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Alba Iulia
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Filipina entrepreneurs on the rise in Australia

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Discover five small businesses that Filipinas have started in Australia. These aspiring ladies reflect on the recent success of billionaire Melanie Perkins, drawing on her as an inspiration in their own endeavours.

Fides Mae Santos-Arguelles Photo Maysie Lecciones
Fides Mae Santos-Arguelles | Photo Maysie Lecciones

Fides Mae Santos-Arguelles

Fides & Associates | The Entree.Pinays

Fides & Associates is a boutique consultancy specialising in business-to-business development, strategy, marketing, and project management powered by a community of local innovators, creatives, and operators. It was established in 2017 shortly after I ended my 15-year career at the City of Melbourne working across strategic marketing and economic development, building invaluable relationships in retail, hospitality, startups, and government.

I was an inaugural member of the Victorian Government’s Small Business Ministerial Council. Our work has delivered for Collins Street Precinct Trader Association, St Collins Lane, and the Metro Tunnel Project. We are currently developing new opportunities and capabilities to contribute towards business recovery and transformation.

I’ve always been curious about entrepreneurship and inspired by their backstories. This has grown with my involvement with local startups and becoming one myself through my consulting practice and my work with The Entree.Pinays.

Melanie Perkins has been on my radar for quite some time now. Learning about her story from various podcasts and editorial write-ups to actually using Canva for professional and personal purposes; what she’s achieved is truly phenomenal. Having an idea is just an idea until you execute it. She identified a problem, and she set out to solve it. And she continues to learn, evolve and grow together with a global, engaged and inspired community. To me, her value is beyond monetary. As a Filipina-Australian, as a woman in business, as a startup, she’s living proof that anything is possible, which resonates with our call to action – let’s make extraordinary happen!

Grace Guinto | Image by Maysie Lecciones
Grace Guinto | Photo: Maysie Lecciones

Grace Guinto

Sweet Cora | The Entree.Pinays

I am the co-founder of The Entree.Pinays, but also the chief baking officer and owner of Sweet Cora, a small catering business inspired by my beloved late mother “Corazón”, which specialises in Aussie and American bakes with a Filipino twist. Before venturing into my social entrepreneurial journey with The Entree.Pinays, I worked with a Big 4 professional consultancy firm in both Los Angeles and Melbourne from 2004 to 2018. 

As a mother of three young children, my return to work from maternity leave in 2018 was the catalyst for change in my career. Having spent more than 15 years in professional services, I came to a crossroads. I was seeking ways to connect my interests in food and community service to work, and knew that opportunities to bring those interests together would be limited with my current employer. So I decided to take the leap, quit my career in professional consultancy, and use the time to reflect on what I wanted and needed to do next. It was during this downtime that Fides and I connected.

Upon my first meeting with Fides, who too was going through her own career crossroads, we instantly hit it off. Fides’ energy, optimism, and vision is so infectious. Our shared love for our Filipino cuisine, culture, and communities was the common thread. And it continues to propel us forward, even during the time that our lives have been interrupted by Corona.

During the time that I worked in Los Angeles, I had an opportunity to work on projects within the technology and media sector. It’s an industry that is abundant with so many young entrepreneurs, all seeking to digitally disrupt the status quo with their ideas – new app, new technology platform, new way of thinking to solve a problem statement in their own lives. But it is a tech sector that is dominated by white males, with BIPOC talent rarely making it beyond middle management. When you read an origin story like Melanie’s, who at 19 years old, her dreams of transforming the graphic design and publishing industries, led her to unexpected meeting with a VC investor, it serves as an amazing reminder that anything is possible with the right mindset and perseverance. 

I admire Melanie so much for bringing passion to solving a problem statement. As she stated in the 60 Minutes Australia interview: “Do you have a problem that you feel very passionate about that you want to see solved? 

It’s this passion that I seek to also apply to my roles with The Entree.Pinays and Sweet Cora, where I can apply my business acumen and skill sets to help solve a problem statement – “If Filipinos represent the third largest group of Australians with Asian heritage (behind the Chinese and Indians), why doesn’t our F&B industry reflect this?” 

Through my efforts with The Entree.Pinays and Sweet Cora, I hope I can disrupt the status quo, and invoke curiosity amongst mainstream Australia and respond by raising awareness of Filipinos’ contribution to the Australian F&B sector, and together celebrate Filipino cuisine, culture and communities.

Darlene Ladio | Photo: Green Empire Street
Darlene Ladio | Photo: Green Empire Street

Darlene Ladio

Green Empire Street

Green Empire St. is an indoor plant store in Sunshine North that thrives on collaborating with local makers, artists and creatives to bring forward innovative designs, ideas and events. 

We are starting with plants and home-related products. Still, our goal in the future is to expand our community and without barrier to seamlessly be able to collaborate with creatives in many different fields that we believe and admire. 

