With movement restricted under community quarantines, being innovative online helps micro, small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) deal with the challenges the pandemic brought to their businesses.

Turning limitations into opportunities, Regina Escolin of Quezon City, Arnie Cotecson of Siargao and Dalareich Polot of Bohol persevered and changed their MSMEs’ direction. First, they looked into responding to customers’ needs during the pandemic. Having done so, they brought their brick-and-mortar shops to the digital sphere.

Seeing that her marble business was not doing well, Escolin focused her attention on ways to keep her clientele through a different endeavor. “I thought of a way to reach out to my clients who, like me, cannot go out. I searched for suppliers of different items that were needed to fight Covid-19.” Her friend from Ilocos mentioned she was making inabel masks. “Abel” is the Ilocano word for weave. Starting with a hundred pieces, the woven masks sold out in just an hour.

Showcasing unique and creative Filipino designs captured the attention of customers from Europe and the United States “It’s a good way to introduce the art of the Philippines to the world,” shares Regina. “Compared to other businesses, Kanami is really small. But Google My Business helped me show up my store on Search and reach more people online — not just in the Philippines but also abroad.”

When Cotecson moved back to Siargao after working 10 years in Singapore, he started White Beard Coffee. His coffee shop, noted for brewing locally grown coffee beans from Mount Apo, saw a decline in customers due to flight restrictions. Even the locals observed staying home. He took this as an opportunity to bring his products to them instead.

Innovations in his coffee business covered bottled, ready-to-drink coffee and free delivery with no minimum orders. Customers had a choice of dine-in or takeaway, which he made known through his Google My Business profile. “When dine-in service was prohibited, I offered free delivery with no minimum orders. In that way, I won the hearts of my clients, and they keep ordering from me, from one cookie all the way to bulk orders,” he shared.

Knowing his customers’ limited resources, Arnie went on a flexible, Covid-friendly price for all of his products. Arnie underscored the functionality of Google My Business, which allows people to discover his coffee shop on Google Search, Maps, and Google Reviews. As a business owner, he discovered that customers discovered his store through Google Reviews.

Polot took inspiration from her mother, who started their chocolate venture with just a small pack of tablea. She established Dalareich Chocolate House, the first chocolate factory in Bohol province. “When Covid-19 happened, we closed our chocolate house. There were no more tourists. The hotels and the resorts also closed down,” she shared. Even if they were well-loved by locals and tourists, their booming business closed its doors. Not willing to be weighed down by the setback, Dalareich saw opportunities by boosting her online presence on Google Search through the free Google My Business tool. Connecting with her customers and keeping them updated was possible with this tool. People searching online for “chocolate shops in Bohol” would reveal her shop’s contact details and link to its website, along with other relevant information. Having a Google My Business account gave her access to insights that guide her customer outreach strategy. “Getting all those insights — what day customers called us, what day they researched about us — also helps with our social media content strategy and postings.”

To her fellow business owners, Dalareich’s advice is to be adaptive to new ways. “This is really a challenging time for local businesses, but we can still be innovative with the use of several free online resources like Google My Business.”

For business owners who want to get a Google My Business listing/account, please visit https://ecommerce.dti.gov.ph/reboot-package/googlemybusiness/. As a Google My Business partner, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) can now help businesses across the Philippines set up their Google My Business listings. This free service is only available for businesses with a physical store location. In order to create a Google My Business listing, businesses need to enter a verification code. DTI can simplify the process and send a verification code once the business owner completes the form.