Small Business, Big Fun

By Joyee Zhou

Mr. G is the owner of a small computer shop in San Miguel. The first time I knew about his work I thought it is a fancy IT-related business. Haider and I even imagined there would be a well-furnished office in his shop with air conditioning. However, it turns out to be a cramped shop full with computer hardware. Mr. G is a technician who helps to repair computers and replace the broken parts.

Talking with Mr. G

Talk with Mr. G

Disappointed? Not really. Although this shop is hidden in flies-surrounded sari-sari shops (grocery stores) at the backstreet, Mr. G is busy with a lot of work and customers. The first time we met he was about to repair the computer system for a local hotel. He excels in computer system maintenance as he used to work in many big names like Lenovo and IBM. Currently the shop is under renovation because Mr. G is going to partner with his brother-in-law. As we have more communication with Mr. G, we find this small business actually has much potential: the alliance with his brother-in-law brings new capital and equipment into his shop, and his sister-in-law will help to take care of the in-shop operation, so he can focus on technical work outside and expand the business scope to souvenir-printing and mobile-related business. We happen to be at the critical transformation stage of his shop, and Mr. G is also looking forward to our help, which infuses us with more enthusiasm.

The signboard of Mr. G's shop

The Signboard of Mr. G’s Shop

In the past two weeks, we have done a lot of research work in order to come up with useful ideas for Mr. G. I have some interesting findings on my working experience in Guimaras. First, you need to learn to work in a bad condition. In the first few days, I felt dizzy and abstracted at noon because of the uncomfortably high temperature. I was not able to concentrate my mind at work and was sweating all the time. In my host family, there is no Wi-Fi, no study table, even the lighting is not enough for the night. Not to mention the ubiquitous bugs and mosquitos. All these make me aware of how lucky we are to have a good study condition provided by our university, and force me to be more adaptive in a less convenient learning environment.

Second, our foreign look makes us quite popular among local people. Every time our jeepney or motorcycle run past clusters of houses, people will always crane their neck to look at us. Once Haider and I were resting in an elementary school, we were surrounded by curious children immediately. His Pakistani face and my Korean/Japanese look arose their big interest. They sat beside us, staring and touching Haider’s eyebrow and my necklace. There came more and more children full of curiosity and finally it was a teacher who helped to ask the children to leave. We even got invited by a central school principal to his school because we look different. This feels amazing!

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First school we visited

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Grade 1 kids

Third, I find it quite helpful to visit local government offices as it is a small place with little market research information online. In order to build up a B2B model for Mr. G, we visited DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and asked for the contact information of newly registered business in the department of trade and industry. To our surprise, the officials there welcomed us warm-heartedly and gave us the information back quickly. Interestingly, there is a “No Noon Break” sign in every government office. The staff told me it is because there are many citizens coming from other barangays (an administrative level in Philippines), and longer office hour will facilitate their visits.

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Municipality office

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A seminar with tourism officials

So you see, although it is just working for a small business, the whole experience is full of uniqueness and fun. Through interacting with local community and blending into their life style, we actually dig out more potential of ourselves and Mr. G’s computer shop. This is the tune of June: enrichment, fulfillment, and achievement.

The shiny time of June

The shiny time of June

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