What is it like to be a queer business owner in the Philippines?
The answer to this question was the highlight of the recent “Pride Conversations” Google Philippines hosted virtually in celebration of Pride Month and International MSMEs Day this June. The event featured six LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who are pushing forward during the pandemic.
A place of beauty and love
A proud trans woman and beauty queen, Rui Mariano established Fairygodbarbie House of Beauty not only to provide transformational beauty services but to also help her fellow trans women.
“Gusto ko rin matulungan ang mga trans sisters natin. Kasi once pumasok sila sa house of beauty ko, hindi lang siya [a place for] pagpapaganda, naging home na rin siya para sa amin,” she said.
Mariano shared that the name Fairygodbarbie was inspired by her trans woman aunt who raised her and dressed her up when she was a child – like a fairy godmother. Barbie, on the other hand, was what her aunt used to describe her.
The beauty shop offers nails, eyelashes, spa, and facial services, among others.
Nirvana in paradise
Opening a business was not part of Abby Biyo’s plan with her girlfriend. But after vacationing in Siargao, they decided to open Nirvana Hostel and Restaurant, the first Kapampangan restaurant and hostel on the island.
However, after only 15 days of opening their business in March 2020, they had to close temporarily. Despite being hard-hit by the pandemic, Biyo did not falter in her resolve.
“This pandemic would not stop me from achieving yung mga gusto ko talagang mangyari for Nirvana kasi it’s not just for me, it’s for my family, and yung mga employees na gusto naming matulungan by hiring them,” she asserted, adding that their business aims to help people by creating more job opportunities.
Have a haircut and milk tea
PR and marketing practitioner Jeof Solas’ experience in the business industry has enabled him to establish brands and quickly adapt to the changes as they come.
During the lockdown last year, he transformed one of his brands, Cooltura Hub in Bulacan, into a barbershop that also offers beverages from BreaTea.
The lockdown limited Solas’ reach in the area, but it also allowed him to get to know his neighborhood more and even provide employment opportunities in the community. “It gave me the opportunity to actually reach out to a lot of people within my area and in my neighborhood. You reach out and you try to give opportunities [by providing] employment, ” he shared.
For the love of cooking
The Food Episode started as a lockdown weekend hobby for Sed Aguil until he decided to pursue it for a living.
The advertising practitioner admitted it was challenging to open a business in the middle of a pandemic. He struggled doing everything on his own, from doing product shoots, managing his social media accounts, and cooking in the kitchen.
“It was really challenging for me because I have no assistant and I have to do everything on my own. But whenever I receive positive comments from my customers, it makes things feel worth it,” he said.
Quick to adapt
Amrei Dizon considers her 17-year-old creative agency, Vitalstrats Creative Solutions, fortunate for being able to steer toward survival amid the challenges brought by the pandemic.
First, they struggled with the work-from-home setup. Then they faced liquidity problems. But she said the situation favored them as the demand for digital services increased over time. It also helped that their team culture promotes creativity, teamwork, and adaptability, enabling them to get through and recover.
“We were fortunate that one of our core services is digital content production. Because of the increasing demand for digital services, we balanced our resources,” she shared.
Built by support
Nariese Giangan and her girlfriend started selling baked goods online in April 2020. After receiving overwhelming feedback from customers, they decided to use what remained of their savings to open a physical store in Quezon City.
FFTG Café (Food For The Gays) not only fulfills Giangan’s vision to serve coffee and pastries, but has also become a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.
Giangan believes trust is important in the success of any business. “Trust your products [and] trust your customers. Lagi nating isipin na grabe yung ang suporta na matatanggap natin especially from the LGBT community.”
As part of Google’s commitment to promote economic recovery and help digitize LGBTQ-owned businesses, the event also discussed the use of Google My Business, a tool designed to help small businesses grow digitally. The tool allows a business to establish its presence on Google Maps and Search, while the Primer application provides short marketing lessons for free.
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