Thursday, August 9, 2018

Plan B Corporation on Guam

By: Jane Ray
Certified Business Advisor/Training Program Coordinator

     1.      Introduce yourselves.
My name is Bernadette Espaldon, I am the president of Plan B Corporation, of which there are of two branches: Plan B Cleaning Services and Plan B Distributors.

Plan B Cleaning Services, we provide housekeeping services to residences we specialize janitorial services to business facilities like offices and stores by cleaning carpets, upholsteries, tiles and grouts, and other general cleaning and maintenance necessities.

We at Plan B Cleaning Services prides itself on the use of high-quality green carpet cleaning products that are safe for the environment, for our customers and for our cleaning staff.

With this initiative to employ cleaning practices with safe cleaning products, we fulfill our mission to reduce environmental and human health risks associated with common cleaning practices and products. Plan B Distributors was established to bring safe cleaning products to Guam.

Plan B Distributors is the leading distributor for several innovative and high quality and practices cleaning products:
  1. Diamond Magic Cleaner, a multi-purpose cleaning product that removes rust, hard water, and alkaline stains, and cleans different types of surfaces such as glass, metal, or porcelain.
  2. HOST Carpet Cleaning Products, which ranges from stain and odor remover to carpet brushes designed to clean carpets thoroughly.
  3. Encore Cleaning Products, consisting of products that remove mold and mildew, oxidation, and dirt build-ups on many different surfaces.

2.      Why did you decide to start your own business?
My passion has always been to operate my own business. Although there are many types of businesses that I explored, I chose cleaning services not only because of high demand but also because of the service aspect that is involved in this type of business.

With household members having busy schedules, they do not have the time to take care of their homes. Even if they do have free time, most likely during their days off, they do not want to spend them cleaning, but rather prefer to use their free time to spend with their families and friends.

Likewise, businesses need cleaning services to maintain the facilities, a positive environment and overall good customer service experience. While there are businesses that employ a custodian to clean their facility, these businesses still hire cleaning services to take on difficult cleaning task(s) that their custodian may not be able to do solely.

Within the one-year operation of Plan B Cleaning Services, I researched effectively and cutting-edge cleaning products to assist my staff,, as well as to introduce Guam new cleaning products that can ease their household cleaning tasks. Thus Plan B Distributors was established.

The cleaning service business is difficult, but I, along with my hardworking staff, are committed to this service profession and type of business. It has been rewarding the first year and we are excited about the future.

3.      What experience do you have in this type of business?
Prior to forming Plan B Cleaning Services, I had no experience with the cleaning service business. Before becoming a multi-faceted cleaning service, Plan B Cleaning Services started as a green carpet cleaning service using the HostDRY Carpet Cleaning System. Our clients expressed that they were experiencing difficulties with their upholstery and area surfaces that common household cleaners were unable to clean.

From these client comments, I researched how to clean upholstery, tile, and grout, and various other surfaces properly and without causing damage. Through this research, I learned about cleaning products recommended and used by professionals, which I tested myself.  Through this method of research and testing, Plan B Cleaning Services expanded from a one-dimensional (though unique and innovative) green carpet cleaning service to a full service cleaning business and a new cleaning product distributorship, Plan B Distributors.

4.      How did the Small Business Development Center help you?
SBDC helped me tremendously with networking, marketing, and even setting up accounts in payroll. Networking is an important aspect of business as they foster new relationships with clients and consumers, who are essential to the development and expansion of a business. By learning how and with whom to network, new opportunities open up. Marketing is vital to a business because by effectively and aggressively promoting products(s) and/or service(s), your client and customer base grows. 

5.      What is the start-up process like?
Starting a business is always a difficult and meticulous process.
In order for Plan B Cleaning Services to succeed, I had to plan everything correctly, with little to no room for error. From the business plan to hiring qualified employees, I had to assure that the main focus was on ensuring that the services would be provided to my own high standards and that my staff would meet and even exceed my own and more importantly, my clients’ expectations. 

For Plan B Distributors, I had to assure that the products that I was introducing works, as well as I and my potential customers, would expect them to.  I had to painstakingly research and test for myself the efficacy of the products before I would consider putting them on the market for public consumption.  I have to believe in my products myself before I can get others to believe in them as well. In the end, I knew that customer satisfaction with the quality, effectiveness, and value of the product would determine if and whether the business would succeed.  

6.      How did you fund your business? 
Initially, I had to fund my business with savings. That is why careful planning is so important.  Early on for a startup, funding is often tight and precarious, so the business plan has to be as precise as possible to minimize waste.  This is all the more important when you are using personal savings to start up!  I also believe that wasting time, energy, and products are akin to wasting money.  Funding your business does not happen only at the start-up phase; it is a continuous process as operational costs are constant and unexpected costs are not uncommon.  

