Thursday, March 5, 2020

A young entrepreneur opens up an equipment rental business

By: Ltelatk Fritz
Center Director/Certified Small Business Adviser
Palau SBDC

      McMichael Mutok, Jr., is a young entrepreneur living in Palau. McMichael recently graduated from the University of Guam, with a degree in anthropology. He is currently working as a Historic Preservation Specialist under the Ministry of Community & Cultural Affairs. However, in the two years that McMichael has been living back in Palau, he observed an interesting pattern in the local community that sparked an interest in launching his business.

      Palauans have a great culture of sharing and celebrating with immediate and extended families, clans, and the local community. At these many family, community, and cultural events, Palauans play host to their guest by providing food, drinks, and entertainment. With all these guest attending these events, they needed chairs to rest, tables to place their meals, and tents to provide shelter for the guests. This is need or problem that McMichael identified and launched McMike Rentals to meet this need. 
      McMichael started planning for his business to rent equipment in the local community. He had some work experience and a college degree, but felt it was important to understand his customers and managing his business to ensure it does become successful. McMichael turned to SBDC for the one-on-one free, confidential business counseling.
      McMichael’s business advisor provided more details on what information to research and how to put his plans in order. Then McMichael started researching—by talking to his colleagues at work, people in the community, and others in the same industry. A friend of McMichael, who also rents similar equipment, shared about the struggles he faces in keeping up with the demand for this service. “It requires dedication and time to meet the customer needs, from getting up really early on weekends and delivering the equipment, all by himself.” McMichael realized his business requires proper planning and scheduling, but also needed partnership with other businesses just like his friend.
      With the technical assistance provided Palau SBDC, McMichael was able to apply for a microfinance loan from the development bank to purchase his truck, equipment, and other administrative supplies to launch McMike Rentals: Chairs, Tables, & Tents this year. McMichael says that he has not encountered much challenges with starting his business attributing to the proper planning and technical assistance with Palau SBDC.
      When asked how did Palau SBDC help you start your business? Here’s what McMichael responded: “Palau SBDC with the help and generous support from Ms. Ltelatk Fritz, help me to creating a Business Plan and finding the right tools needed for creating my business. Giving me advice through many aspects of starting up and running a rental business. Also helping me to define ways in developing a business plan through a short-term and long-term goal in financial investment, strategies for achieving success, and developing my rental business concept, organizational plan, and financial plan. If someone wants to start a business like me, the best advice I can provide to that person is to go to SBDC and ask many questions as they want in starting a business. Palau SBDC is the right place for expert business advice and guidance in all areas. A great place for a one-on-one free counseling.
      For more information on how Palau SBDC can help your business, contact 587-6004. Business counseling is free for eligible clients.


Business Name:

McMike Rentals – Chairs, Tables, & Tents

Business Type:

Equipment Rentals

Business Owners:

Mr. McMichael Mutok


Airai, Palau


(680) 779-7368

A local creation

By: Nicole Babauta
Center Director/Certified Small Business Business Adviser

      Jay Wolfe and Elina Gharti Chhetri are the owners and operators of Marianas Creations. Their busines is a local origin cafe, bar, and shop with the focus on providing only locally sourced products to customers. Jay and Elina both have a creative side and previously expressed that through art, food, and drink.

       It seemed natural to combine their passions and realized Saipan needed an outlet for artists to present their products and art to the public, so they wanted to fill that market need. For the owners of Marianas Creations, art includes any product that an artisan makes with their hands, so they offer have traditional art products like paintings, carvings, jewelry, etc., but also things like snacks, books, and more. 

      Elina has been involved in the food and hospitality world almost her whole life and was a co-founder of Everest Kitchen, a popular Nepalese restaurant on Saipan. Additionally, Elina is a decorated local artist. Jay had a previous career in management with the federal government and has also founded several small businesses including Saipan Brewing Company. Jay and Elina shares, “Startup means a lot of work and a lot of time doing administrative work such as permitting. Plan on it taking longer than you think. We tried to stay positive and focus on reaching our goal, rather than worry about the setbacks. For our start-up, we built all of our furnishings from pallet wood. This took time but was ultimately more rewarding and sustainable than purchasing pre-fab tables and chairs. 

