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9 Pinays Share The Side Hustles And Small Businesses They Started During The Pandemic

Read their inspiring stories here.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Courtesy of Nicole Tejano and Janelle Inojales; (RIGHT) Courtesy of Nicole Ceballos

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world this year, we all had to make major changes in our lives. A lot of industries were greatly affected, meaning a lot of careers and jobs were lost. We talked to nine Pinays who had to do career shifts or start side hustles and small businesses to help them during these hard times, and let us tell you, they’re all so inspiring. If you’re planning to start your dream small business at this time to help with your finances, check out their stories below: 

Nicole Ceballos, Makeup Artist

Business: Nyala’s Homemade Cookies

Instagram: @nyalashomemade

Courtesy of Nicole Ceballos

Why she started her business:
“Even before the pandemic, I’ve been selling cookies on the side to a small network of customers and two establishments. At the time, it was for extra funds for my dogs’ veterinary care (surgeries, cancer, general maintenance), and a productive break from the rigors of being a makeup artist.”

How different is it from your job as a makeup artist? “It’s a lot more quiet than being a makeup artist. In my regular job, I had to be face to face with my clients and other people, constantly in conversation. Baking cookies gets a little lonely with just the sound of music, clinking of the steel bowls, and the alarm of the oven. I also definitely miss the free aircon during shoots and gigs! The kitchen gets seriously hot when the oven is on for hours even with  four electric fans.”

What were the challenges you faced when you opened this new business venture? We had zero social media presence because we focused more on our expansion as a supplier for coffee shops and co-working spaces, and we were scheduled to sample to multi-branch and popular cafes right when the quarantine started. We had to learn using social media for business, properly communicating with customers that were 100 percent strangers, creating content, and at the same doing all the baking from scratch, sourcing ingredients from new suppliers because our regulars were also shorthanded with the crisis, scheduling and booking deliveries at the height of quarantine. While we were lucky the industry we went into is considered essential and able to operate, the logistics of every move we made was an absolute NIGHTMARE. Because our cookies are freshly baked, they need to be sent out within the day no matter what. Lots of riders also took advantage of the low supply and high demand of delivery that they would charge a lot higher, so it was extra difficult to find riders who would take it for the price based on the delivery apps since that’s what we charge our customers. We incurred a lot of additional charges just so we could get the orders out within the day, which hurt our profit margins. 

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There were many days during ECQ that we had to allot five to six hours just for booking delivery riders, and if there weren’t any, we personally delivered them, racing against time to be home by curfew. The panic and anxiety of being caught in checkpoints even with a quarantine pass and delivering essential goods forced us to rework our entire schedule. We would make dough from 9 p.m. until 12-2 a.m. (it was just too hot any earlier in the day), bake from 4 a.m.-8 a.m. so we can send them out as early as possible, because riders were more likely to accept bookings for regular prices in the morning.”

What was the best thing you got from opening your business? “It’s definitely this unique learning experience I wouldn’t have gotten as a makeup artist. I don’t do well with numbers but I had to learn how to do costing, profits and losses. I’m used to talking to strangers with my original job, but when talking to our customers, I realize I’ve adapted a certain tone and manner of speaking: mas pang-customer service, bubbly and sweet to match the homemade branding. This was a challenge because I’m neither sweet nor bubbly IRL. Haha! Adapt to survive indeed. I had to relearn everything I knew about photography, and scour my brain for memories of watching my friends do product and digital content shoots because wala naman kaming budget to hire a photographer or food stylist. Now, I use the same tricks to produce content for beauty!


What’s your advice for Pinays who want to start side hustles and small businesses now? Huwag mahiyang rumaket. There’s this stigma na pag rumaraket, gipit or nangangailangan, like it’s a bad thing. You should be proud that if you need extra money, you’re willing to work for it. When my dogs were sick, I had the money and people knew that, but it would seriously leave a dent on my finances. I literally got asked, ‘Mayaman ka naman bakit ka nagbebenta ng cookies?’ My parents would’ve been more than willing to split the veterinary expenses with me, but I didn’t want to ask. If I didn’t do that side hustle then, I wouldn’t have known my cookies were good enough to be sold to strangers that didn’t buy for charity, but because they really liked it. I never would’ve known it was worthy to be put on display in a coffee shop, and little did I know it would save me from unemployment and its mental and emotional repercussions during this pandemic. I was open to my friends, family and followers that I was struggling with the loss of work and they were the first to support me in my new venture. I was anxious, but never ashamed, that this crisis forced me into unemployment and needed to find other ways to make a living. Whether or not you need the money, if you want to add a side hustle, go for it. Keep it for a rainy day, buy stocks while prices are low, buy your parents gifts, donate it to frontliners—huwag mong ikahiya, pinaghirapan mo yan!


