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This Woman Started Her Company With 3 People In A Makati Garage

The president and founder of TeamAsia shares how her passion for tech kept her going, even in the face of personal and professional lows.

As the president and founder of TeamAsia, an award-winning marketing communications firm, Monette Iturralde-Hamlin believes that the best boss is someone "who understands and cares about you and treats you like family." She should know—Monette is also a chairman of the Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers; chairman of Hopkins International Partners, Inc.; and a trustee and treasurer of the Women's Business Council of the Philippines.

As one of the speakers for #WomenWill, our International Women’s Day campaign collab with Google, Monette shared with us why her passion for tech kept her going, even in the face of personal and professional lows.

In 1992, Monette lost her 10-year-old job as Associate Publisher of World Executive’s Digest (WED)–but that didn’t stop her. "At that time, I was organizing a six-country management awards program for Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and WED. Disengaging from the new owners of WED, AIM asked me to continue running the program on my own. I thoroughly enjoyed organizing the awards program, and so I did." 25 years later, and TeamAsia is still going strong.

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But starting your own company is not an easy thing to do, and Monette remembers struggling during their early days. Funding was a main concern since her business required regional traveling. "Luckily, I had an investor who gave me startup money for TeamAsia. We repaid the investor handsomely within a year. We were also able to get sponsors in the six countries that believed in what we were doing that helped fund the program."

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"From having full corporate support, suddenly, I was running the regional program with three people in a garage in Makati. With grit and determination, we were able to pull it off successfully."

Setting business goals or a five-year plan is one thing; in an industry that is always changing, Monette wanted TeamAsia to stand out from other firms in the country. "We were one of the very first companies in the country to have a web presence. It helped that many of our early clients were in the technology field, such as Intel, Canon, IBM, SAP, and now Google, and so we were exposed to leading edge technology."

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Keeping one’s professional and personal life separate can be a struggle, and TeamAsia’s president admits her online presence is a running joke in her household. "My kids say that if they want to know where mom is, all they have to do is go online," she said, laughing. Having married business partner Michael Alan Hamlin, Monette shares that she loves how technology connects people. "You find people you've been looking for."

During the #WomenWill event, Monette shared with us a touching story on how her blog made an impact on two strangers. "When my husband died four years ago, I started writing. He was the writer in the family, so I was always dyahe to write. But when he died I felt that it was time for me to write in his honor. I started writing about things in my blog. One time I was writing about a conference that I was doing for events in Cebu. I published a photo. Somebody who saw that photo through my blog, found a boyfriend from her youth, and contacted him through that blog! Now they're together." ~AWW.~

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For Monette and the rest of TeamAsia, technology has made it so much easier to do their work. "I am constantly updated on what’s happening. We collaborate using the latest technology, [but] at the same time, since we are connected in real-time there is just so much that needs attention and so it is important to focus on what is the priority."

As the founder of a digital company, Monette is proud to say that there are a lot more Filipinas entering the field of IT and web development, compared to 10 years ago. Although the numbers are rising, "we still need to encourage Pinays to take up STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) courses." 

To future Pinays in tech, Monette has one piece of advice:

"Find your passions and live your own dream."

And to fresh grads straight out of college, Monette has a few words to say. "Aside from your scholastic records, your web presence tells a lot about how you communicate. Employers will be taking a closer look at what you have out there on the social networks, as this will reveal the kind of person you are and whether you would fit the organization.  Hence, it is extremely important to guard your social presence well."

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