June is Pride and International MSME Month and with that, our friends from Google Philippines is taking time to honor small businesses that are owned by LGBTQ+ entities and feature them on this yearly event they mount called Pride Conversations. This is so they could share their stories, cherish their wins so the general public and allies would be able to celebrate with them.
As you know, when COVID-19 happened, they were not really spared. This difficulty has not brought them down, it has actually made most of them closer.
Ms. Dette of Google Philippines says "Google is aware of this and they have done Google.org grants for their businesses. We will help promote them through Google My Business and other assets (2 Million Dollar grant to different organizations). Aside from this, we are hard at work everyday to make our products more inclusive and helpful, to become safe spaces, and we thank LGBT Chamber of Commerce as their efforts are very important. We miss the annual pride march, we still have a long way to go but I'm hopeful there will be better days. Please be an ally in thoughts, words and actions. We hope to see you outside soon, stay safe and well!"
Ron of LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce says "Major corporations have a responsibility to share their successes, for sustainable development and giving opportunities for people in the community they are with. This is what our chamber continue to promote, together with out allies to multiply this, to hopefully learn from our speakers stories. Businesses should adopt non discrimination policies, include SOGIE education programs, learn more about diversity, training, promote equitable benefits, provide transgender access, hold company sponsored events and promote positive LGBT+ messages. It does not happen in June alone, but everyday. Happy pride!"
Abby Biyo of Nirvana Hostel and Restaurant Siargao
Abby is based in Siargao. Initially, she only wanted to have a vacation but now is doing a business with her partner. It's the first Kapampangan restaurant in the island, and they love food and cooking. They figured, they wanted to share it to locals in Siargao. They are also part of SIBO (Siargao Island Business Organization), it aims to help other business owners. She shares "Having no clients because of the lockdown at first was depressing, but challenges was a daily routine. We had to change plans, pray, take action, lessen shyness (because no business can flourish with it) as Nirvana is for my family and our employees. We need to generate jobs to help people and extend the blessing to others." They joined weekly markets, added human effort and now they are slowly recovering. Her advise was "Continue what you are doing, don't let the pandemic stop you, make sure what you're doing is what you really want to do and not just because it's a fad. NIRVANA is now open, not just the hostel but the restaurant as well. We now have a bigger dining area and formed different partnerships, this is what we are flourishing."
Sed Aguil of The Food Episode
Struggled work from home setup, Sed decided to go back to the kitchen and found new love for cooking. Now he posts videos online, then friends asked for food, got great feedback feedback from it and now has established THE FOOD EPISODE. He says "The biggest challenge was doing everything on my own, I had no one to do this with. The positive comments from customers felt good and I learned a lot by listening to them. Find the courage to pursue what you really love, it's normal to be scared, but don't let it become a hindrance. Be patient, as it's not a smooth ride everyday, you will peak at the right moment."
Amrei Dizon of Vitalstrats Creative Solutions
Vitalstrats Creative Agency was created a few years ago. When a client needed a receipt, they needed to register as a business, so it was somewhat accidental. They create videos, music videos for indie artists and during the pandemic she says "We had a number of challenges, because our setup was converted to digital and almost all of us had to work from home. We lost a lot of projects since we didn't have events and shoots possible during the lock down. We did digital projects, we adapted to changes and now able to thrive even in the pandemic. Don't be afraid, everything can be learned, embrace your uniqueness because it what makes you great. That's the value of a good team. You have to pivot your services to what is currently relevant. We have openings if you are a creative, we are open for that!"
Nariese Giangan of FFTG Cafe
FFTG (food for the gays) now has a physical cafe, a safe space. Started April last year, when she graduated in culinary school and decided to sell baked goods. She says "The name was really catchy, the LGBT folks were just on it as they felt like "supreme beings", now we have a business and opened it even in the middle of pandemic. When I opened shop, it was already going strong, but we had to close shop again after a few weeks. We had to be in deliveries and do it online. We needed to double our efforts, because at the end of the day, our bills don't stop. I was the only one who bakes, had to sometimes ask family to help out. Anyone can learn the skills, but you have to believe in your product, and know the services that you provide. Know your market and plan your business well and how to promote it not just to the community, but its allies. You have to also develop your products, and never stop dreaming."
They also consign products so if you want to sell your food there, they can accommodate.
Jeoff Solas of Comercio Central, Cooltura Hub, and Fitness Army
I've known Jeoff for a few years since I also cover hotels and restaurants in this blog. He's the head honcho of Think Smarter Marketing Agency and Cooltura Hub.
He shares "I do marketing, branding, press releases even during the lockdown. I have access to a barber shop, do drinks and have had to establish a provincial base here in Bulacan. Cooltura has been a project of mine when I was in the hotel industry, all of these things are just efforts that I put together. Inspired by "kwentong barbero", I came across friends who provided drinks. Initially, I came up with Cooltura Barbers. I have also worked in the tourism industry, but now I had to stay in one place and need to do it online. In order to thrive, I knew I had to know more people in my area, it gave me an opportunity to know people from Bulacan and in exchange give them opportunities, employment, and give the same services of salons and barber shops in Manila in our neck of the woods. If the physical venue of the businesses were challenging, I had to help bring it online. This is a safe space now for more people." His advice was "You always have to encourage yourself, establish a reputation, connect with people, develop new skills but still take care of ourselves. Be resourceful, utilize space, people will tell stories about you if they are happy and feel good about themselves and that has helped us thrive during these times."
Rui Mariano of The Fairygodbarbie House of Beauty
Proud Transpinay Rui owns and operates Fairy God Barbie Aesthetic Wellness and Spa. She says "It started when I won a pageant, sisters asked how they love my hair and skin was nice so while working in Amazing Philippine Theater, I started to put up my beauty and wellness and spa. Now it's on its 7th year, I wanted to help our trans sisters. I wanted it to feel like a home, to build friendships, and now it's a huge community. When the pandemic hit, we need to follow the protocols of the government to close down. It was then when I started selling beauty products together with my sisters, and now it has grown into a branch, basically has grown my business overnight." She shares her secret and says "Be dedicated, committed, know your purpose and your happiness. If you fail or listen to other people, you won't succeed. If your heart is good, the one above knows about it. If you fail plan B, there's a lot of letters left in the alphabet which you can use." which I think was smart. :)
|They also held a Google My Business preso after the talk
Now is the time to support local businesses, so always be nice. If they make mistakes, give them time to recover. Spread positivity, celebrate pride, celebrate YOU. Celebrate with the causes they are fighting for, especially on the topic of equality. Support campaigns of the community. If you are an LGBT entrepreneur, be visible. There's a strong community that can support you, educate yourselves in the SOGIE bill, support the businesses and commit to pride. It's not just in pride month, but the whole year. It'll pay off in the long run, kindness is the key, your business will survive with your friends, regular customers, you can inspire people to be more inclusive.
This was definitely a good talk with very interesting people. Thank you Google Philippines for doing this not just for the community, but the public; to keep them informed about existing LGBT+ businesses and shared their successes to others who might go through the same challenges they have gone through. Thanks Google Philippines!