      Additionally, the demolition and reconstruction as an art cafe was challenging, and made more so because we did the majority ourselves with our friends. The permitting process was also challenging, but most government agencies worked with us and assisted us with our applications and requirements.” 

      When asked what their most triumphant moment was Jay and Elina shares, “Our most memorable triumph was opening our doors and having such a positive response from our customers. It makes all the hard work worth it.” A short-term goal of Marianas Creations is to increase their market presence amongst the Saipan tourist.

       A long-term goal of the business is to increase the number of local producers by offering a location where they can consistently sell their products. The CNMI SBDC assisted in the startup phase of the business. The owners met with CNMI SBDC to discuss our ideas and options as well as guidance of funding ideas, business plan development, and more. Jay and Elina shares the following advise for those looking to start their business, “Work hard on their business plans, to consider multiple contingencies, to spend extra time thinking about your marketing strategies in a unique market like Saipan, and of course, to go speak to SBDC.”
Marianas Creations is open Monday to Sunday from 6:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M. in Garapan on Micro Beach Road right next to Everest Kitchen. For more information, call (670) 783-1924.

JM Mini Mart

By: Ltelatk Fritz
Center Director/Certified Small Business Adviser
      What do you do after spending decades working in education? Joshua Darrow had recently retired from the Ministry of Education, after spending many years working as a speech clinician at Special Education. Both Joshua and his wife, Monica Darrow, were contemplating on what to do with their retirement. Sure, they were going to spend more time with their grandchildren and to themselves, but they wanted something more. They wanted to keep busy, stay active, and just enjoy their retirement years.
      Joshua reached out to Palau SBDC to ask about starting a business. While the couple still wanted to do good for the community, they knew they wanted to be their own boss. Do things their way and at a leisure pace. While seeking assistance from SBDC, Joshua was asked to reflect on what he was good at and what he enjoyed doing.
      Joshua liked fishing and even thought about starting a fishing company for his retirement. But during the planning process, Joshua realized that a fishing business required too much time, effort, and money to maintain. He still wanted to enjoy himself. The business advisor asked Joshua to look for a need in his community that could be solved with a business. Meeting that need would still be considered helping others.
      Joshua came up with the idea to start a mom & pop store in their neighborhood. Last minute stuff like ingredients for cooking just steps away from the many homes in Itechetii. The location was also conveniently located next door to an elementary school. The customer base was just the “right size” for a small mom & pop store that Joshua was planning. To be better prepared, Joshua attended several SBDC workshops to build his business skills in managing cash flow and business reporting.
      It has been two years, since JM Mini Mart first opened for business in the tiny cul-de-sac community of Itechetii in Iyebukel hamlet. Since April 2017, Joshua and Monica Darrow take turns running the shop selling canned goods, candy, cold soft drinks, butane, and other common household goods. The couple keep track their inventory and even go shopping together during “down time”.
      Joshua regularly manages the business monthly financial reports using the skills he learned from the workshops and business counseling by SBDC. He still visits the SBDC to get further assistance in growing his small business. But more importantly, Joshua and Monica support each other in the business and listen to the needs (wants) of their customers. They are committed to nurturing their business and maintaining at a level in which they can still enjoy their time and retirement.
      Joshua credited Palau SBDC for assistance in business planning, managing business cash flow, understanding all the costs running the business, and helping him complete his business loan packages.

Harbor View Store

By: Emily S. O’Steen
Certified Small Business Adviser
Kosrae SBDC

      With a need to solve the problem of not having enough convenient stores to serve the harbor breeze residents, Wanida A. Kinere opened a convenient store in the Harbor view site of Lelu Municipality to help the residents with their daily necessities as well as to help herself and her family. I had a brief conversation with the owner about her startup process and he plans for the future.
Her 5 years’ experience with assisting her sister’s convenient store is something that she can use when managing her own small business. The market for retail has grown significantly within the past few years and now appears to be still accelerating at a favorable rate because a lot of new retail stores have opened recently, and consumers prefer shopping at a near and convenient location suitable to their needs.

