Manila Workshops: Teaching Filipinos what schools don't
Around this time every year, college or university students in the Philippines seek out internships in their field so they can gain work experience. Unfortunately, Filipinos who are already out of school have fewer options for professional development.
Ginger Arboleda, the founder of Manila Workshops, noticed this problem, too. In her case, she wanted to learn about different businesses and professions, but could not find any good avenues.
“The only available options were either I enroll in schools or I join corporate seminars, which was too costly for me as I just wanted to have a feel of the different things that I could do,” Arboleda said.
Because she had a background in events planning, she began to host small interactive workshops that give people an idea of how different businesses and professions worked.
Her first few workshops were on videography, make-up, and blogging. “I realized after implementing a few workshops that this was the business that I was looking for,” Arboleda said, noting that she quit her job and began pursuing Manila Workshops full-time in October 2012.
The transition from there was not easy, especially because she gave birth around the same time. “I had to juggle my time between my two babies,” she said.
Although she admitted that balancing these two responsibilities was difficult, she advised other entrepreneurs in similar circumstances to focus on why they began their business in the first place. “Never lose sight of that,” she said.
Arboleda ultimately founded Manila Workshops because she saw the effect she could have on people.
“The smiles of the attendees and their ‘thank you’s’ were something that hinted to me that this was something I could do if I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and probably, in the world,” she said.
Despite the fulfillment that each workshop gave her, building brand awareness was difficult. To do so, Arboleda had to be carefully attuned to the needs of her audience.
So while Manila Workshops may have initially been focused on courses oriented toward professional development, it had to branch out.
“We really started offering courses on entrepreneurship and how to work from home, but then we realized that you cannot split one’s life into two equal parts – their personal or family life and their career, work or business,” Arboleda said.
As a result, Arboleda began offering workshops as diverse as parenting that guided parents on how to balance a business and a household – just like she did.
Manila Workshops now offers courses to help people across a variety of domains, including entrepreneurship, finance, creativity, and fitness.
In total, Manila Workshops now offers 10 workshop series, each of which has its own director who acts like a brand manager. Arboleda decided upon this structure based on her background as a product manager and an account executive.
Arboleda said that each workshop director is skilled at coming up with financial projections and dealing with sponsors and customers. The directors are also experts at the nuts-and-bolts of the workshop business, such as using electronic data mailers and registration systems.
She credits the expansion of Manila Workshops to her team. “The growth or the birth of the new segments came to be because we listened to our market,” Arboleda said.
The value of listening
Arboleda takes pride in putting twists on traditional workshops to make them more engaging.
For their Freelance Pro Workshop series, Arboleda patterned its networking component after speed dating, so professionals could meet like-minded people more efficiently.
While a workshop company operates in a very specific niche, almost any business owner or entrepreneur will need to run events as part of their marketing efforts. Arboleda recommends that they start with a very clear purpose in mind.
“Will running an event help you achieve that objective or will it just be something that you want to create for the sake of creating an event?” she asked.
To this end, Arboleda suggested that entrepreneurs must listen to their customers, but she admitted this is easier said than done. “I, for one, have stumbled a few times because I wanted to do something which I eventually found out didn’t make any sense,” she said.
The act of listening, then, is ultimately a time saver. If you really pay attention to your customers, you can put on an event for them that they will truly find value in. Doing so will build your brand, she added.
“By listening, you can create an innovative and very engaging event that will do wonders for your brand,” she said.
In the immediate future, Arboleda plans to re-launch the website as well as offer workshops in the provinces and abroad. She and her team will also continue to focus on developing the current workshops. – Rappler.com
Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz