We talked to Miguel Aquino of Stone Depot about he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Miguel Aquino: Before the pandemic happened, our family used to travel a lot here and abroad. When I visit our branches together with my family, we usually make side trips, especially to the beaches. We love seeing relatives and friends. Our toddler used to go to a playschool.
Now, everything has changed. We only go out to visit the office. And our toddler can only play in the garden. ‘Til now, we’re still trying to adjust to the new normal. But, thankfully, we still live under one roof, with food on the table, safe and healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this Stone Depot.
Miguel Aquino: I left my job in a multinational insurance company and worked for my mom in her small granite business. After a 5-year stint, I decided to start another chapter of my life by becoming an entrepreneur myself.
After living my whole life in Manila, I decided to start my venture in Cebu City. Back then, the real estate and construction businesses in Cebu were booming, and the stone market was not yet saturated. Having to compete with only two major local suppliers, I saw a huge potential in Cebu, and that’s how Stone Depot started.
Although I saw a lot of opportunities in Cebu City, it is undeniable there were also a lot of challenges I needed to face. First, I don’t speak Cebuano, the local dialect. Second, I don’t know anyone from the city. Thus, I needed to build my network from scratch. Lastly, and most importantly, I didn’t have a big capital, to begin with. With the money I had, Stone Depot could only survive for 3 to 4 months with our operational expenses if we didn’t start making money.
When our first sale was closed, all the birth pains disappeared. Today, Stone Depot has four branches that are providing decent jobs to more than fifty Filipino families. The risk I took five years ago is finally paying off.
How does Stone Depot innovate?
Miguel Aquino: This 2020, our company leaned towards cashless payments and virtual meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, we focused on online marketing and doubled up our presence on major social media platforms, especially on Facebook and Instagram.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Miguel Aquino: After the lockdown, our sales dropped significantly. But after a month or two, everything went back to normal. Surprisingly, some of our branches are performing even better than last year.
I am grateful that everyone from our team helped the company survive the effects of this pandemic. Their resilience helped Stone Depot overcome the challenges of the current market situation.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Miguel Aquino: Closing down the business was never an option, nor letting go of even one employee. I knew that it was just a phase, and it was a time for us to recalibrate our operations.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Miguel Aquino: I often read business books and play chess online.
During the lockdown, I continued working even though all our branches we’re temporarily closed. I’m glad that I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working at all.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Miguel Aquino: We’re competing against more than ten other local suppliers in the Visayas and Mindanao regions here in the Philippines.
We intend to remain at the top of the competition by continuously staying relevant in the market. We plan to expand our reach by delivering high-quality products and services at the most competitive price.
Your final thoughts?
Miguel Aquino: I don’t think the COVID-19 pandemic killed many of the businesses. It only exposed the flaws in many of these organizations, which, in turn, spiraled to their closure.
Everyone is affected globally. And so is every industry. However, many businesses are still surviving despite the poor market conditions, while some are even thriving. They are the companies who were prepared and who adapted. They are the businesses that see great opportunities, whatever the situation is.