I would like to share with you my experience so far, 1 year into starting my own business.
What business you say? Changing the World (I know it’s cliché but we’re dead serious about this). After I graduated last year, my friends and I decided to put up our own tech company called Potatocodes. This is our story:
We started off with very little. We had twenty five thousand pesos in savings from odd jobs and freelance work from college. I could’ve played it safe, found a job at a big corporation and earned a fixed income. But we decided to take a risk and use our savings to get the necessary papers to start our own company.
A lot of people were asking us why we decided to register when we could avoid the tax and just become freelancers. During that time I had recently encountered my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I knew back then that if I was going to push through with this I needed to establish a strong solid core and I knew that placing God at the center of our startup company was the only way to go.
Placing Him in the center of it all, I got to know Jesus more
Our effort and resources were not wasted. Later on it proved to be necessary for large organizations and businesses to avail our services because they needed the official receipt for their expense records.
After 2 weeks of going back and forth the Manila City Hall, BIR and SSS the business was official. We had our very own “Potatocodes Web Development and Designs”. I did all the legwork under the heat of the Philippine Sun and this made me appreciate what we are doing more. Even if I had to wait for hours in the long lines, I knew what I was fighting for.
The four of us decided to give it our best shot and work full time.
We were an odd bunch of kids. I’m Juan Miguel Alvarez, a passionate web designer by heart. There’s Mhariell Mosqueriola, also a lively and talented designer. John Dominic Dasig is my mentor and our Head Website Developer. One of the designers, Mr. Aaron Marzan, was even still in college.
Four Potatocoders with two clients from Croque Makati in the middle. From left to right, Mhariell Mosqueriola, Juan Miguel G. Alvarez (me), John Dominic Dasig, Aaron Marzan
Together, we decided to put me in charge of all administrative dealings and name the sole proprietorship of the business to me. I consulted a lot of credible people in the business (most of them advised me to stay away from partnerships if possible, especially with my friends and family) and I did all my research. I heeded everyone’s warnings and I shelled out my own money to put it up and took the responsibility of heading our startup. Once everything was settled with our team infrastructure, we took the leap.
Things were slow at first.
We mostly worked on branding our image and readying the tools we would need for the work ahead. We wrote letters to all the colleges of the University of Santo Tomas (our Alma Mater and our first clients as website developers during college). We waited patiently.
It was a tiring wait – a dry spell. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies – “Facing the Giants.” There’s a part where the character tells a story. “2 farmers were praying for rain. One of them went out and readied his fields. Who do you think trusted God more?” To have faith is to also prepare. And so we did the same. We readied our fields because we had faith. Then the rain came…
Some colleges contacted us and set up a meeting, they were delighted to see such young people going into business right after graduation. After presenting to them what we could do, they agreed to let us work on their websites. It was a start! And business started to get better. Little by little, our income increased. We shared equally what we earned and gave a percentage to tax and the company. All was good until the “ber” months came.
We got hit with problems left and right. Some of us had personal issues. Others were being pressured to look for a more permanent job by family and friends (A typical startup can’t really compete with other companies in terms of salary). Our team started to break apart. After consulting with the team, Aaron had to focus on his schoolwork and Nikko went to look for another job. Suddenly, there were only two of us left.
During these tough times, we decided to push on despite the external pressure of the world. Why? Because we trusted in God and that we loved what we are doing. We wanted be witnesses to how God can turn things around for people, especially for people who are down in the dirt and seem like they can’t fight anymore. So we pushed through.
It wasn’t easy for us financially, mentally and emotionally. There came a time that demand was so low that we had to bring down our prices just to be able to sustain our personal needs. It was really hard. There were some times that we had to walk to client meetings, as we had no more funding. I had to hitchhike in the back of trucks to get to places. A lot of times I almost gave up.
Around mid-December last year, we decided to make some changes.
We prayed and we fasted. If God is not giving us any projects, maybe He wants us to do something different. Thus Ideastalk Philippines was born. This would be the social platform for our company. We worked on blogging and writing, and we worked on photography and the arts. We were able to share positive ideas to people. We said yes to more opportunities. We attended seminars as speakers; we went to album launchings. We partnered with people, and talked to random strangers. It became an adventure for us. We met a lot of great people and their wonderful ideas. This gave us a bigger perspective to things.
We attended seminars as speakers, wanting to share our experience and what we’ve learned so far
Ideastalk ended up giving us a wider reach and more network. Unexpectedly it helped revive the demand for our company. Slowly but surely, our phone started ringing again.
I wrote about my own personal experience on how God changed me from being a lost-depressed young boy to an entrepreneur. People started talking and we were even featured in some blogs. People called in wanting to document our story and we went ahead and shared with them our experience in the hopes of inspiring people and sharing how God has been so great to us.
We got calls from people who need websites. Suddenly, our business was back up again. Students started emailing me if it was possible to apply for internships. We accepted them in the hopes of inspiring them and sharing with them what we had learned. We had our first batch of eight interns from PUP. I named them “Kairos” which means “God’s most opportune time.“ I learned a lot from them. I learned that through God, it’s not too late for our country. I saw in their eyes the same fire that took my heart when we first went on our journey to change the world.
More calls came in after they finished and we started to worry about being able to meet the demand with only two of us. Outsourcing would take time and money, resources we have just started regaining. Taking another in house personnel was out of the question. Again, we did what we could do in these circumstances. We prayed.
A Hackathon at HQ in the middle of Potatocodes Internship Ripple Program
Students again started to email me asking for an internship. They were third year college students from our own Alma Mater, UST. I believe God brought them to us for a reason. Thus I called them “Ripple” simply because I had faith that they will make waves later on. In the end our problem with personnel was solved. I had to give a lot of time in training them and they proved they were worth it. Not only were they able to help us with the projects during that time, but they also inspired us by their determination and their faith.
Just before the second batch of Potatocoder Interns were finished,
Potatocodes reached sustainability. We are now planning to scale our business because of the surprising demand that came in. We went from sole propriety to incorporation. Potatocodes Web Development and Designs became Potatocodes Inc.
Soon we will be able to handle more projects, go into mobile development and systems development later on. This was all made possible with the help of everyone who believed. Sponsors, Partners, Interns, Social Media Supporters, Ideastalkers, Ideastalk Readers, Piso Project Heroes, Friends, Family and of course God, without whom we couldn’t have done anything.
This article is for you.
You who believed with us. You got us this far, and we will soldier on no matter what. Yes it has been really though putting up a business when you’re unexperienced in the industry compared to the big corporations who have already established a foothold, but if David can become King, and if Mary can be chosen to be the mother of our Savior, then anyone can be used. So don’t let anyone ever tell you,
“you can’t do anything, just give up!”
If we had given up, we wouldn’t be here. There are still the big giants standing before us, but we are not afraid. David had his sling, and we have our little mouse and keyboard.
What can you say about our experience? Share it to us in the comments section below!