Entrepreneurship is never a sure thing. After all, not all business ventures succeed from the get-go, nor do all survive long enough to become lucrative. Based on the World Bank Ranking, the Philippines is one of the lowest ranked economies when it comes to starting businesses, making it one of the hardest countries to survive in for any start-ups or any aspiring entrepreneur trying to firmly plant their roots.
Despite the seemingly challenging business environment of the country, DLSU has somehow provided a means for any aspiring entrepreneur to create a business, while still being in the relative safety of the University. Animo Biz was born in this context: to serve as a training ground for student entrepreneurs—an opportunity that many took to rise to the challenge.
A little more on Animo Biz
Animo Biz is run under the Campus Services Innovations Team (CSIT), a service-oriented volunteer group in DLSU aimed to ease student life in campus through projects—the most popular of which is Animo Biz.
“If the CSIT were a business, Animo Biz [would be] our flagship product,” shares Justine Naraval, Associate Chief Volunteer Officer for Projects of CSIT. Primarily known for its convenient location, cheap eats, and constantly refreshing menu, it’s become a place for the students and by the students. Students looking for a quick bite go to Animo Biz, but those in search of practical experience in running a business apply for a stall in Animo Biz.
Getting into Animo Biz is a tough and harrowing process. Out of the 50 or so applicants per round, only 15 get shortlisted. The lucky 15 then take part in what is known as the ‘Animo Biz Expo’, where their products are judged by a set of judges consisting of both students and admin. Afterwards, only six are chosen to be part of Animo Biz for a term. However, the hardest part in applying isn’t the paperwork or the long hours manning the booth, but the innovation that CSIT requires as a fundamental prerequisite. “Basically, I think the conceptualization of the idea; that’s the hardest part.” says Justine. “You need to have a product that’s new and an idea people would be interested in.”
Innovation is, at the end of the day, the project’s backbone. “Animo Biz is purely for innovation, it is for testing out your ideas,” Justine sums up.
A hard start
Like any business venture, the application process is riddled with both obstacles and hardships, yet also with triumphs and unparalleled experiences and learnings. Whether or not it ends in success, there is much to learn when going into business.
“I’ve always wanted to start a business,” says Jamir Abdalla. “But actually being accepted [in] Animo Biz is really hard… One of the hardest things is to come up with a product that customers would be interested in buying.” Jamir’s application for the program ultimately did not pan out.
One of the primary difficulties in the process was the amount of paperwork necessary—a tedious requirement. But even if his dream business didn’t push through during the term’s application, Jamir says he is still going to try again. “This time I’m going to start doing my paperwork early [so that it will be easier],” he says.
Mark Tionson, a BS Chemical Engineering student and the co-proprietor of the currently established Chinese food stall Great Wall, also had a hard time fitting in all the requirements and preparation in the limited amount of time. “A lot of things were rushed, but in the end, we carefully planned our [proposal]. [All that was needed was] careful time management, and research on our food. Kaya naman siya. Time ang pinaka-importante doon,” he explains.
The rocky road ahead
Ada Laud, a graduate of BS Marketing in DLSU, was one of the many student entrepreneurs who set up shop in Bloemen Hall. Prior to her graduation, she took a leap of faith and applied for Animo Biz. This was not something that she pursued half-heartedly. With a substantial loan from her family and a lot of hard work along the way, she had much to risk in this new venture.
With her stall, Greek Eats, and her drive to fulfil her entrepreneurial dream, she pursued this endeavor, making good use of her knowledge in marketing and branding. Friends and family alike would help her make her kind of food stand out from the crowd. “In the beginning, I had a lot of help from my friends,” she shares. “They offered to watch the stall for me and cook the food for me, and they were really ok with it.”
It was, however, not without significant setbacks. As with any business, when money comes into play, vigilance could never be more necessary. Ada laments her distrust with her employees and her troubles with balancing her books. “There were times that there was money missing and those were usually on the days when I couldn’t go to the stall during closing because I had class,” she explains. And to keep her business separate from her personal life, she had to let go of her friends. “I didn’t want them getting involved. I didn’t want people blaming them for that. So I just wanted to do it on my own,” she explains. This problem had become so severe that she had to implement body and bag checks with her employees and enforced stricter inventory of her stores.
It was not smooth sailing for Mark and his co-partners, either. As the term rolled by, their sales had become erratic, and their supplies were suffering wastage. He explains that they had initially set up a forecast of their sales in order to cater to supply. “As the term went by, the trends changed. There were some days that we had a lot of spoilage. So we had to adjust.”
The learning experience
With Animo Biz, Mark, Ada, and every other student who has set up shop has garnered much knowledge and newfound experience that they believe will shape them towards becoming better entrepreneurs in the future.
Ada’s hardships and success in establishing her stall developed her abilities in crisis management, human resources, marketing, and customer care. “I can handle situations better after Animo Biz. It helped me gauge how a business will be like in the future. I know it’s gonna be more difficult than what I went through, but it was still a great experience.”
Mark and his partners, on the other hand, learned the value of a true partnership. They made their stall a success by relying and working well with each other. “Since we are students first, we had to balance our time between managing our stall and our academics. We would need to coordinate with each other and we defined our jobs so that we could work together best.”
With the inspiration and experiences Mark gained from Animo Biz, he, along with new partners, built The Burger Transit, a burger restaurant on the second floor of One Archer’s Place. Animo Biz inspired him to invest in a new venture in pursuit of his dreams of business.
Advice for the future
In every business venture, there is always risk. But fate has a tendency to favor the bold. “If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to test it out and go for it, because you’ll never know if it’s gonna be a success or not and you wouldn’t want to waste that opportunity,” advises Ada.
However, taking risks isn’t the only part of the game of war and business. It takes careful planning, tedious research, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for the realization of a concrete business plan. Mark and Ada did not rush into the battlefield without a careful and well-thought-out plan.
“Really put a lot of time and effort into making it how you want [your business] to be. Take your time and make sure your ideas are specific and concrete and work towards every detail of your business,” says Ada.
The greatest of the great achieved what they did by staying undaunted through failure and difficulty. The adversities before them were many, but they did not falter so easily. They all had a single purpose: a dream. Former United States presidential candidate Mitt Romney once said, “Business and growing jobs is about taking risks, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It is about dreams. Usually it doesn’t work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple. He came back and changed the world.”