Pandemic offers both challenges and opportunities

The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed inspired, if not compelled many Filipinos to be creative to survive and prevail over the odds.

Actor turned entrepreneur Marvin Agustin shared how he managed the difficulties that went his way, and found new opportunities to pursue and achieve new goals.

“Nothing is too small to start with,” he said in a virtual summit hosted by Globe Business over the weekend. He emphasized how his humble beginnings taught him to muster up courage.

Speaking virtually in front of about 800 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and aspiring entrepreneurs, Agustin noted that he did not inherit his businesses. As a child, he picked up bottles to sell, sold meat in their community, among others.

The young Agustin (Marvin Jay Marquez Cuyugan in real life) realized that he found no bottles to sell, his choice was to starve or limp back home. He learned to take long walks. Fast forward, he became a mascot in a restaurant, and a waiter.

Through selling meat, he learned how customers value every peso they spend. These jobs had enriched him as a person. “Until I became a boss,” he shared, adding that a leap of faith is necessary for one to succeed.

During his first days in show business, he was only using two shirts and a pair of pants. “But I was able to save and invest,” he recalled.

Agustin said he knew all along that showbiz has a timeline, that love teams cannot last forever. Thus, when asked for an endorsement, he did not ask for money but for a franchise. He enrolled in a culinary school, and had over 10 branches of a Japanese restaurant.

Agustin was in a board meeting when the lockdown was announced last year. He got worried about the safety of the employees and customers. “Food sector was among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” he said, and opening restaurant branches became difficult as lockdown classification changes every two weeks.

His focus, he said was how to sustain the business and retain his workers who have families of their own. He urged and encouraged the webinar attendees to be more aggressive in planning and problem-solving. “Maybe the businesses were paralyzed, but the world won’t stop revolving,” he stressed philosophically.

Searching for new options and alternatives, he said he started learning baking on YouTube and posted his creations on his social media accounts, which attracted  people to start ordering his products.

“Before long, I needed a legitimate commissary, bigger oven, and a legitimate online platform to take the customers’ orders,” he narrated.

Aside from pastries, cochinillo has been among the products that Agustin offers. Cochinillo is a piglet roasted after feeding on sow’s milk for roughly two to six weeks.

While shooting for a video that he would post on social media, the oven’s brand was seen. Many have inquired about the oven, and so the manufacturer sent him another oven, he jested.

This, he said, is an opportunity amid the crisis.

“Innovation, perseverance, adaptability — these are still the (keys) that I will be using in the business,” Agustin said. He reiterated that for an entrepreneur to move forward, he/she must strive and always remember that hard work and perseverance are musts.

The virtual summit also featured learning sessions on new market trends, best practices in working remotely, and digital solutions that mobilized different business operations.

Ayala Corporation chief executive officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala said MSMEs have always been key partners of the Group. An estimated 250,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are part of the Ayala ecosystem, he said.