Aside from monetary funding, I firmly believe that moral and emotional support from others is another vital resource when starting a business. This business would not have been possible without the support of my family and the dedication of Plan B Corporation employees. There are so many things going on when starting a business, and it would be so difficult to do it alone without a supportive network of family, friends, and employees.  I’ve been fortunate in all those respect and count them as initial “investors” in me and the business. 

7.      What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced in the start-up process?
Competition is the biggest challenge that Plan B Corporation has experienced during the start-up process. There are numerous cleaning services on Guam that has been operating for years. Many of them are well known by businesses and residents and have built both name and client base. However, in business, never let the competition intimidate you. Let it challenge you instead. Always have confidence in your services and products and show your target clients and consumers that your business can go head to head with the best in the business. As for Plan B Distributors, competition comes in the form of a known brand name household products. However, the products we distribute are different from the rest as they are safe for the environment and users.

Another challenge that I experienced during the start-up process is finding the right people. My success is dependent upon the people I work with. Finding the right people whom you can trust and depend on is vital to the development and success of your business. However, finding the right people is always a challenging aspect of starting and maintaining a business.

8.      What is the most memorable triumph in your start-up process?
The everyday appreciation and approval of our work from our clients is our most memorable triumph at Plan B Cleaning Services because their words are the best testing we have that we are doing our job well. For Plan B Distributors, we are always pleased when our customers use and like our products so much that they spread the word and essentially a market for us on social media. That is truly satisfying!

9.      What’s one short-term and one long-term goal for your business?
For a short-term goal, Plan B Corporation is set on making the business known throughout the island. Plan B Corporation is competing with other cleaning services and distributors that are well known with businesses and residences on the island. We have already marketed Plan B Corporation through social media and local radio, but we look to expand promoting the company further, such as with this newspaper article, and other forms of traditional and non- traditional marketing.

For a long-term goal, Plan B Corporation aims to apply and be a part of the 8a Business Development Program in order to expand Plan B Cleaning Services with more employees and network with more businesses and residences for cleaning services. The application process is tedious, but Plan B Corporation is seeking assistance from business development professionals in order to get the application process going, as well as seeking advice from the SBDC and other small business assistance organization.

10.  What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?

Starting a business requires determination. Even if the business has a great plan and adequate funding, it will not succeed without determination and persistence. A business owner must be determined in developing his/her business, determined that his/her business will succeed regardless of the challenges ahead. A determined entrepreneur will take the necessary steps to discover and take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves. 

Hubert Lemong Mangrove Crab Farm Opens in Ngersuul, Ngchesar

By: Ltelatk Fritz
Palau SBDC Director/Business Advisor

One of Palau’s traditional delicacies is the mangrove crab, Scylla serrata, or locally known as “chemang.” The demand for mangrove crab surged in recent years due to the significant increase in visitors to Palau. As more hotels and restaurants sold mangrove crab to the tourists, the local demand to fulfill filial rites and tradition also increased.

Mr. Hubert Lemong is a humble man who lives in Ngersuul, Ngchesar - located on the eastern coast of Babeldaob. Hubert first approached Palau SBDC in late October 2016, requesting technical assistance to complete his aquaculture loan application to start a mangrove crab farm. When Hubert showed up for his initial counseling session, he brought a rough draft of his business plan and a letter of support from the State Governor showing support for the aquaculture project. Palau SBDC accepted Hubert’s request since he and his aquaculture business qualified for the free one-on-one counseling sessions.

Mr. Hubert Lemong 
Hubert Lemong was inspired to start his mangrove crab farm from the initiatives established by the State Government of Ngchesar in promoting aquaculture projects. Although Hubert is still a novice crab farmer, Hubert is getting additional assistance from experts in the field: PCC-CRE Multi-Species Marine Hatchery, business management assistance from Palau SBDC, and support from the leaders and community of Ngchesar state.

Palau SBDC provided assistance in helping Hubert develop financial projections to help him understand the cost structure of the aquaculture project. SBDC assisted Hubert understand the level of monthly expenses of operating the farm, such as the loan payments, cost of fuel (both land transportation and coastal transportation when he goes fishing for feed), import taxes (because Hubert was importing his vehicle from Japan), and gross receipt taxes, once he starts selling the mangrove crabs. Palau SBDC also facilitated in the acquisition of a used vehicle online to be used by Hubert in his farm business.