      When ask how the small business development center have helped her during the process of starting up her business. She said that “SBDC deserves to be credited for all the paperwork and business plan proposal, and for positively pushing me through to reach my goals.
The startup process has hard because of funding. But with the help of SBDC in preparing my marketing plan, Wanida was able to get funding from the FSM Development Bank and with a minimal amount coming from her own savings.

      For Wanida, the biggest challenge that she experienced in the start-up process was seeking lending from the financial institutions and compiling a workable business plan. However, when she was approved for the loan with the FSM Development Bank was one of her most memorable experience. Especially, since getting approved means she can start her dream business and turn it into a reality.

      Wanida’s long term goal is to extend the line of business into other areas such as selling local produce. And one advice she would give to anyone who want to start a business is that “starting a business can be challenging but help is just a phone call way. Call SBDC staff!!”

A business to showcase the CHamoru Culture

By: Anthony Sayama

      My name is Anthony Sayama. As a child, I grew up behind the counter of my father’s feed store where I learned several aspects of running a business and the factors behind success. Although, after graduating from George Washington High School, I decided to serve my country in the United States Army. Later I was medically discharged from the military and decided to go back to school at Guam Community College to better support my wife and children. In 2016, my family and I moved from Guam to Washington State. Being that we were all born and raised on Guam, we loved being able to share our background and culture with others while away from home. After a few years living in Washington, we decided to move back home to Guam to keep our children connected with their culture and raised with their island community. I wanted to find gifts for my nieces and nephews back in Washington to be able to share Chamoru culture and the history of Guam with them. After tirelessly searching for the right products with no luck, I decided that I needed to create my own gifts that would allow me to share the stories of Guam, its history and culture.

      On January 4, 2018, my small business, Guam Peeps, was founded. Its priority remained in strengthening Chamoru identity and devoting its’ efforts to seeking new resources implementing a culturally rich foundation. For us to protect, perpetuate and generate cultural knowledge and practices, begins within families and most importantly, its children. Having a better understanding of our culture implies a shared bond amongst our children and a belonging to a community. It represents our bond to Guam's past, present and future, allowing our children to have a stronger sense of their identity so that they may be proud and contribute to its development.

      My team and I created figures made of wood, which was later changed to resin. We took the same concept from our figures to create a more kid-friendly product, our plush dolls. Each figure and plush doll represents icons and stories of Guam’s history and culture.

      The start-up process was the most difficult, but also informative and a great learning experience. At first, the business was funded through our own personal finances. We were not able to afford bulk purchases due to our limited funding. Our biggest challenge was being able to afford our inventory in order to supply the demand. Thankfully we connected with Jane at the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC helped us to develop a business and financial plan leading us to obtain our first business loan. They also helped us to be more knowledgeable in exporting and importing, packaging, manufacturing assistance, taxes, accounting and market research.

      Although, even without making sales, our everyday motive was to be present at as many events possible so that we would be able to make connections with others and share our story. Our goal was to build and nurture customer relationships, to maintain the love for our culture and history. We hope to build a lasting-legacy for our family, that in the future, our children will continue to preserve and promote our CHamoru culture in better ways than that we are doing today.

      I believe the biggest advice I can give others that want to start their business is to absorb everything. I know that I wouldn’t have brought my small business this far if it weren’t for the help from others. Be a sponge and listen to what others have to say- whether its words of advice or words of discouragement. Encourage others to be honest with you. We have had our fair share of negative feedback, but its always a good idea to address it in the right way. You can use it as an opportunity to look at the big picture or make effective changes. With continuous networking, you will allow yourself to build the right support system for you.


