April Cuenca, FlipTrip

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“FlipTrip is an online travel platform that focuses on off the beaten track destinations in the Philippines. We connect locals and tourists with small businesses in the provinces to experience a more adventurous and genuine way of traveling around the country. In 2014 we entered IdeaSpace, an early-stage technology incubator, with the FlipTrip idea scribbled on my notebook. During the program we developed it and ended up winning the competition ahead of over 600 other startups. We got 10,000 US dollars in cash prize and another 30,000 dollars in services – office space, mentoring, business courses, etc. We also got a lot of media exposure thanks to the competition and I was invited to speak at the UN Youth Assembly in New York. We use a very proactive approach to development. We empower small businesses so that they can do better for themselves and their own communities.”
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“By partnering with FlipTrip, small businesses gain an additional marketing and sales channel. Some of them were not online before or only had an old website or Facebook page that were never updated. Or they listed phone numbers that were incorrect. We verify everything and our team checks every single room and every single tour offered by our partners. We want to make sure that our customers get a value at par with what they are paying. I personally have been to over 60 provinces. For me it’s about experiencing what’s unique and finding the destination that it’s worth promoting and developing. Our target market is mostly local young professionals that are out there to explore and want to do something different with their weekends. It’s people that are already working and earning money. They have already been to Boracay and maybe Palawan and they are looking for their next destination. We are also getting quite a bit of attention from foreign tourists. Tourists may come to the Philippines only once in their lifetime so they use our concierge services because they want to make the most out of this one opportunity. They are typically flashpackers and very adventurous.”
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  • “I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My brother got me the Go Negosyo book when I was in high school. It’s a compilation of different stories of Filipino entrepreneurs, their challenges and how they built their businesses. Learning about their struggles, I knew that it was not going to be easy to pursue my dream. I always read entrepreneurship stories to remind myself that I am not alone. If I feel down and that I am not going anywhere, I know that I need to stop, take a rest and try to focus on one problem at the time. As an entrepreneur, that’s when it gets really difficult. When you get so many problems at the same time and you don’t know which you are going to tackle first and how you are going to get through your list. Just work on one at the time and somehow it’s going go get better as long as you have a clear end goal.”
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  • “Don’t love your idea too much. Be prepared to make changes and pivot if necessary. When you create something new, you have to constantly measure how it’s being received and learn from it – whether it’s a metric that you didn’t reach or a metric that you did reach. If something doesn’t work, find something that will. And pick every member of your team as you would pick your boyfriend. Sometimes it’s not working out with a person in your team but you give them time and keep extending it hoping that it will get better. Don’t waste your time if it doesn’t work. It’s the 3-month rule. It’s enough time to get to know the person and see how they would handle certain things but it’s not too much that you feel you have wasted your time.”
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  • “I am very proud of the fact that we have been able to bootstrap and sustain our operations after the initial seed funding because it’s so difficult to do so during the first year. We are doing ok but we’ll likely raise more funds in the future. We didn’t create the startup with ok in mind. We created it with change in mind, to promote a different way of doing things and to hopefully bring a positive change in people’s lives. It’s a travel experience, a memory that you will hold for the rest of your life. Travels can inspire you, take you out of your comfort zone, and make you become a better person. To our partners, we are bringing new opportunities – not only make money but also to connect with other people.”
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“My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is ‘Seize the opportunity. If you don’t know how to do something, just figure it out. It boils down to being resourceful. If you are just going to complain that you don’t know how to do something, you are not going to be able to do much. Never say that something’s hard. Life is hard; everything is hard. But if you break things down, do it little by little, and work hard, it gets easier.”

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