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Ultimate Frisbee births Launchpad for entrepreneurs.

Launchpad Coworking was founded by Ultimate Frisbee players and friends with the intention of setting up a space that would provide the facilities, support and network that can help the Alabang community propel their businesses forward.

The founders are Mark Serrano, who handles operations, HR and facilities; Pia Ybanez-Cochien, who handles leasing, client management and services; Gisela David-de los Santos, who is in charge of finance; and Mel Lozano-Alcaraz, who takes care of marketing, communications and community.

The company was formed largely in part because the founders saw the need for a place people could work in laid-back Alabang-something that's not as noisy as a coffee shop and yet professional enough unlike their home.

When they started Launchpad Coworking in 2016, coworking was a pretty new concept. Gisela admited, 'I think one of our first challenges was the lack of information as to the services we offer. When we started Launchpad, coworking was still a relatively new concept. We had to aggressively inform people and potential clients about what we do and what services we offer. We had to put info sheets outside the office so that people would have an idea of what we offer. Some people passing by our Commercenter branch even thought we were a restaurant!'

And once they had their clients, it was a matter of figuring out the right mix of services. Pia shared, 'We had to prioritize and reconfigure the space to allow us to offer the services that have higher demand.'

Three years later, they've expanded to their third branch in the Peza-certified and pre-certified LEED Gold One Griffinstone just a stone's throw away from their first two branches both located in Commercenter. Coworking isn't a new concept anymore, but the founders believe that Launchpad Coworking still has an edge over other businesses in the industry.

Gisela shares how being the first in the area has helped them establish a very close community. She said, 'We partners try to engage the community and members as much as we can and also continue to look for ways to have a mutually beneficial relationship.' And it's this close-knit community that also helps them improve their business. According to Mark, 'We leveraged our community feedback to guide our space improvement and growth efforts.'

This kind of relationship supports their mission of being an ally to South-based entrepreneurs, freelancers and creatives. Mel shares, 'I believe that we are flexible enough to truly listen to and feel out what our clients want and need. Since we founders are also entrepreneurs, we have more malasakit or empathy toward entreps, start-ups, and SMEs who are still experiencing growing pains.'

As for scaling up, Pia believes that they're just growing at the right at the right pace. 'We are small enough to be able to maintain an intimate relationship with our clients, [and] at the same time, big enough to be able to build a substantial community that is rich in collaboration and camaraderie.'

So, what's it like working with friends, and how do these Ultimate Frisbee players make it work? According to Pia, the main driving force of Launchpad's success is their amazing partnership. 'I think that aside from having different strengths as an advantage, we also listen to each other and consider all ideas and opinions before making a decision,' she said.

Another great thing about this partnership? All four founders have varied experiences and skill sets that they can use to their advantage. Gisela said, 'Our partnership works because we all have different aspects of the business to bring to it.'

Mel echoes this sentiment saying, 'Each of the partners differ in skill set, expertise and personality. One is good with numbers, one is good with clients, one is good in operations, and one is good with marketing and ideas. The partners who are good in math of course keep the business afloat.' Mark added, 'We are collaborative for the big decisions and give each other space when managing our specific responsibilities. Our roles naturally fell into place given our work experience.'

As for success, the founders share what they consider the factors to be able to say that one has a successful business. For Gisela, it's the significant impact they make on the clients that they service.

'[When] they can concentrate on their business more, instead of worrying about small details when it comes to their office space,' she explained.

For Pia, it's the increasing number of loyal customers. 'We always want to make sure that clients stay happy with us by listening and responding to feedback and keeping them engaged with the community,' she emphasized.

Aside from profitability, Mark also looks at a steady stream of inquiries interested in the space and clients that are advocates of the brand as key indicators of a successful business.

Mel says that while they've got big dreams and goals for the company, they also know that there are steps to get them to where they want to go. She said, 'We have dreams and goals for our business in the short and long term, and every year, we decide on what goals to set and how we can accomplish them to realistically make the bigger dream a reality. We dream big, but we also have our feet firmly planted on the ground.'

They have advice for people looking to start their own business. Pia advises to hire the right people fit for the roles you require. If the way they've handled their partnership is any indication, assigning the best people who can accomplish the task at hand can help your business thrive.

According to Mark, before starting any business, you should find out how each one reacts to pressure and handles stress. He shared, 'Luckily for us, we were all sports teammates at some point, and we've seen each other manage pressure situations.'

To grow your business, you also need to be able to adapt to changes. Gisela said, 'I think one of the things that made us successful is that we changed as our community and clients changed. Change is always challenging, but that is also where you learn and improve the most.'

But don't be fooled by allure of becoming an entrepreneur. It takes a lot of hard work to be at the top of the ladder. Mel's advice for aspiring business owners? 'Don't quit your day job. All of us still have day jobs even after three years of operation. Social media always romanticizes being an entrepreneur and doing your own thing, but doing your own thing entails a lot of blood, sweat, tears and anxiety. I think the only time you can truly quit your day job is when you can provide for your family purely with your business earnings. Otherwise, kayod is life.'
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 15, 2019
Words:1259
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