Top 10 Small Business Ideas in the Philippines


With a population of over 100 million people, the Philippines presents a large base of potential customers for various businesses. Our culture is a unique mix of values, which is the consequence of decades of colonization by Spain, United States, and Japan and of trading engagements with other Asian neighbors.

Thus, tastes and preferences are generally eclectic but largely a product of Western influences. The wide range of diversity opens up oceans of possibilities for various products, services, and concepts in the Philippines.

Below is a short list of the top 10 business ideas that may fly high in the Philippines.

Top 10 Business Ideas in the Philippines

1. Mobile Load Business

The Philippines ranks 12th in the world in terms of number of mobile phones in use. In 2013, there were 106,987,098 mobile phones operating within a population of 94,013,200, thereby giving the Philippines a connection ratio of 113.8 mobile phones per 100 citizens. I am sure that number has increased in 2014 with the availability of improved smart phones.

The Philippines has also been hailed as the “Text Capital of the World.” A 2009 study showed that the average Filipino sends 600 text messages per month, which is 43% more than the text messages sent by the average American. Finally, a study by Fitch Ratings showed that 91.1% of mobile users in the Philippines are prepaid subscribers.

These data support the viability of a mobile phone loading business. Filipinos can buy load through authorized dealers. All you need to do is tell the dealer how much load you need and present your number. Then, the dealer will transfer the load to you. Moreover, there are vending machines that work like an automated teller machine or ATM. You enter all the details in the touch screen interface, issue payment through the money-receiving slot, and then wait for a few seconds to receive your load.

I operated a load vending machine from 2007 to 2008. It was called “Load Station,” and I installed a unit at the ground floor of the Allegro Center at Pasong Tamo Extension. Load Station was among the first vending machines at the time and generated a lot of interest largely because of its novelty.

As a franchisee, I was getting 7% of all load purchases, which offers a better return than the bank. However, the business proved to be an inconvenience. I would get calls from Allegro or text messages that the machine would not function or money was stuck. I didn’t have an assistant to trouble shoot, and the franchiser did not include technical support in the package.

Sometimes I would get calls at the most inopportune moments: at the office, in a restaurant, on the treadmill, in a family reunion, at church. One time I got a call at midnight while I was asleep! Eventually, I had to shut down Load Station.

2. Online Retail Business

Filipinos love to shop, but going to the malls can be quite a task, given the worsening traffic conditions.

I have noticed an increase in the number of online retail businesses offering everything from apparel to mobile phones to supplements. The great thing about an online retail business is that all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. You can designate a vacant room in your house as the stock room for your inventory.

From my conversations with friends who are in this type of business, their biggest risk is getting their merchandise through customs especially when they order in bulk from the US or China. Some have had their orders held up in customs for months because of all the bureaucracy. Then, there are those who bring in their goods from the US via “balikbayan box.”

Because operational costs are low, you can price your products very competitively in the market and still make good money.

3. Iced or Frozen Desserts

If coffee can sell in a tropical climate like ours, why shouldn’t iced or frozen desserts? We’re also the country that sweetened spaghetti. Filipinos have a sweet tooth, and given our eclectic tastes, it’s no surprise that our most celebrated dessert is halo-halo. Even renowned chef and author, Anthony Bourdain raved about halo-halo in an episode of his show, No Reservations.

In the past, we’ve seen iced desserts come and go. In the late 90s we saw Zagu phenomenon, an iced beverage with syrup and sago balls. It was a common sight seeing long lines at any Zagu outlet. A few years later, Quickly came to our shores. Quickly is similar to halo-halo with taro as its primary ingredient

Years later, Ice Monster became the hottest frozen dessert in town. Ice Monster came out with several versions of desserts that appeared to me as mere variations of halo-halo. Now, milk tea is apparently the new darling of the iced-drink market.

Whether it’s some incarnation of the halo-halo or soft serve ice cream, Filipinos are bound to try any frozen dessert.


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