Grit, and Building a Business from Scratch


Many women have asked me how I managed to build a business from nothing.  It sounds like a remarkable feat, but as l look back, I see that one key thing made it happen – I refused to give up.  It sounds simple, and almost proud, but really, my stubbornness is what got me through the first year of setting up Pinnacle.  Here’s what happened.

At age 29, my husband Paul and I were presented a business opportunity that is closely related to my job then. I used to work in the recruitment industry, working for a placement portal.  I thought – this is perfect. I know the industry. I know the processes. I have the contacts. I can make this happen. So I convinced Paul to let me take this giant leap, quit my job, and set up my own business.  We leased a space in one of the premier office towers in Makati, did our business registrations, and setup the website and email addresses. I had one assistant who shared a 12 sqm office with me, and that was it.

Our first 12sqm office

Weeks after we registered the business, our prospective business partner (who’s based abroad)  called to say that he has to cancel our supposed partnership. Paul thought we should just give up then.  But I didn’t agree. I had already quit my job, I had put too many hours setting up the business, and it was practically ready to go.  I needed to make it work. Reluctantly, Paul let me go ahead and pursue the opportunity. With so much pressure, I was more determined to prove that we can make it.  Part of my original business plan is to add other services down the line. With this development, I decided that these other services should come sooner. I searched for possible partners for the other services I was planning to add. I chanced upon someone I was very excited to work with us.  Yet as they say – in business, nothing is certain. Until now, I wasn’t able to figure out the reason why he left. I suppose it was because I wasn’t able to close any deals and I haven’t provided him any business. I hadn’t converted any sales leads, so he didn’t believe in me. One day, without any notice or explanation, I just couldn’t reach him.

Rather worried and close to giving up, I became more serious in my desire to prove that I can actually do this.  I worked the industry, going on sales calls and following leads. I kept high hopes that I’ll find the right business partner. I know that I couldn’t do it alone, but I was not giving up. I knew that if I stop trusting that I’ll find the right partner, I may end up losing the opportunity to work with the right one. I was so determined to find that person. One day, I met someone who can actually believed in me, and more importantly, shares the same values I do. I was very blessed that everything went smoothly – FINALLY! I’ve been working literally day and night, no weekends and holidays, just to make things happen.

Six months went by, and we haven’t closed any deals.  Paul again suggested closing down – the operational costs were growing, and we don’t even have any cash flow to offset the costs.  I asked him to give me another six months. If nothing came in, I would close the business. He agreed, and I went back to looking for paying customers.

I hustled like my life depended on it.  I sent and answered emails, took and made phone calls, arranged and conducted client meetings.  On our eighth month, we finally had one contract. It was the break I needed. I said to myself – if one client can believe us, I’m sure we can have more clients believe in us. With that one client, we started to build our credibility and network.  It helped us stay afloat, and now, Pinnacle is turning 5 years old.

It would be easy to say that the reason I succeeded was because I was strategic, hardworking, and lucky.  But I believe that the main ingredient in keeping Pinnacle alive during that first year was GRIT. I refused to give up, and failing without trying was not an option.  I wanted to give it my best before admitting that the idea was a flop. And I was rewarded with a flourishing business which grew to provide more services in the coming years.

New offices once the business grew.

What kept me going?  The belief that my business and my dream was worth pursuing.  And the valuable support from my husband. Without those two things, I may not have lasted as long as I did.

When you start a business, expect to run into roadblocks and detours. There’s no such thing as overnight success.  It’s part of the entrepreneurship journey. When you start feeling discouraged, go back to the reason you wanted to start the business in the first place.  Go back to that belief that what you’re doing is worthwhile, and that it has great potential. Sometimes it’s timing, sometimes it’s meeting the right people, but most of the time, success is dependent on your unwillingness to fail.  In this case, my stubbornness worked to my advantage. It could work for you, too.

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