Once the loan application package was complete, Hubert submitted it to the National Development Bank of Palau. According to Hubert, the process was easier than he had expected because his application was complete and easy for the lender to understand. Hubert was able to get an unsecured aquaculture loan to launch the mangrove crab farm business. The funding enabled Hubert to excavate the ponding system, create access to and around the farm, netting supplies to keep the crabs within the farm, purchase a small boat used to find food for the mangrove crabs, a van to transport materials during the construction phase and to be used in bringing crabs to the markets.

During this initial year of operation, Hubert has taken note of the lessons he had learned from the daily operations, from talking to fellow aquaculture farmers, and communications with PCC-CRE. Hubert introduced milkfish into the ponds, but because of the drought-like conditions Palau is experiencing this year, many of the fingerlings could not survive the heat. Hubert admits he sometimes felt discouraged in the first couple of months during the growth phase because he could not easily see the tiny crabs in the farm. Now that the crabs are much bigger, he can see the crabs moving in the water or basking on the mini islands scattered in the pond.

Hubert plans to excavate one side of his pond deeper to allow the animals to seek cooler waters during severe low tides and high temperatures. To ensure the safety and security of the farm assets, Hubert has even built a small home on the farm and integrated a small garden to support him and his mangrove crabs.

In the long run, Hubert wants to expand his farm and create up to three ponding systems to have a staggered supply of mangrove crabs and milkfish. Hubert is also learning about shrimp farming because he plans to incorporate shrimp into his aquaculture farm in Ngersuul, Ngchesar.

When Hubert was asked, “What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?” His response was, "If you want to start a business, you have to prepare yourself. Learn by asking for help. Learn from people who know about the business. Start small and grow your business as you learn and grow too.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Capitures Photography

By: Nicole Babauta
CNMI SBDC DIrector/Business Advisor

My name is Myla Capilitan. My parents first arrived in Saipan in the early '90s as missionaries and my sister and I got here in '96. Since then, Saipan has been my home. Today, I share my life with Matthew Deets and son, Javon Gersonde.

 I wanted to do something that I was excited about and found fulfilling. I was always envious of people who had careers and were passionate about their job. I had to stop and think to myself, "What is something that I could do and be passionate about at the same time?" The love for photography kicked in when I got my first Samsung smartphone. From then, I was amused at how such a small device can take such detailed photos that look better than how you normally see it with a naked eye. I then started to learn about photography equipment and technology. I wasn't sure if I could be good at it but I always had an appreciation for good photos. As it turns out, I am in love with the art of photography, getting to know each client and being able to capture their story through photography.
My first experience with photography occurred when I worked for the Seventh-Day Adventist School. I was asked to take photos for the school yearbook and school events. This peaked my interest in photography and I dove in with my very little experience, but I was committed to learning everything since day one. I am currently attending the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP) while working on my certification as a Professional Photographer of America. My mentors include Adam Waltner and George Delgado, who are both high profile photographers in the mainland.

I first learned about the CNMI SDC when Nicole conducted a "How to Start a Business" training for the Marianas Young Professionals (MYPros). Not long after, I met with her for a one-on-one counseling session. The CNMI SBDC continues to provide information necessary to help me expand my business. After having dreams about working on a big photography project, I knew that I had to start my business. While working for SDA school, I knew that the school photography business needed improvement and better services so I figured I should start my business from there. I started using funds from a loan I received through Bank of Guam.

When I decided to get into this industry, I knew I had to be well educated about copyright and photography. My biggest challenge now and maybe for as long as I'm in the industry is trying to protect my work, especially in this generation where digital copies are easily downloaded and shared.
The most memorable triumph in the startup process is being awarded First Place in the Photography Category for the Bridge Capital's 8th Annual Art Competition at this year's Flame Tree Art Festival.

My short-term goal is to keep the business running at a profitable level. My long-term goal includes having a fully functioning studio and covering all sorts of photography from events to passport photos. I'd also like to expand my services to our sister islands, Tinian, Rota, and Guam.

Firstly, network, network, and network. Reach out to people you already know and ask them if they could help you out in whatever profession you choose to pursue. Use your contacts. Secondly, and probably the hardest, be really organized. This is one of the best things you could do for yourself. Lastly, set goals. Once you set your goals you'll be able to prioritize and tackle them. Be prepared for anything and don't forget to set time for yourself to decompress from the daily challenges of being a business owner.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Get Fit with 23Fitness Personal Training

By: Jane Ray
Certified Business Advisor/Training Program Coordinator

The term "exercise" has scared off many people. This particular word does not get used too frequently outside of doctor visits, looking at the scales aiming the wrong direction, or showing up on the famous fortune being told within the fortune cookie that you just opened. In all honesty, it is not on the favorite list of words to be used for most people and definitely not on mine. That fear of exercise has remained part of our lives unless we are committed to addressing it or when the doctor gives an ultimatum.