By:Cheery Fe Yeban
Network Program Associate

      Jayna Park, General Manager of E-Communications LLC., started her own business because of her desire to take charge and constantly challenge herself. By owning and managing her own business, she is able to achieve do all of these things that get her working every day. She recalls that she enjoyed taking business classes at the University of Guam and excelled in those business classes. It is the challenge that she faces in her business that motivate her .  She says that “business presents challenges that keeps me motivated”.
      Her extensive experience in the communication industry started since 1998; the knowledge she gained over the year has helped her to manage her business. Other job experience that she found useful was her experience as a door-to-door sales for a Guam Cable TV in 1997. Jayna also believes that as a business owner, it is important to learn and have social skills as well as the motivation to keep learning. Don’t be afraid to try everything. She firmly believes that one can’t build your experience from reading the books or hearing stories; you must experience firsthand.
      Jayna signed up as a client at the Guam Small Business Development Center to see how the center can help her in making her dreams of owning a business into a reality. She stated that the Guam SBDC provided her guidelines and a complete toolset for business owners to use. She said that the center provided her beneficial information through well-organized network; and it is up to the individual on how they will use that information provided to start your business.
The startup process for Jayna was what she calls a “blur stage”. For her, it was chaotic that she forgot how it felt or if she even had one. She recalled things did not go as planned, unexpected problems arose, and uncertainty kept her awake. Her company’s grand opening was nothing like red carpet event. Instead, it was extremely stressful.

      When it came to funding her business, Jayna had to tap into everything and anything possible which was recommended for any future entrepreneurs. She did not think through about the consequences of the interest rates and how it affected the overall finance of the business.   She would have done it differently if she can redo the whole startup process again.   

      Some of the biggest challenges she had to overcome during the start-up process was the funding. Money for the business is like the oxygen and the business owner can’t do much or grow without it.  Find the appropriate and adequate funding is key to success.  Forming a team to grow the business together was also the other challenges she had to overcome.  Having a vision for the business is important; however leading a team who might not have the same vision is difficult at time.  Showing her team the vision that she has for her business is another key component of paving the way to success.   

      When it comes to owning a business, challenges and triumphs go hand in hand. Her most memorable triumph is when she started the business; and she saw how thankful and grateful her customers were because of the service her and her team have provided.  She mentioned that the customers were actually worried at one point that the business  can’t stay open due to struggles in small business. But, she reassured them that “she is here to stay. She felt a sense of accomplishment and a purpose as a result of her customers.

      Jayna’s short term goal is to pace efficiently with the ever changing tourism communication needs. As for her long term goal, it’s to aim towards growing the local Asian customer base in terms of wireless subscribers.

      Her advice to anyone who dreams of starting their own business is to be prepared to fail over and over and to persevere through it. She believes that every person has a chance to be successful. It is just a matter of hanging in there until success comes your way. And by going through all the challenges and triumphs, you will eventually develop the skills and resilience to better manage your business.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

From Hobby to Business

By: Nicole Babauta
Center Director/Certified Small Business Adviser
      Mrs. Diana Benavente Hocog was born and raised in Saipan and moved to Rota in January 2017 as her husband’s career progressed. Since her younger years, Diana had always loved fashion. She traveled to many different cities and enjoyed shopping. Her love for boutiques grew more and more as she was able to find quality clothing that were both affordable and fashionable for years to come. After moving to Rota and falling in love with the island, Diana quickly realized how challenging it was to find clothing. Diana asked herself, “Why not share my love for quality and affordable clothing with the people of Rota?” And so she decided to start her business – JD’s Boutique. JD’s Boutique is located in Sinapalo II (the former Rainbow Store) and is opened from Monday through Friday from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. The boutique offers a wide range of clothing and accessories for men, women, and children of all ages and sizes. Additionally, JD’s Boutique seeks to bring creative experiences to the families of Rota to include our most recent Mother’s Day Tea and Cupcake Event and Ship, Shop & Style.
      When asked, “What was the start up process like?” Mrs. Hocog shares, “The start-up process was the most fun because it was a time for me to begin shopping for what I was going to sell in the boutique. Everything was falling into place faster than anticipated.” Mrs. Hocog shares that one of her biggest challenges was learning and understanding the tax payments and procedures; however, after working with the Rota Tax and Revenue Division she was able to get her questions answered.
      The CNMI SBDC assisted Mrs. Hocog by providing resources and one-to-one business advising. Mrs. Hocog has following advice for others who want to start their business, “Visit your CNMI SBDC and share your ideas. They will be able to guide you in the right direction in making your dream of opening up your own business become a reality!”
      Diana shares that her most memorable triumph includes the endless smiles and positive feedback that customers have on their faces as they visit JD’s Boutique with the ability to try on clothing before purchasing. Her long term goal is to host a fashion show that will be fun and unique for the people of Rota.