Nicole Tejano, PR Executive and Janelle Inojales, Civil Servant

Business: Emilia’s Home

Instagram: @emilias.home


Courtesy of Nicole Tejano and Janelle Inojales

Why they decided to open their business
: “I think it was our way of dealing with the quarantine.  We all have different ways of coping, while some people are into cooking, exercising, and binge-watching Netflix, we are into decorating our rooms! And we really went into overdrive on redecorating when the pandemic hit so it's not really surprising that our quarantine baby is Emilia.” - Nicole 


“Emilia really did help us to cope with feelings of anxiety and disenfranchisement. Plus, Emilia also helps feed my cats! Since I work for the public sector and decided early only to donate my salary to those in need.” - Janelle

How different is running Emilia’s Home from your regular jobs? “All I’ve ever known is nonprofit work. This is my first time doing anything business-wise!” - Janelle 

“I work for the beauty industry for my day job. So it's a really different world and we both don't have any experience in home furnishings. It's just something that we appreciate from the onset.” - Nicole  

What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “I have no business experience or background. I'm a solid introvert so it's quite difficult for me to constantly have to talk to people. I almost quit Emilia because it was taking a toll on my mental health but Nicole swooped in and saved the day. That's why she and I make such a great team.” - Janelle


“It really works for us that we are total opposites! Another challenge that we are constantly facing is being always available to our customers. Since it's only the two of us and we both have our day jobs, we really can't give all of our time to Emilia. It's still a work in progress for us. Hopefully, we'll find our balance soon!” - Nicole 

What’s the best thing about opening your new business?

“We get to learn about this new industry and we get to share beautiful designs that resonate with our clients’ unique experiences.” - Nicole

“For me, it's our partnership with #TaraTulongTayo of @tara.baraha! We're happy that Emilia gets to help our kababayans deeply affected by the pandemic even just in a small way.” - Janelle  

What’s your advice for Pinays who want to start side hustles and small businesses now? “Just go for it! Trust me, we didn't know what we were doing and we don't know what we got ourselves into but it's worth it!” - Nicole 


“And don't forget, mental health over everything. So find the right partner to be with you on this. It can get crazy!” - Janelle

Army Villapando, Marketing Manager

Business: BARE

Instagram: @barebyarmy


Courtesy of Army Villapando

Why she started her business:
“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were so many changes that happened at work (and around the world, of course), so this business was my way of keeping sane. This was always something I wanted to do again. I actually launched BARE back in 2017, but I wasn’t able to sustain and grow the business then because I was doing it alone. When COVID-19 happened and working from home became the norm, I decided to relaunch it with the help of my boyfriend. We decided that I would be in charge of design and production while he took over creatives and marketing.”


How different is this business from your day job? “I’ve been in working in corporate since I graduated, so starting a business is a totally different ball game. As an employee, your KPI’s, targets, etc. are all set for you. However, when you’re running a business, you have to set those things all on your own and create a systematic way of working so that the business functions properly and grows at the same time. And of course, you’re working with a much smaller budget! Haha!”

What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “It was challenging to find a unique selling point in a sea of so many other great brands out there. ‘What would make BARE stand out?’ Another one was navigating through this pandemic. We needed to make sure that we put our message out there but also, be sensitive of so many issues that needed just as much attention.”


What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “I definitely gained a new perspective about myself and of course, life. Before, I would hustle just to find ways to treat myself while not compromising my obligations. Living in abundance was always the goal, but with everything that’s been happening, it made me see the importance of being satisfied and content with what I have. I realized how blessed I am to still be employed and to have the capacity to start my passion project. It also made me realize the importance of giving back, which is what we will do for our next collection. A percentage of the profit we earn from it will be given to those most affected by the pandemic, like Tatay Alberto and his fellow jeepney drivers who have little to no way of earning money.

What’s your advice for Pinays who want to start side hustles and small businesses now? “All I can say is, just do it. You have an idea? Build on it! If you’re spiritual, pray about it... A LOT. You’ll honestly never be 100 percent ready. Yes prepare but also, don’t overthink it.”


Nikki Uson, Marketing Copywriter

Business: Minikkins

Instagram: @minikkins 

Courtesy of Nikki Uson

Why she started her business: “Baking has always been my passion and people have always pushed me to sell my cookies. When lockdown started, I realized I had a lot of free time on my hands—more than I’ve ever had to be honest—so I figured it was now or never!”


How different is this business from your day job? “A complete 180! The only writing I do for Minikkins is writing the captions for IG and FB. Haha!”

