BUSINESS NEWS | enterprise

Out, Proud, and Rising Above

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published June 30, 2021

In this year’s edition of Google Philippines’ annual Pride Conversations, Google hosted a social media event called “Pride Conversations: Championing LGBTQ+ MSMEs” to celebrate small businesses and startups by queer entrepreneurs.

In coordination with The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Google Philippines invited LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs from the food to the creative industry, namely Abby Biyo of Nirvana Hostel and Restaurant Siargao, Sed Aguil of The Food Episode, Amrei Dizon of Vitalstrats Creative Solutions, Nariese Giangan of FFTG (Food for the Gays) Cafe, Jeoff Solas of Cooltura Hub barber and milk tea shop, and Rui Mariano of The Fairygodbarbie House of Beauty, to help promote and digitize their businesses. More than the business aspect, the event also aims to encourage support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Abby Biyo | Nirvana Hostel and Restaurant Siargao

Abby Biyo is the co-owner of the first Kapampangan restaurant on the tear-drop-shaped island of Siargao, the Nirvana Hostel and Restaurant Siargao.

Photo Credit: Abbi Biyo Youtube Channel

Her entrepreneurial journey started unexpectedly after a well-deserved vacation on the island of Siargao with her girlfriend. During their trip, their desire to share their passion for cooking with the natives and visitors of the island grew, and eventually, they decided to open a business. Unfortunately, a few days after their official launch last March 2020, lockdowns were implemented. It was a challenging moment, but the couple did not lose hope. Biyo and her partner pushed through to continue providing job opportunities not just for the LGBTQ+ community but to those in need, all while advocating against gender discrimination among employees and customers in Siargao.

Sed Aguil | The Food Episode

Sed Aguil is the one-man team behind The Food Episode, but before taking his weekend hobby in the kitchen seriously, he was an advertising practitioner who, like many professionals, struggled to keep up with a work-from-home arrangement.

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While setting up a business is indeed a struggle as well, opening one right in the middle of the pandemic is a much bigger challenge. For Aguil, it meant doing everything on his own, whether it be product shoot, social media management, and food preparation. It was tiring and time-consuming, but for him, positive comments from his supporters make it all feel worth it. Now, Aguil describes himself as "an island boy from down south who found a new love for cooking."

Amrei Dizon | Vitalstrats Creative Solutions

Amrei Dizon is the “accidental entrepreneur” behind the 17-year-old creative agency, Vitalstrats Creative Solutions.

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As a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Dizon takes pride in running a queer-friendly workplace. At Vitalstrats, she ensures that inclusivity and diversity are in check, and even makes time to encourage discussions about LGBTQ+ issues to mold more role models for the community.

During the height of the pandemic, Vitalstrats faced liquidity problems like many businesses, but the many years of repeated failures and challenges made them the strong, adaptable, and resilient company they are today. With the team’s willingness to adapt and stay creative, Vitalstrats pivoted and took advantage of the demand for digital services not just to recover but to thrive.

Nariese Giangan | Food for the Gays Cafe

Nariese Giangan is the co-founder of FFTG Cafe, an establishment that has become a safe space for queer individuals and their allies.

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The cafe originally started as an online pastry business during the second quarter of 2020, but with Giangan's and her partner's courage, the business expanded into a physical store in Quezon City and took off. Having experienced the challenges of managing a business amid the pandemic, she learned that the key to entrepreneurial success is an entrepreneur's trust in their own products, knowledge about their target market, and room for growth.

Jeoff Solas | Cooltura Hub

Jeoff Solas is a PR and marketing practitioner and the brain behind Cooltura Hub in Guiguinto, Bulacan.

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For Solas, the pandemic became an opportunity for him to set up his brand. Cooltura opened last December as a stylish barbershop, but coming from the hospitality industry, comfort and experience are always on top of his mind. This is why it evolved into a barbershop that offers beverages from BreaTea just this summer. Operating amid the pandemic, the quarantine restrictions limited Solas’ reach but allowed him to get to know his neighbors more and provide employment opportunities in his neighborhood.

Rui Mariano | Fairygodbarbie House of Beauty

Rui Mariano is a transgender beauty queen who aims to cater to the aesthetic needs of her fellow transgender women with her one-stop beauty house named Fairygodbarbie House of Beauty.

Photo Credit: Rui Mariano Youtube Channel

Mariano often receives questions and inquiries about her transition journey. Such inspired her to share her story and secrets through a business that offers nails, eyelashes, spa, and facial services, among others. However, more than just providing transformational beauty services, Mariano advocates for the end of discrimination against transgender and create a safe space that can be called a home for her fellow trans sisters.

Google Philippines’ virtual event was streamed live on its official Facebook page and YouTube channel last June 9. Catch the recording of the event here!