The pandemic, the internet and the rise of online businesses

Marymil M. Cabrera

IT HAS been three months since we’ve observed social distancing and stay-at-home protocols. Since there is no vaccine for the deadly Covid-19 yet, everyone is starting to accept the fact that normalcy is still a long way off. So, adapting to the “new normal” and moving forward are the best steps to take.

One positive thing to take note of during this pandemic is that it revealed one’s capabilities, skills and talents when it comes to launching a business online. Online businesses have been around for quite some time now, but engagement has been at an all-time high.

We’ve asked Cebuano entrepreneurs from different fields to share their stories, from how they started their e-businesses to how they are eventually shaping up for the online world.

Kristian Raye de Gracia and Kathrina Marie Taneo

Cebu Seafoods

Though buying of essentials is allowed as long as you wear protective gear, bring your quarantine pass and observe social distancing, still, most people are afraid to go out.

Couple Kristian and Kathrina, who are both working in the events industry, ventured into another business to earn, with a goal of supplying fresh seafood to their clients without having the need to go out. Kristian and Kathrina get their supplies from their farm in the Shangri-La of the Pacific, Surigao del Sur. “My ancestors have built cages for the lobsters since the ‘80s,” Kathrina shared.

To ensure that the products arrive fresh at your doorstep, each order is stored in a Styrofoam box or a plastic-sealed container filled with ice.

Jenny Lastimosa and Donnie Amkersingh

TacoDon

Since traveling is not allowed as of the moment, allow TacoDon (@tacodon_cebu) to bring you to Mexico with every bite of its homemade soft shell tacos using fresh local ingredients. TacoDon has been around since mid-January of this year.

It is a collaboration between two people who love food and international flavors, who want to launch a business centered on Donnie’s hometown favorites in California.

California is where some of the best Mexican food is made, and TacoDon aims to share the rich flavors of Mexican food in the Queen City of the South.

Unlike other tacos available in Cebu, TacoDon added some twist using local favorites like pork belly, shrimp, yellowfin tuna, chicken and sisig, and incorporated them with more complex Mexican ingredients like pico de gallo, salsa verde, guacamole and mango salsa.

When this is all over, Jenny and Donnie are hoping to open a mobile food truck and set up a good spot for a nice taqueria and expand to other cities.

For now, they’re focusing on selling their products online: “We couldn’t have done it without social media. Our growth is attributed to our customers’ posts, photos and reviews. It spread like wildfire and expanded our customer base organically in a very short period of time.”

Andre Chan

BIKKO

VISUAL artist and designer Andre Chan launched Bikko (@bikko_ceb) in early May, featuring his family’s recipe of “biko” (cooked glutinous rice in sweet coconut curd).

Though his biko recipe was first enjoyed during the ‘70s only by his family’s close friends and relatives—as it was prepared only for family gatherings and special occasions—Andre was motivated to offer their specialty to everyone.

“Our greatest joy is to bring you a taste of our freshly baked biko,” he said.

Each tray of biko is delivered straight to a customer’s doorstep.

The biko is thick. Its taste is consistently rich. It’s definitely a comfort food that will bring one back to the good old times.

In this time of crisis, Andre and his family are so grateful for social media.

“Without this platform, we would not be able to launch our business successfully. The internet is an easy avenue for us to share our very own biko recipe, and it has helped us a lot in terms of delivery, transactions, and most especially, the experience which we truly cherish.”

Gwen Opsima

Juice it! Cebu

Juice It! Cebu, a home-based cold-pressed juice bar, started when its owner decided to live a healthier lifestyle and wanted to offer affordable juices to everyone.

“I’m a fan of fresh juices and healthy smoothies. Unfortunately, buying them from juice bars was no longer sustainable for me because the price point was too high,” Gwen said.

She then started doing her own cold-pressed juices until her officemates requested to buy some bottles of juices from her.

“That’s how I realized that maybe there is a demand but the supply is too low,” she shared.

Juice It! Cebu delivers 100 percent cold-pressed organic fruits and vegetables without adding any preservatives. The products are excellent for gut health, immune system, body alkaline and energy and weight loss.

For Gwen, the internet is a game changer as it helps her connect with a wider audience, especially those who don’t know about her products.

“It’s a huge help for small entrepreneurs like us.”

Garcy Kate Go and Lucy de la Calzada Go

Lucy’s Cakes and Pastries

The story of Lucy’s Cakes and Pastries is as sweet as its products. The business was named after the mother of this family-owned business, Lucy, who has been working abroad for over 15 years and had always wanted to have her own business. She’s the inspiration behind Garcy Kate’s and her siblings’ endeavor.

“Our mother sent us baking wares that were meant for personal use, but instead we used them to start this business in the hope that when this business grows, our mom can finally retire and come back home and be with us for good,” shared Garcy Kate.

Lucy’s Cakes and Pastries started in 2017 but stopped operations due to work. Garcy Kate decided to relaunch it last February 2020, before the enhanced community quarantine happened. Garcy Kate, together with her siblings, meticulously developed each recipe of its products such as the Japanese Cheesecake, Fudgy Brownies and Chunky Chocolate Walnut Cookies, using quality ingredients to make sure every bite will satisfy one’s cravings.

“I used to do this alone, but now since the pandemic, my siblings Garcy Kristine, Garcy Kim and Gary Kent have been helping me with the promotion, marketing and improvement of our products. I can say that this is now family-owned, and it helped us sustain our daily needs during these trying times,” she shared.

Since the pandemic, the internet has helped Lucy’s Cakes and Pastries market its products. Online delivery apps also played a huge role in getting its products to its customers. Online payment options make the transaction faster, convenient and safe.

Scarlet Fayee Dumabok

deja.ph

A passion project that turned into business, this is the story of local brand deja. A software engineer, Scarlet ventured into online selling in November 2019 as an outlet where she could pour her creative heart out while also making money to pay some bills.

deja, pronounced as ‘day-hah,’ which means “already or remembrance,” sells carefully curated and thoughtfully designed statement pieces such as its best-seller birth flower necklace. “We want our pieces to be remembered always so we carefully pick and curate them,” shared Scarlet.

Since @deja.ph does not have a physical store yet, all of its items are posted on its Facebook and Instagram pages. Its Instagram page is a definition of a creative online catalog.

Renan Alquizola

Natural Living

An online haven for vegans and plant-based fans, Natural Living started in February 2019, though it was conceptualized in 2018.

As a vegan himself, Renan observed that in Cebu, there are only limited options of conscious products. So he decided to put his lifestyle and recipes to good use, and launch an online shop with the goal of promoting the power of eating plants, and the connection of human beings, nature and the food we eat.

The internet helped Renan with the exposure of his business. And now, 70 percent of his customers are from the online world.

Reese Marie Borromeo

Beauty Affair Face and Slimming Hub

SINCE aesthetic clinics are not allowed to open yet, Beauty Affair Face and Slimming Hub founder Reese Marie Borromeo offered online consultation conducted by the clinic’s doctors to serve her clients, especially those who have skin concerns: Dr. Marieta M. Santos, a PDS-certified dermatologist; and Dr. Conrada “Radi” Apostol, a reconstructive, plastic and holistic surgeon.

“This pandemic brings so much stress to everyone, and stress can cause skin problems. That’s why we offer online consultation for skin concerns, and stress and anxiety management. It’s the only way for us to serve our clients, as of the moment,” Reese shared.

After the one-on-one consultation, the doctors give an e-prescription to the clients if necessary, to provide treatments in the comfort of their homes.