Finding the Right Staffz

January 23, 2021

For many college students wrestling with new environments and higher expectations, joining a student organization offers a breath of fresh air. For Pearl de Guzman (BS Management ‘15), the organization proved to be more than just an extracurricular activity—it empowered her to do more. 

More resulted in the form of Staffz , an  outsourcing solutions platform that provides SEO, copywriting, and graphic design services. What makes Staffz unique is that the service providers are underprivileged youth. This business model enables Staffz to offer cost-effective services to small and medium enterprises globally and at the same time provide job opportunities for less privileged youth. Staffz trains these young and talented individuals so they can reach their full potential and lead meaningful lives.

De Guzman’s graduation picture

In December 2020, de Guzman’s Staffz was declared the first-ever champion of ProjectGo, a new reality series by GoDaddy and AXN Asia.  The show gave Filipino entrepreneurs the chance to bring their business ideas to life through rigorous boot camps and under the guidance of business mentors. For winning the competition, de Guzman received a PhP 1 million funding, which she has already earmarked for Staffz operational expenditure.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots

In college, de Guzman was part of Musmos Ateneo, a socially-oriented organization committed to aid the holistic formation of street children through educational talk, value formation sessions, art and play therapies, etc.  For de Guzman, spending weekends with these underprivileged children highlighted the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

“The thing is, these kids would start with really lofty dreams but later on they would be forced to quit school or work early because of poverty. Eventually, as they enter adulthood, they have to settle for something less than what they hoped or aspired for as children. And it’s because of factors such as learned helplessness or lack of resources but primarily because they simply don’t have as many options and opportunities as we did,” she says.

Their stories stayed with de Guzman, even after she had graduated: “I have always thought of them and I made a promise to myself to at least do something, perhaps start a social enterprise that would not only bridge them to more opportunities but would also allow them to choose the life that they want to live.”

De Guzman with her orgmates in Musmos

Although she entered the corporate world and even started a business venture, the idea still struck with her.

“I lost all my savings [to that business venture] but because of that experience, I was introduced to outsourcing,” she says.  Although outsourcing has already gained traction in this modern age of globalization, businesses still find themselves drawn to doing business the traditional way, that is conducting business face-to-face and allowing their own employees to complete a task rather than hire someone not part of the to do it.

An industry flourishing amidst the pandemic

De Guzman took the opportunity to polish her idea and by 2020, she was all set to launch Staffz. The star also seemed to align in her favor. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, business operations were interrupted and the subsequent lockdowns caused shutdowns. Amidst the chaos, one industry found itself flourishing: outsourcing.

“When the health crisis broke out, more companies became more accepting of work-from-home setups and that, for me, was an opportunity that suited well for Staffz,” she says.

After seeing an ad from ProjectGo, de Guzman decided to try her luck. “I just wanted to see if there’s really any potential for Staffz,” she candidly shares.  Her educational background, she admits, has proven to be useful during the competition.

“Being a Management student at the John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM), I already had a good idea of the things that we would need for the competition. When we were notified that we were included in the top 20, we already prepared a lot of things ahead of time, including computations for our financials.”

Alyson Yap, Program Director for BS Management and BS Restaurant Entrepreneurship at JGSOM, says that the school’s program gives students the business underpinning by exposing them to key business management functions like accounting, IT, law, marketing, finance, operations, and strategy.

“After going through all the foundational management and business classes, the entrepreneurial journey of a BS Management student ends with thesis courses—a series of courses there students are expected to formulate, plan, and implement their own micro-to-small enterprises while in school,” he says. 

Making her pitch in ProjectGo (Photo from ProjectGo)

De Guzman’s interest in entrepreneurship was planted when she was still a child and getting into Ateneo helped cultivate that seed.

Substance, purpose, and meaning’

 “I took up Management because I’ve always wanted to start something on my own and Ateneo has helped me become more adept in finding business opportunities that serve a social purpose.”

She adds, “For one, having the right mindset really enabled me to become more resourceful and attentive to potential business opportunities. Being a Management student had also honed my presentation skills, especially in terms of knowing what you need to present to potential investors and giving importance to the right metrics.”

While her Management classes deepened her desire to be an entrepreneur, de Guzman admits that her Philosophy classes gave her “substance, purpose, and meaning.”

She recalls an oral exam in Philosophy: “I had this exam in my senior year and I thought I was really able to get everything right lesson-wise but we still had a bit of extra time. So as a final question, my professor asked me how as a Management student did I think businesses can make a positive impact on society. I was really caught off guard and nothing I said made sense.”

The moment left an indelible impression on de Guzman. “Ever since then, I’ve always thought of how I can answer that question in practice as an entrepreneur.”

A chance for a better life 

Now that Staffz has received a shot in the arm, de Guzman is determined to use Staffz as a vehicle in helping deserving and talented but underprivileged youth get a chance for a better life.

In  a Zoom meeting with her Straffz family

“We have a lot of things set up for Staffz and hopefully in 3-5 years, we wish to have our own headquarters and exponentially grow our team, including our roster of young talents. We hope to grow the business further and make it more stable so that we can serve more businesses and help out more talents,” she says.

Despite the threat of a global pandemic, the young entrepreneur remains undaunted.

“It’s a whole different ball game when the pandemic hit us last year. But if anything, it’s both a challenge and an opportunity for startups to become more innovative in pivoting their ideas and business operations especially in coming up with different solutions to tackle these new challenges brought on by this global health crisis.”

To end, she gives this advice to budding Ateneo entrepreneurs:

“You must have known this already but let me reiterate this: Not all days are going to be bright and sunny. Some days, you’d feel really proud of yourself, yet on the next, you might feel like a complete knucklehead. And that’s okay. Know that if you lose, just come back faster; if you win, appreciate your hard work. Get yourself out there—embrace the journey and most importantly, live it, love it, and grow through it.”

To know more about JGSOM and its programs, visit https://ateneo.edu/ls/jgsom