already spending money, why not spend it to support a friend?
Liza Mae L. Fumar is a PhD in Business student of De La Salle University, where she also teaches Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance, and Leadership in Organizations.