3 years ago I started BREVO, a creative agency in the Philippines.
It was never my intention to do so.
See, I’m from the world of government-to-business consulting, tech, and finance. Born and raised in the UK, I’ve spent a large chunk of my life working with CEOs and government officials in Malaysia and the Middle East to help developing countries, well, develop. I’m an entrepreneur with experience in start-ups and even software development.
But the head of a creative company in the Philippines?
A lot of my friends, when they hear what I’m currently doing, and where I’m doing it, think I’m mad.
“Why the Philippines?”
“You have a wife and kids there?”
“Are you running a sweatshop?”
Like many people outside the Philippines, they don’t fully understand the country’s unique offerings. They think of the “war on drugs”, the lack of infrastructure, and Imelda Marcos’s shoe collection.
But here I am, running my own creative company, and experiencing the highs and lows of doing business in this fascinating — and endlessly challenging — market.
Setting up shop (not a sweatshop)
Let me backtrack a little. In 2011, I had an office in Malaysia with the goal of developing software to serve the Philippine market. I figured we could operate the business remotely, foregoing the need to set-up physically in the Philippines.
It seemed ideal. However, workforce issues in Kuala Lumpur, such as lack of ambition, drive, and loyalty among employees (largely a cultural issue, but that’s another story for another time), convinced me to establish a second base in Metro Manila to try my luck there.
When we moved to the Philippines in 2012, my business partner and I started working with a team of 10–15 people, developing software products and producing content. I was immediately struck by the strong work ethic, deep training, and communication abilities of Filipinos. It was refreshing and intriguing.
Our workforce, primarily made up of fresh graduates from the creative arts and I.T. sector, had well-tuned technical skills. They were loyal, worked hard, had a great deal of talent and passion, as well as a sense of real community. What they seemed to lack was direction and an understanding of entrepreneurship.
A powerful seed was sown in my mind.
I eventually left for Dubai and the US for more consulting work. But I knew one thing: the Philippines was a creative and technical powerhouse. Which came in handy when my consulting work began to extend to the Philippines years later.
In 2016, I came back to Philippine shores, met an ambitious young consultant and we began working together. We started with banks, creating online solutions and content for financial institutions. Two things quickly became clear: Philippine companies need creative marketing work and the considerable Filipino talent pool was primed to meet this need.
Thus Brevo was born.
That’s the origin story in a nutshell. The growth story, however, is long and arduous! Another post for another day.
For now, I’m just happy to have a company that’s thriving in the Philippine market. No easy feat, and a lot of sweat, tears, and hair follicles were given up to make this happen.
I’ll tell you about it one day soon. As they say here, “sa susunod nalang!”