MANILA -- Happy Ongpauco-Tiu has been in the restaurant business for more than two decades, with successful concepts such as Pamana, Hawaiian BBQ, Tsokolateria, and World Topps.
But just like many entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, Ongpauco-Tiu has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and had to "pivot" to retain her employees.
She made the shift from food to something that is still close to her heart -- home items. Launched in April last year on Instagram, My Happy Home offers a wide collection of plates, utensils, and other items that can spruce up kitchens, dining spaces, and living areas.
"During the onset of the pandemic, all my restaurants closed down and I couldn't let go of my employees. I had to continue to give them assurance that everything will be okay. So around April I had to pivot quickly, and that's when I started thinking of opening a home line where I would sell plates and other kitchen items," she told ABS-CBN News in a virtual media conference shortly after the EastWest Priority Lifestyle Series virtual event.
"I wanted to continuously make my home a better place, make my tablescapes nice and interesting for my family to just enjoy a meal together... This led me to venture into opening a home store," she added.
Putting up an online home store came naturally for Ongpauco-Tiu, who has been an avid collector of plates. She said she was "lucky" to already have the right suppliers because of her private dining business.
After enjoying months of good sales, Ongpauco-Tiu took My Happy Home a notch higher and opened a physical store at Wilson corner P. Guevarra in Greenhills, San Juan last December.
"I wanted to do something even bigger because there were a lot of online sellers out there. So being a businesswoman, I knew that I had to pivot further and take a step higher than where I was, so I opted to open a physical store. So aside from online, I also have a physical store in Greenhills where people can actually come visit and shop," she said.
The entrepreneur went on: "I guess with the whole situation that we're in... You just have to try to focus on what your strengths are and expound on it. I think that's exactly what I did. I know that aside from food I also like entertaining. And I like plates, I like making my home beautiful. Because of that, I sort of gathered all my strengths there and made a business out of it."
Even after the launch of her physical store, Ongpauco-Tiu is showing no signs of slowing down.
She said she will soon be bringing in furniture both from the Philippines and abroad as she finds ways to grow her business while providing jobs for her employees as well as local artisans.
"If you're a businesswoman you always have to move forward, to think of things that will make you more unique," she said.