What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “When I first launched Minikkins, it was right when lockdown started, so everyone was still panic-buying. Sourcing ingredients was so difficult! None of the suppliers were replying, stores still hadn’t figured out their SOP for online orders yet, so it was really such a hassle to find everything I needed. On top of that, it was also still so difficult to book couriers for the deliveries. Now that Minikkins has grown, the new challenge I’m facing now is managing my time. My mom helps me a lot by baking the cookies before she goes to work and I prepare the pandesal before I clock in, but with the number of orders I’ve been getting, it’s become really tiring na. So we’ve decided to hire someone to help me with the orders. I still prepare all the cookie dough and pandesal dough before I clock in for work. She cuts all the dough balls, stuffs them, shapes them, bakes all the orders, and dispatches them. It’s been a good investment because now I can take in more orders!


What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “Learning how to handle a business all on my own and using the money I’ve made from it to help other people. I’ve partnered so far with Tugon Ateneo, an organization from Ateneo that helps survivors of child sexual abuse and abandonment. For July, I’m partnering with Bake Sale for Better PH which brings together several bakers for one giant bake sale so we can pool together funds for several causes, and Candid Clothing, an ethical clothing brand that gives the Taytay seamstresses who’ve been out of work a job. Candid Clothing is supplying me with cloth face masks made from upcycled fabric which I will then be donating to the jeepney and tricycle drivers, basureros, and street dwellers in my area.”

What’s your advice for Pinays who want to start side hustles and small businesses now? “If you have an idea, just go for it! Look for groups on Facebook and Viber for supplies, materials, ingredients, and even couriers. Grab and Angkas also have promos for merchants so check those out. And most importantly, support your friends who also have businesses! If you have a friend who has a packaging business, consider teaming up with her so you can both benefit from your venture.”


Chezca Dayrit, Social Media Manager

Business: Virtual Assistant Services and Social Media Management

Instagram: @virtualasstph

Courtesy of Chezca Dayrit

Why she started her business:
“It was actually pretty random! I had a hard time finding a job since I'm moving into a new town soon, and then I slowly started applying for remote work. Then when the ECQ happened, I decided to just do it and shift! Best decision ever.”


How different is this business from your old job? “It was a 9-5 marketing stint, wherein I had to travel 2-3 hours to get to the office! It was so tiring. With this, I have my own time. I can work at my own pace, and I am at the comfort of my own home. Bonus points that I don't commute or spend money eating out!”

What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “It was a bit hard communicating with my clients at first. Since I'm used to in-person meetings. But when I got the hang of it, it's actually really nice.”

What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “I can work at my own pace. I think most of us would feel the same: There are certain days that we feel down, and need a break. So I'm really glad about that one. It actually makes me more productive whenever I take breaks. Also I get to spend more time with my loved ones since I'm just at home.”


What’s your advice for Pinays who want to shift careers or start side hustles and small businesses now? “The best time to start is NOW. Take time to learn your passion and skills, and make money from it! Nothing beats doing what you love, and earning from it!”

Alex Natividad, Marketing Director

Business: CelebrityGreetings.PH, a celebrity video shoutout booking website for local celebs

Instagram: @celebritygreetingsph


Courtesy of Alex Natividad

Why she started her business:
“We’ve always wanted to try this business out for years already, but we didn't have the guts and the time to start it. We were always saying that we should do it, but it never materialized, until our bridal fair scheduled for May got postponed. We don't really know when the wedding industry will be back, so we managed to launch the website in June.”

“We know mall shows, meet and greets, and live events are all paused now, so we thought it would be a good time to launch an avenue where personalities and their supporters can create more personal connections online.”

How different is this business from your old job? “My pre-pandemic job is in the wedding industry, we do fairs and we sell wedding accessories. One of my main responsibilities there is the fair, so it’s mostly managing the event and marketing. When I joined, it was already set up as a company.”


“But for the new business, we really had to build it from the ground up, do cold calls, present the idea and convince partners. It's a website, so mostly it's digital-focused in terms of marketing and components.”

What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “It's not a common concept here in the PH and we could only present and send proposals online so I think a lot of people thought it was a scam at first, haha! Since we're also a new business, our team is only small so we work day and night to get everything done. At the start of quarantine, I also get jealous because a lot of my friends had steady salaries and they could watch Netflix, or bake or sell food online, while we were just setting up the website.”

What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “I like going out, trying new activities and traveling, so personally, I think this new business really helped me get through the quarantine. My wedding industry job is at an all time low and all my hobbies require going out so this project motivates me everyday to get up, work hard and stop feeling down despite the difficult situation we're in. “


What’s your advice for Pinays who want to shift careers or start side hustles and small businesses now“I say go for it! If you're planning to start a business or raket, it should be something you're passionate about so you won't feel like you're working every day. Starting a new business or a side hustle can be really time-consuming and stressful, but if it's something you like doing already then it won't feel like work. Also, invest your time and money wisely so you can reap something great in the future.”