The bigger dream is to one day be able to bring it back to our motherland and provide our kababayan with a beneficial livelihood and a decent income.

Being a young, Filipina business owner, Melanie Perkins provides so much inspiration and displays admirable characteristics.  The fact that she admits not knowing certain things before delving into the tech world, that you don’t have to know everything before starting your business venture. 

Knowing this about her journey gives me so much comfort as I can relate to the fact that I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into when I decided to open a store on a busy road, little to no foot traffic and basically a very undesirable strip of closed stores with a few dodgy looking businesses around us.

If there were a couple of things that made my ambitious bones feel alive when hearing Melanie Perkins story it would be, where she has created a culture within Canva treating her staff like how all companies should. They are creating an open, welcoming space for all employees’ well-being and mental health even going further to having many, different social clubs for their team to connect and essentially to feel that sense of belonging.

I also love the fact that Canva is supporting many different non-for-profit organisations at the same time as running a successful multi-billion-dollar company- I mean, what a boss! 

Erika Veloso-Wielopolska | Photo: We:Planr
Erika Veloso-Wielopolska | Photo: We:Planr

Erika Veloso-Wielopolska 


WePlanr is a destination wedding planning marketplace. We want to help couples find, book, and manage everything for their wedding remotely, in one place from start to finish. We were about to launch with helping Australians plan their weddings in Southeast Asia, starting in the Philippines prior to COVID. I saw a huge trend in Aussies getting married in either Bali or Thailand.

After speaking to dozens of these couples, I realised that there was a huge appetite for wanting a more unique and Insta-worthy tropical wedding in other southeast Asian countries. Unfortunately, the lack of tools, support and information online has meant a resistance to choosing other destinations. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to launch in the Philippines – our country is just as beautiful, our wedding industry is just as talented and beyond the Philippines, there are many other options across southeast Asia. 

For now, with everything going on, we’ve been adjusting our focus back to local wedding destinations across Australia and New Zealand and are currently rebranding our website and platform. But that doesn’t mean we’re closing off our growth in the Philippines. We’ve just deprioritised it for now until the situation improves.

I have been following Melanie’s story from the very beginning of my own entrepreneurial journey, while WePlanr was in the very early stages of ideation and research about four to five years ago. I first encountered Canva as an avid user of their platform and then as a huge fan of Melanie. Melanie Perkins has been one of my biggest inspirations in business. I truly believe that you can’t be, what you can’t see.

The face of success in startups and business has been changing, and Mel is at the forefront of that change not just in Australia, but globally. It is incredibly powerful for any entrepreneur to be able to look up to someone that they can relate to tangibly – it makes you think, if they look like me, sound like me, and might even have had very similar experiences to me, then maybe, just maybe, I could achieve even a fraction of what they’ve achieved too. 

Charise Pastoriza Brabec and Mich Brabec | Photo: miChic Weddings and Events
Charise Pastoriza Brabec and Mich Brabec | Photo: miChic Weddings and Events

Charise Pastoriza Brabec and Mich Brabec

miChic Weddings & Events

miChic is a Wedding & Events Styling business based in Canberra. We are a husband and wife team and offer a one-stop shop for all your event styling needs. We specialise in wedding floral design and also cater to all types of events including Christening, baptisms, birthdays, engagements, weddings, baby showers, hen parties and so much more! In addition to this, we also do balloon garlands and offer a wide range of props for hire to achieve your dream wedding/event.

Presently, due to COVID-19, most events are postponed and we are very uncertain when everything will go back to normal. The flower industry has been hit hardly as a lot of our supplies are imported. Then, an everlasting flower trend has unfolded to compensate for the shortage of flowers in the country. We have been quick to innovate, and jumped into the latest dried flower craze. It started during Mother’s Day that we have sold out on our pre-ordered everlasting floral bunches two weeks prior. 

Our clients are mostly local Canberrans and local businesses that want to spruce up their space with our everlasting floral arrangements. We also gathered attention from interstate clients and have posted our everlasting bunches to Melbourne, Sydney and as far as Darwin.

Melanie Perkin’s story is so inspirational. At a very young age, to be able to achieve such is utterly remarkable. Her pure dedication, hard work, and believing in herself that there is no limit on what she and her company can achieve globally is the gold standard. She did not limit herself to where she can reach on her platform but instead took this point on and actually catered to the global need for the product from the start.

I truly believe that hard work and passion come hand-in-hand to achieve whatever goals you have. Never stopping and consistently putting on an effort to excel and accomplish your short-term goal is a step up to succeed on bigger things. Melanie’s humble beginning has inspired me to keep pushing and continue on with what I started on our business. Furthermore, I am embracing technology and innovating with it. I have started using it to its full potential which is so vital in our digital campaign.

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