With physical stores and establishment suddenly closing due to the quarantine restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have started to explore other ways to earn and cope with the new normal. To some, they have started to venture into online businesses, like selling products ranging from clothes, masks, and food.
But how does one jumpstart business in the middle of a crisis? Hanna Ando, a 26-year-old millennial who recently launched her online food store, Tsuya PH, shares with My Pope the highs and lows of being an online seller amid a pandemic and the tips she could give to people who would also want to venture into it sometime in the future. (Read: 3 Things Mom Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Mary Grace Café)
We read about Tsuya PH from various articles online. Can you tell us more about it?
“Tsuya” means “shine” or “gloss.” It’s one of the main qualities to look out for in perfectly cooked Japanese rice: shiny, moist, and fluffy. Cooking rice perfectly shows the amount of time and dedication one has put into it, and we would like that to shine through our dishes. We take pride in cooking our rice perfectly.
Tsuya PH, a Manila-based online food business, currently offers Onigirazu—a type of rice sandwich popular in Okinawa, Japan. It’s reminiscent of onigiri from Japanese convenience stores, but with Spam and tamagoyaki and is much bigger in serving. We currently have two flavors: Kani Spamago and Spicy Tuna. (Read: Meet the millennial who co-authored The Maya Kitchen’s ‘Guilt-free Desserts’)
Each serving of Tsuya PH’s Onigirazu is already a full meal on its own. Big serving size, flavor-packed, and definitely filling!
Why did you decide to start an online food business?
I have always wanted to start a food business because I always loved cooking. But, I have always been scared as well—of taking risks, of taking that leap of faith. I have been thinking, “What if I fail?” But now, since I had a lot of time at home during the quarantine period, I thought, “But what if it does work? What if it flies?” I would forever regret not trying. (Read: We Asked Young Professionals: What Keeps You Going?)
And so, I decided to launch Tsuya PH. This was also a perfect opportunity to do what I love which is cooking and to earn a little extra at the same time. It always feels nice to be able to do what you are passionate about.
What struggles have you encountered amid the pandemic? How did you overcome it?
During this pandemic, my mental health has been really challenged. I am diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2, and it has been really hard to manage my condition with the things that have been going on. (Read: What it’s like to live with bipolar disorder) Staying quarantined at home really triggered my anxiety and depression. I also needed to cancel my wedding, which my fiancé and I had planned for two years. (Read: How This Couple Beat ‘Wedding Mishaps’ Amid Taal, COVID-19 Disasters)
Months ago, I stopped taking medication and decided to do yoga. It helped me a lot in managing my anxieties and to bring me back to my core and balance. I also tried to look at the brighter side of the quarantine: being able to spend time with my family, to do what I love doing which is cooking, and to start on my new business, Tsuya PH.
Your forte is in marketing. How has it helped with Tsuya PH?
My experience in advertising and marketing has helped me a lot in managing Tsuya PH. Handling different local and global brands gained me relevant insights on what does and doesn’t work for a business, and what possible steps a starting business could take in order to gain even just a small piece of the market.
When everyone seems to be doing the same thing, dare to be different. But for you to stand out, it is important to know what excites the market, what your competitors are currently doing, and what you can do better or differently.
From there, you can come up with your unique selling proposition that would help your business shine. But aside from marketing and advertising tactics, the most important thing would be to put your whole heart into your craft. (Read: 4 Millennial Frontliners Who Are Making A Big Difference)
What tips can give to those who want to start their own business?
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Trust yourself, the process, and God. Don’t pressure yourself to be successful right away because it takes time and effort. Be grateful for small victories. Know that God has your back always. (Read: You may not know it, but God reaches out to you every day)