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5 Things I Learned After Starting a Business


Starting a business has never been part of my plans as I was growing up. Like most of you, I was influenced to live a career-driven life, climbing that corporate ladder, and planning for retirement.

But ever since I quit my job back in 2015 to travel the world [an unprecedented move, I may add], going back to the corporate world is already out of the equation. I did try when I got back from South America but I only lasted for a month. And that’s when it hit me — the corporate scene ain’t for me anymore.

My options? Be a marketing freelancer for life or start a business that will help me achieve my goals of becoming financially independent, living a passion-driven life, and fulfilling my purpose [whatever that is].

Where am I now —

I am currently a marketing freelancer, helping eCommerce business owners grow their business through digital marketing. This freelancer gig helps me cover my basic needs as well as my travel vice.

Granted that being a freelancer won’t give me financial independence that I strive for, I had to take the entrepreneur route to future-proof my life.

With that, I was able to start 2 businesses on the side — 1) Humanitee PH (a tshirt printing business); 2) ETC Online Shop (a dropshipping business).

But I tell you now, even having a post-graduate degree in business didn’t make it a walk in the park. Money-wise, I gained some and lost some, but I consider everything as a learning experience. And here are 5 things I learned after starting those 2 businesses:

1) You cannot do it alone. And you shouldn’t.

Humanitee PH started with 2 people [me and my then boyfriend]. When we split up, I was left to do everything on my own from designing, printing, marketing and order handling.

For the first few months, I was coping but when bulk orders came in, I started having sleepless nights and stressful days. It lasted a year when I finally admitted to myself that I cannot do it anymore.

Business was sustainable, earning good revenue with little investment, but my heart’s not in it anymore. So I decided to sell it to one of my trusted and closest friends.

Did I regret that decision? To be honest, no. Because a printing business is not really what I had in mind. What I really want is a location-independent business that would allow me to build the business from wherever.

Point is — you shouldn’t start a business on your own. You need at least one more decision maker to balance things out, so you can have a different perspective, and approach business decisions objectively.

2) Everyone is doing it, but that doesn’t mean you should to.

Whenever I hear a business idea, especially an already profitable one, I always think to myself — maybe that is something I can also explore.

And that’s what happened with ETC Online Shop. It all started when I was doing the marketing for a client with the same business model. I had back-end access to their website so I was able to see how much they were making in a month. And man, my eyes turned into $$!

Dropshipping business is very appealing mainly because with little to zero investment, you can earn easy money and fast! And that’s what I thought.

In a week’s time, I was able to build a website, import more than a hundred products, and started doing marketing.

The result? I ended up losing so much money in marketing and didn’t have any sales. Ouch, I know!

What went wrong? I only saw the gross revenue of my client’s business, but didn’t really see how much they were spending on marketing and other expenses. I didn’t do much research because in my mind, if they can earn that much, how difficult can it be. A completely wrong mindset!

Worse, I had a friend on board to help with some tasks and share a % of the expenses. When the business went south, I felt guilty.

Stupid, amateur mistake. Sigh.

3) Have a vision and a business plan, and stick to it. Not having both is a recipe for disaster.

When I started ETC Online Shop, I didn’t have a business plan and a vision. Another stupid, amateur mistake.

I was so careless that I didn’t really plan carefully for it. No growth plans, business objectives, marketing plan, contingency plan, etc. Simply put, I went into battle without any armor.

What was my goal then? To earn as much as I can, as fast as I can.

Indeed, it was a recipe for disaster and I was asking for it.

Humanitee PH, on the other hand, had a vision and a business plan. In my mind, I already imagined how I wanted Humanitee PH to grow, and the kind of brand and business it will be.

What went wrong? It was our main source of income back then. We were heavily relying on the revenue it was making. When customers ask for a different kind of product, we gave in because we needed the money. We completely lost focus — we lost sight of our vision.

And that is what I believed to be the reason why my heart was not in it anymore. I lost sight of what Humanitee should be first and foremost.

4) Don’t go into business you know nothing about.

This is a no-brainer. Start a business where you feel you’re an expert at. You may know a lot of things but you should be an expert in one. Just think of the T approach.

If you’re good with marketing, perhaps you can start your own marketing consultancy or marketing agency. If real estate interests you, then go do buy and sell.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t go into web designing business if you don’t even know what domain and hosting are.

So how can you know which industry to go in? Dig deep and make a SWOT analysis of yourself. Capitalize on your strengths, work around your weaknesses, take advantage of the opportunities, and take calculated risks given the threats in your chosen industry.

5) You are going to fail and it’s not the end of the world.

This, perhaps, is the greatest lesson I’ve learned, and a hard pill to swallow. Who likes failure anyway? No one.

It was hard to admit to myself that I made a mistake and failed, but at the end of the day, I just had to embrace it and learn from it.

Because when you learn from your mistakes and failures, you never really lose.

And by doing so, I know I will do better on my next business venture.

Present day —

Humanitee PH is under new management, which is currently being re-branded into “House of Tees”. And ETC Online Shop has been closed. I had to stop financial bleeding and close it down.

Have I given up hope in building an empire? Hell no.

As a matter of fact, we [my business partner and I] will be launching One for Humanity in a few weeks’ time. One for Humanity has been in my radar since 2015, and it has taken 3 years to finally materialize.

3 years in the making — perhaps I needed to learn all these so I can take a more calculated and wiser approach, and hopefully turning it into inevitable success. You can read more about what One for Humanity is all about here.

Frankly speaking, I am quite scared and anxious about this venture. This is one project that I don’t want to fail at. I want so badly for this to succeed not because of money, but because of the social impact that it can give.

So I am carefully planning, with timely execution, and taking all calculated steps necessary. I am not as confident as before but nothing’s changed — I still have the courage to chase my dreams and make things happen.

Because dreams mean work. Dreams demand hustle.

Sending you love from my side of the world. Thank you for stopping by!