Young Creatives Who Built Their Own Businesses in Their 20s

Young Creatives Who Built Their Own Businesses in Their 20s

“The dream,” grit and coffee; we reached out to these trailblazers to find out what it takes to establish a business in your 20s



I asked him what was so different with my generation. My uncle, the marketing genius-turned-restaurateur in his mid-50s, answered, “You have the privilege to follow your dreams.” (Ah, the p-word. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do with it; other times, I coddle and assure it that I will make good choices.) For most baby boomers, sustaining one’s immediate family is the end goal of a job; it is simply a means to an end. That entails sacrificing one’s dreams for a comfortable life.


Among the nuggets of wisdom he shared at an intimate family table discussion including “At some point, you will have to stop running around, figure out what you want and plant yourself somewhere,” and “a beefed-up résumé won’t matter if you can’t adapt to change,” these stood out. As someone who has lived through the *breadth* of life, I take his words with such deep reverence.


RELATED: Does Doing What You Love Mean Never Working a Day in Your Life? 


I surveyed the fairly saturated creative landscape—as with every industry—of millennial entrepreneurs in Manila. Is it easy? Not at all. Is it sustainable? Maybe. Trust this freelance creative-turned-corpo gal. Don’t get me wrong, I am having the time of my life. (Cue Patrick Swayze lifting Jennifer Grey amid a stunned crowd.) 


We chatted with the founders of Studio After Six, Aliwalas PH and The Dream Coffee to tell us the dos and donts of having (and sustaining!) a business in one's 20s. Kids these days, we're alright


Studio After Six 

Young Creatives - Studio After Six


Creatives: Gabbi (24), Phons (24) , Marion (27) , Emma (28), Jobi (24), Patricia (26)

Perfecting your personal branding is everything nowadays. Established in February of this year, the up-and-coming studio is responsible for the rebranding of Filipino heavyweight Reyes Barbecue. They champion other homegrown brands with a roster of clients which include Antonio’s Group of Restaurants, Taal Vista Hotel, Earth Desserts and Growsari. (My obsolete design degree could never.)


Their services include branding, strategy, UX and content creation among others. As graduates of Visual Communication at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, this group of friends is motivated to “challenge the concept of toxic competition within the creative industry.” With Studio After Six, your brand is never an afterthought.


W: What struggles did you (and have to) overcome as young business owners?

Dealing with new situations is always a struggle. Since we all started out as friends, it was a challenge engaging with each other in a professional setting. There are also some times when uncertainty becomes a big hurdle in a business. It comes with dealing with real-world “adulting” problems such as stability, security, health and morality.


W: What exactly does it take to build and sustain a business in your 20s?

Whether you're 20 or 40, sustaining a business takes a lot of mindfulness, sacrifice, patience and consistency. There are no shortcuts and each member of the company has to understand how high the stakes are. We understand that the decisions we make don't just affect us, they have impact on team members, clients and the community as well.


W: Any advice for young people who want to create their own business in their 20s?

First of all, you won't know what will happen unless you try. Second, health is wealth. Lastly, the bridges you build throughout life will always lead somewhere—they're never worth burning.


Aliwalas PH

Young Creatives - Patricia Tangcongco


Creative: Patricia Tancongco (25)

Marie Kondo who? In 2017, Patricia Tancongco created Aliwalas PH as an online resource for articles on decluttering, organizing and simple living. She’s always loved transforming spaces—not by buying more stuff, but by making the most of what people already have. She shares, “The name Aliwalas came naturally. When something is maaliwalas, there is both lack of clutter and a sense of clarity. The name itself conveys what Aliwalas strives for: less clutter, more clarity.” She believes that having stuff isn’t bad but holding onto things that end up wasting our resources is.


Since then, it’s evolved. Aside from working with clients, she regularly gives seminars on decluttering and organizing. Recently, she celebrated a milestone by holding a long-awaited decluttering workshop with the surge of interest in “minimalist living” many thanks to our favorite soft-spoken Japanese Netflix superstar. Now if there’s only a way to declutter my thoughts—I would pay for that. (It’s called therapy.)


W: What struggles did you (and have to) overcome as a young business owner? 

Apart from dealing with taxes without any prior experience (oh boy), my biggest obstacle has been dealing with imposter syndrome. I often don’t feel qualified or experienced enough to do my job. On those days, I press on and tell myself that my client ought to be the judge of my work, not me.


W: What exactly does it take to build and sustain a business in your 20s?

The feedback and support of others. No business exists in a vacuum. Know the need you’re looking to fulfill and don’t be afraid to ask others how you can improve in meeting said need!


W: Any advice for young people who want to create their own business in their 20s?

Show up every day and be patient in sowing the seeds of your business! Your business will grow into what it needs to be over time, not overnight.


The Dream Coffee


Young Creatives - Larissa Joson


Creative: Larissa Joson (27)

Larissa Joson quit her full-time job to become an entrepreneur. She works with 75 farmer-partners from T’Boli, South Cotabato whose tribe’s heritage is “weaving sacred fabric inspired by dreams.” This bore fruit to The Dream Coffee. She shares, “The main reason I got into this was because I genuinely wanted to see lives outside of my own get changed for the better, and that conviction was more than enough to allay my strongest fears.”


Their coffee is 100% Single Estate, Single Origin Philippine Arabica—rich with bright hints of caramel, which is almost (you guessed it) dream-like. They directly trade the product with their farmers so that 100% of what’s due to them goes straight to their pockets. She notes, “They are properly trained on harvest processes, trading practices, as well as in managing their earnings through savings. They are also supported with equipment and financing to make their production more efficient.” The Dream Coffee tethers bold design, creative storytelling and e-commerce to create a unique experience of Philippine coffee.


W: What struggles did you (and have to) overcome as a young business owner?

I’m sure any starting or seasoned entrepreneur will be able to create a book on the struggles they face daily—there can be so many! I don’t know if this is a “young” entrepreneur’s specific issue, but I didn’t realize that such a professional endeavor could be so revealing of personal struggles! But that’s what I’ve been learning and also what I’ve been working on—that becoming a better entrepreneur means you also need to work on growing into being a better person, too—and that, for me, means working on becoming more compassionate, more secure, more grounded, and more empathetic.


W: What exactly does it take to build and sustain a business in your 20s?

Grit that perseveres, humility that accepts correction, innovation that sees beyond what currently exists and conviction that believes in a purpose bigger than yourself.


W: Any advice for young people who want to create their own business in their 20s?

Have a purpose for your business and allow that purpose to foremost serve others outside of yourself. If your business will just seek to serve yourself, then you’re already putting limits on its growth, because then it can never grow any bigger than you. When you find that purpose—be utterly convinced by it. Believe it, create an environment of discipline that will help you build on your purpose, put in the work and make room for your business to change lives, including your own.


RELATED: Can Creatives Make It In Corporate? 



Art Alexandra Lara

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