Undaunted and unstoppable in the face of uncertainty

Throughout history, we have seen how times of great uncertainty and disruption have triggered sudden leaps and progress despite the problems and challenges they bring. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, it being the greatest global disruption the world has seen in many decades. Yet while the pandemic practically brought the world to a halt, it is also heartening to see how this period brought with it immense opportunities amidst many challenges. While is it true that many businesses suffered because of it, with many forced to close down, we have also seen numerous businesses accelerate their transformation and evolved to survive and then thrive as the world moved closer to post-pandemic recovery, pivoting their own business models and creating new ones.

When the pandemic disrupted business strategies and challenged continuity, companies were forced to place a renewed focus on people, purpose and technology. Crisis, after all, inspires innovation, and this holds especially true for entrepreneurs.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATION DURING THE PANDEMICThough the pandemic caused many to lose their jobs, it also served as a catalyst for many others to enter the business landscape as entrepreneurs. According to a survey by Sales Force, the pandemic created a unique batch of startups that saw new opportunities to create new markets and attract new customers during a period of heightened uncertainty. As much as 56% of the survey respondents share that starting a business now was easier than before the pandemic. Most of the new startup founders embraced technology from the beginning, using digital tools and searching for more technology-based solutions to fuel business growth.

NBC News reveals that entrepreneurs opened their own businesses at more than twice the rate seen in pre-pandemic times, aided by improved remote technology previously unavailable during other economic downturns like the Great Recession. Data from the US Census Bureau also shows that business applications nearly doubled during the first few months of the pandemic, remaining elevated and well above pre-pandemic levels. Economist Leila Bengali from the UCLA Anderson Forecast identifies lower fixed costs as one of the reasons for this, with the availability of the internet and a deeper familiarity with technology making it all the easier for innovative individuals to get their business online.

In an interview, Christy Wyskiel, Senior Advisor to the President of Johns Hopkins University for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said that the essence of entrepreneurship is identifying an unmet need and moving as fast as possible to get a meaningful product to market — which is exactly what society needs during a crisis. The pandemic dramatically accelerated productive collaboration in the service of society, and the paradigm has now changed, particularly in this period of post-pandemic recovery. Entrepreneurs should not be paralyzed by uncertainty, but instead should seek long-term value and success by continuing to serve their existing customers while being ready to pivot when needed to address potential opportunities.

The pandemic also created a massive push towards digital transformation. In the Philippines, we now find almost every product or service available on online shopping platforms. Almost every brand in the country rapidly transitioned to existing online selling platforms or invested in developing their own online sales mechanisms. In the micro-sized enterprise space, people have gotten more used to the idea of starting their own businesses using digital tools and leveraging social media to take advantage of existing conditions — for example, during the lockdowns, the number of home-based online food sellers mushroomed like never before. Many found surprising success and were able to cultivate regular customers due to people being unable to go out and dine. The pandemic also gave rise to new business opportunities in logistics, entertainment, personal care and many other areas.

CELEBRATING THE SPIRIT OF ENTREPRENEURSHIPAnalysts predict that the rate of growth of entrepreneurship will remain high in the post-COVID-19 economy, as shared by Forbes. Because of the massive increase in startups caused by the pandemic, developments on an individual entrepreneurship level will likely aid numerous economies.

As Gaston Taratuta, EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022, said in his acceptance speech in Monaco, “Being an entrepreneur is more than just building a successful business. It’s about creating and seizing opportunities where ones don’t readily exist or aren’t easily attainable.” This has never been truer than in the stories of 18 indomitable Filipino entrepreneurs that we are celebrating in the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 Philippines program. The program recently concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs with the theme of Undaunted. Unstoppable. And will be holding its awards gala tonight.

Guided by their purpose, motivated by their aspirations and fueled by their relentless determination, these Filipino entrepreneurs helped empower communities and uplift the nation. Their stories have been published in BusinessWorld over the past few weeks with the hope that in sharing them, present and future entrepreneurs can be further inspired by their struggles and successes.

Entrepreneurs showed us that a single idea can spark positive change and disrupt the status quo. According to a 2023 study, “Entrepreneurship during a pandemic,” entrepreneurs have been known to act as focal points during a time of crisis, playing a critical role in the context of post-disaster recovery by providing leadership and signaling that their communities are likely to survive. This same spirit burns strong within Filipino entrepreneurs who lead as Undaunted visionaries, equipped with Unstoppable resilience and the ability to adapt.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Henry M. Tan is a Partner and the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines Program Director of SGV & Co.