Tips and Resources

The Philosophy of Starting Small

The number of small businesses that have been created in the last few years, and especially in the last few months, has skyrocketed like never before. The challenge of every small business owner is to establish themselves in their industry, and to later differentiate themselves from their competition. Like everything else in life, this is easier said than done, but Jose “Joey” Marcelo III, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of North Pasadena Rice Supply, Holy Grill, and many other businesses, has some words of advice that he hopes will inspire everyone who is a newcomer in their respective industries.

His philosophy in starting any venture is what he calls the “5210” (5 to 10). The 5210 philosophy is the belief that when you’re counting to 10, it’s easier to start counting from 5 than it is to start counting from 1. As simple as that sounds, Joey was able to effectively capture his own story and learnings through this philosophy that he follows in life:


Learning #1: Always Reflect on your Strengths

The main point of the 5210 philosophy is that you should always play to your strengths. Reflect on what you’re good at, and start from there; don’t start from scratch if you already have something to build on. Your strength could either be a stable customer, or an edge in supply, depending on what kind of business you are putting up. Your “5”, or your starting point, is whatever your strength is.


Learning #2: Give People What They Want

Whether you’re offering a new product or service, or whether you’re revamping the current ones you have to offer, you have to make sure that you’re giving your audience what they want. Just because you have your strengths and you may have stable customers, it doesn’t mean that you can just relax and everything will come together the way you want it to. Study your strengths, nurture them, and find a way to take them to the next level.

In Joey’s own business venture, Holy Grill, he knew that he had a definite audience to cater to in Taft Avenue because of the students from the schools in that area. These students were his strength, his “5” – but of course, he didn’t stop there. He took the unique path of downloading dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, and he made genuine conversations with people, and this eventually led him to get real and honest feedback about the business he was about to set up. In this situation, he took his strength and he was able to find a way to make it even stronger for his business.


Learning #3: Don’t Fight an Uphill Battle

Another strategy that Joey shared was not to fight an uphill battle. In other words, let the market tell you where you fit in. Don’t force your product to fit into a market that it doesn’t belong to. Even with research and preparation, the best way to really find out where you belong in the market is to enter it. Launch your business into the market, and wait for the reception of your audience.

For Holy Grill, they were able to establish themselves as the Steak provider in their community after just 3 months of operations. They allowed the community in Taft to dictate where they belonged in the market. In some cases, the market will not always immediately accept your product or service, and this shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your business – this just means you have to make adjustments and pivot a little. Listen to your audience to make sure you’re fighting a battle that you can win.


Embrace the Small-ness of Your Enterprise

The last piece of advice that was given by Joey was to “Be Small”. He tells business owners to embrace the “disadvantage” of being small, and to spin your situation around to make being a young, small, enterprise into something to watch out for. Embrace the journey of being an enterprise that’s starting off from the ground, and slowly make your way up. When Holy Grill opened their doors in Taft, there was one other steak restaurant that was considered to be an institution, and despite that, they were able to make it to the #1 spot in Booky’s list of restaurants to watch out for in Manila for 3 months straight.

Don’t be intimidated by competition just because it exists. If you believe in your product or service, and if you do the work that you’re set out to do, success will find you one way or another. Joey says that they have now sold over 30,000 Ribeye Steaks, opened one of their biggest branches yet, and plan to continue to serve the communities they operate in.

Starting small can be extremely intimidating if you allow it to, but if you embrace your position in the market, if you play to your strengths, and if you remember that there is always work to be done – you’ll find yourself loving the journey and enjoying the success even more than you expected.