What drove you to become an entrepreneur and to start your company/organization?
“I’ve always wanted to be a businesswoman. I used to sell popsicles in front of our house when I was a kid. I later sold used clothes door to door just so I can have extra money. I liked the idea of owning something and earning for myself. After working for an NGO, my twin and I were ready to start our business. We wanted to target a particular niche with a strong social impact. We were not convinced it was possible. During our brainstorming stage we joined and won The British Council Ideation Camp, it helped us shape our idea and turn it into a real applicable plan. We launched in 2014.
We have two main activities: Swito Digital Storytelling is a creative collaborative space for ordinary people to express creativity as artists and aspiring artists in various multimedia fields.
At the same time, we also had Swito Architectural Designs, which is a design studio dedicated to promoting Mindanao Traditional Architecture, cultural identity, pride of place, sustainable eco-conscious methods and peace and healing through participatory architecture. “
The two sisters and their team quickly found success: the business was flourishing and the stakeholders were very receptive. They developed three other projects all related to empowering local communities. It created jobs and provided a sustainable living for locals.
“After making these 5 brands into a reality, we realized our capacity to incubate and accelerate art and technology related business ideas , that’s why this year we decided to rebrand into a social innovation hub.”
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
“If you are still hesitating, just go ahead. It takes one step to move forward. You have to make that one act to start something. You can't get anywhere if you stay put. Think of your plans and do something about it. Start with today, lift your feet and just take a step.”
What was the biggest challenge you experienced in your entrepreneurship journey and how did you overcome it?
My business partners and I were not ready for success. At the onset of the business, we thought that clients and customers wouldn't be that receptive to our products and services. But then they were. I'll take the situation of Balay Balay 3D Architecture, for example. Our previous production workshop didn't have the capacity for large orders. Another mistake was also not listening to the skills of our own team. We thought hiring others was the best option. But then after a taste of loss, we listened to a team member and his suggestions for efficient production. He streamlined the production flow. This is a common "good" problem among startups with limited capital but with a solid value proposition. It's one of those problems that feel very fulfilling to overcome.
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
No. I like both wins and challenges so far. They have kept me and my business strong. I think every business must have its taste of loss much as it should have its taste for win. I think that by embracing all my experiences in business, I am able to fully create a good culture of constantly moving forward and aiming for the good future.
Author: Alex Sadouni
Photocredit: Swito Digital