23Fitness is a private training studio that helps individuals who wish to face their ultimate dear of exercise and want privacy at the same time. 23Fitness Guam opened its door in December 2017 and is centrally located in the village of Tamuning. After years of experience as a personal trainer in local gyms and obtaining a good understanding of his clients' needs, Mychal Borja decided to open his own gym and take his idea to the next level.

23Fitness provides personalized and individually tailored approaches to individuals that have a firm commitment to bettering and improving their health not just physically
but also mentally. He emphasizes providing an environment where his clients feel 100% comfortable and the accountability they need. The privacy the clients' desire has made many choose his private training studio over the crowded gyms.

Mychal is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioning specialist with the American Council on Exercise. Beside his certification, he has been extensively involved in sports on both the Guam junior and men's national basketball teams. When it comes to fitness, he understands the dynamics of training and the hard work it takes for top performance.

Mychal credited Guam SBDC Business ADvisors for guiding him in starting up his business and providing him with the foundational tools that he needed to get started. Advisors were able to answer questions that he had and advised him to consider critical factors pertaining to the startup of the business. The startup process was exciting and, once he was able to find the right location, he opened its doors within five months. He funded his business startup through personal savings.

The biggest challenge in startup process for him was preparing and building out the location and eventually equipping it with the needed equipment while continuing to train his clients and maintain a healthy training schedule at the same time. When not training clients, he was actually working at the studio which required him to work late nights and early mornings. In addition to hard work, strong discipline and determination, and an amazing moral support system from his wife, two daughters, and family, helped him overcome this challenge.

The most memorable triumph of the startup process is seeing the studio for the first time in its fully operational stage. It was rewarding when he received positive feedback from his clients about the space and the privacy it provides. The immediate goal for the studio is to perfect his processes and maintain the highest quality of his training for his clients.

His entrepreneurial advice for others who are interested in opening their own business is to be ready to dedicate time and effort and also believe in what you do. Not being afraid to ask questions and for help will help you succeed in the long run. In the meantime, if you are one of those individuals who want tottake some time for yourself, contact Mychal for an individualized and personalized consultation appointment at 23Fitness Guam. You might just fall in love with your better and healthier self!.

Let's Ride Guam, LLC.: Take a Tour of Adventure

By: Jane Ray
Certified Business Advisor/ Training Program CoordinatorGuam SBDC
A strong family support was the driving force for Joey Crisostomo Jr. and Justin Cruz, owners of Let's Ride Guam, LLC. to start their own business in 2017. They wanted to set a good example for others and always wanted to work for themselves, and most importantly, enjoy what they do. These are the reasons they wanted to start a business for off-roading. Some activities that Joey and Justin enjoyed most of the time away from work are mixed martial arts and off-roading in their buggies. Those activities fulfilled their love of thrill and adventure.

Joey and Justine worked for Cars Plus for years where they gained most of their businesses experience. Learning a great deal from the business and gaining extensive experience working with family and others, this is where their idea to start Let's Ride Guam was born! Let's Ride Guam aims to provide a once in a lifetime experience exploring the beautiful nature of Guam's unseen terrain that makes our island unique to local customers and customers from all over the world. They firmly believe that our island deserves to be appreciated and there is no better way to do that than to embark on an adventure in the beautiful village of Santa Rita.

With the close guidance from Guam SBDC business advisors, they were assisted in every step of the way from the business planning, to the loan approval and closing process, obtaining licenses, marketing strategies, creating the website, to launching the business. They were able to receive funding from Bank of Guam.

A few challenges were faced by Joey and Justin during the startup process. One of the biggest challenges was building the website with an off-island company which made it difficult to communicate due to the time difference and understanding their expectations. The product was eventually finished; however, it did not meet their expectations. Luckily, Justin's wife, Gabby, took the lead and built their own website from scratch through WIX.

The most memorable accomplishment for Joey and Justin was the signing of the Hafa Adai Pledge. Both Joey and Justin are Chamorro and committing to preserve and represent their language, culture, and traditions. They firmly believe that taking the pledge is important to them and their business. The values behind the pledge are easily integrated with the mission of Let's Ride Guam and a great start to their business.

Looking further into the future, they would like to be the most popular adventure tour on Guam. They are looking to give back to the island community through working with the University of Guam, Sea Grant, and the Center for Island Sustainability in promoting responsible off-roading. Joey and Justin hope to offer visitors an unforgettable experience while ensuring the sustainability of our island while educating the participants about the importance of building a strong ecotourism industry for the future of our island. Their entrepreneurial advice for others who wish to open their own business is to always do what is right and never give up.

If you wish to experience Guam in a way that you never had before and visit Mother Nature at its best, consider taking a ride with Let's Ride Guam!