Another batch of young men and women has recently joined the ranks of the country’s college and university graduates. Most of them have one fear in common—not finding a job that can pay them well. But that fear should not immobilize graduates if they knew that employment is not the only way to use their talents productively and make a living.
“Entrepreneurship is an important key for unlocking the vicious cycle of unemployment,” explains Prof. Eric Pasquin, chair of San Beda College’s International Business and Entrepreneurial Management department. “Through entrepreneurship, young people and college graduates—especially those with the means—can create not only new enterprises but also job opportunities for those seeking employment.”
Pasquin noted that aside from their potential of being able to help reduce the country’s unemployment rate, young entrepreneurs who build their own enterprises can actually set more economic activity in motion.
As in the case of all entrepreneurs of whatever age, however, a college graduate must not go into business with eyes wide shut.
“There are a lot of schools offering entrepreneurship courses in the country,” says Prof. Danilo Antonio of the Asian Institute of Management and the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship. “But learning all about entrepreneurship in school is one thing, and implementing it under real-world situations is another thing entirely.”
After learning the basics in school, he says, the new graduate must not only have a passion for business but must make every effort to find the right business to undertake and to find the funds to start it up.
“Having a great idea is only the beginning,” he explains. “You must know how to monetize that idea and you must realize that making it work takes actual implementation.”
A fresh graduate’s foray into business
Jennifer James Tan, chief executive officer in the Philippines of the Malaysian lifestyle café chain Secret Recipe, is one member of Batch 2006 who has successfully ventured into business in a big way right after graduation.
Although a multinational company had earlier targeted her as a recruit for a promising post, Tan chose another option—an offer by her own family to be the CEO of Global Life-Style Ventures, the Philippines’ master franchisee of Secret Recipe.
The De La Salle University graduate began operational work for Secret Recipe in March 2007. The venture required a significant amount of initial capital because the restaurant is an international franchise. At any rate, in addition to the four outlets that had already been operational, Tan was able to establish from then on a central commissary that can support up to 15 outlets.
Prof. Antonio says that aside from finding startup funds, the graduate must also learn how to overcome inexperience, especially if playing in a field that is dominated by established businesses.
“A lot of startup entrepreneurs are discouraged at the first sign of trouble,” he says. “They then become part of the many small businesses that ultimately fail. This is because the market is not friendly to startups, especially in more established industries where you have to compete with proven names.”
The key to survival, he says, is “to find a niche and capitalize on it.” Antonio says that while many young entrepreneurs might stumble over inexperience, for some, the weakness would be in actually knowing too much.
He explains: “Another challenge for graduates, especially for those who come from entrepreneurship programs, is that they tend to know too much. Although this is not a bad thing, it often leads to information paralysis. When you foresee all the obstacles ahead, you could end up being gun-shy in the face of all those risks.”
He advises graduates to remember that any business has its share of risks, and that “the sooner you set your risk tolerance to a higher gear, the sooner you’ll start seeing results.”
Applying theoretical knowledge in real-life situations
Indeed, as even entrepreneurship students themselves will admit, real-world experience is what will separate the men from the boys. Says University of Santo Tomas entrepreneurship major Reggie Mariano: “The training we get from school may be adequate for us to deal with real-world situations. But I think that we sometimes don’t have the hands-on knowledge to execute them. Theories are okay in the classroom, but I think we should be doing more to get a feel for running a business.”
The good thing, though, is that Mariano himself is engaged in some real-world business activity. “I started an online business in 2008 using the social networking platform,” he says. “Having it online made it easier for me to manage both my studies and my business. I have been earning a few extra pesos from selling merchandise online, and I want to expand my business into other things in the future.”
—With interviews by Rafael Santos