Toni Ann Nebreja, Flight Attendant

Business: Lash Party, a brand of premium hand-crafted faux eyelashes

Instagram: @lashpartyph

Courtesy of Toni Ann Nebreja

Why she started her business:
“The aviation industry was one of the first major industries that was hit by the global pandemic. I was forced to make the decision to take an indefinite leave and this has honestly put me over the edge a bit. The lockdown, however, gave me the chance to push through with my long overdue passion project: My cosmetic lash line. Like everybody else facing financial uncertainties, I had to come up with a plan since I won’t be flying anytime soon. I made use of my available resources in order to make ends meet and fulfill my plans for Lash Party.”

How different is this business from your day job?  “My beauty business has allowed me to express more of my artistic side that I don’t really get to maximize in-flight. For someone whose work life has been all about flying in and out of countries and always being on the move, the shift to becoming an active online seller from home lets me focus more on researching trends, planning my content, and executing my ideas. Before I had to go on leave, I barely had time to explore my other interests. So the change of pace also gave my body time to rest and recuperate from my usual daily grind. It sure made my life slow down a bit and appreciate so many things that life has to offer aside from flying while still getting to interact with customers.”


What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business? “Logistics and self-doubt.  I thought giving my suppliers the go signal for production pre-lockdown was enough for everything to run smoothly. Most of them promised that they could deliver by mid-January but COVID-19 started spreading so fast. The couriers stopped shipping goods and delays were experienced at the customs. I was starting to feel discouraged. I didn’t even know where to start with little to zero resources at that time. Part of the constant challenge I had to face while building my business was overcoming my own doubts. I started second-guessing if now is still a good time to sell my products and whether there would even be a market to engage. But I continued to work on my vision. With the help of my family and friends I composed myself and started with baby steps. Little by little I would receive inquiries on Instagram even prior to announcing that I can finally start accepting orders. I could feel the excitement around my brand’s following and got inspired even more to power through.


What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “With my new cosmetic business, I love how I can use it as a platform to make people feel more confident and free to express themselves. The best part of being an online beauty seller is that I get to interact with people who I can share my passion with. I’m also an aspiring makeup artist and I love how Lash Party lets me discover and connect with a lot of amazing artists and creatives. The little things like giving tips on how to apply false eyelashes or recommending which type of falsies enhances my client’s beauty make me tick and hopeful for my brand. I love the relationship that I am building with my consumers and I think helping them explore their self-expression through makeup and my products has made my career shift meaningful.”

What’s your advice for Pinays who want to shift careers or start side hustles and small businesses now? “Believe in yourself and honor your own pace. The first step to success is to believe in your capabilities. The process is never easy, you will be tested in all ways possible and you will only have yourself most days so believe that you can and you will. There will be days when you feel like you can’t keep up in this fast-changing world and that is okay. Rest when you need to but don’t give up. Honouring your own pace is the greatest form of self-love that would set you up and sustain you for success.”


Ella Esguerra, Marketing Assistant

Business: Cloud Period Panties

Instagram: @cloudperiodpanties

Courtesy of Ella Esguerra

Why she started her business:
“I have always wanted my own business and be a boss for as long as I could remember. Working at a fashion brand, then eventually going to fashion school pushed me to start a fashion-related business that I’ve believed in for such a long time, which was period underwear. Growing up, I’ve had a difficult time with my period as well. I had to put an extra mattress on my bed every time I was on my period to make sure I don’t stain my bed. I would also wear extra cycling shorts or refrain from any light bottoms. On top of my personal experience, I also heard different stories from other women about their period problems. Those stories were what pushed me to find a solution for myself and others.”


“After a long time of researching and developing the product, I just told myself to go for it since it felt right and I also felt ready. The bonus was everyone was doing it anyway: Online businesses were popping out here and there.”

How different is this business from your day job?  “I was a Marketing Assistant at a children’s fashion brand. My role there was mainly focused on digital marketing, as well as picking and packing orders. I had training on what it was like to be very hands-on in running a fashion brand. I also learned how to do the labor-intensive tasks such as organizing the clothes in the warehouse and shipping out orders.”

“In a way, what I am doing now is similar to what I did in my corporate job. The main difference is the motivation and the drive to hustle is much greater now because it’s my own brand. Another difference is of course, the time. Back in my corporate job, I had to work from 8-6, from Monday to Saturday. Now, I get to be more flexible with my time and enjoy a work-life balance.” 


What were some of the challenges you had to face when you opened your business?  “The discernment process on whether I’d do it or not was a big challenge at the start. I had to really believe in myself and my reasons for doing it in the first place. It was an internal challenge of figuring out what I wanted then eventually how to make it happen.”

What’s the best thing about opening your new business? “Definitely positive feedback from other women. I always grounded myself with the belief that I started my brand of period panties, not to merely sell a product, but to sell a comfortable and confident experience for women out there.”

What’s your advice for Pinays who want to shift careers or start side hustles and small businesses now? “If it feels right, go for it and listen to your gut feeling. Life truly happens outside of your comfort zone. It’s scary at first, but what isn’t?”


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