How to Train Your Start-up Dragon

The economy of the Philippines is booming, not only in terms of foreign direct investments, listed stocks, or the high level of remittance from overseas workers, but also a new dynamism in entrepreneurship that is challenging traditional ways of thinking.

Around six years ago, the consumer goods market in the Philippines was heavily dominated by multinational corporations. Although domestic players were also very aggressive and held commendable market shares, rarely did their competitive advantage go beyond the concept of price. Their respective brands were perceived to be the most affordable in the market. In fact, successfully aligning it to concepts of “premium” or “luxury” would prove to be a disaster.

So when Dennis Balajadia and his wife, Emily, began to create a new sunblock brand called “Beach Hut” with big dreams to go global around 2005; it was easier said than done. Although “Dennis,” as he has always insisted to be called even as a President and CEO, capitalized on the synergy between his ideas and their family-owned enterprise in toll-manufacturing, much of the work to be accomplished was after the actual production. As a start-up, management systems of the company from inventory management to distribution were all still being developed.

This is why hiring fresh graduates at that time rather than seasoned marketing executives heavily contradicted the traditional thinking in setting up a business. However, the supposed “non-existence of a business plan” was in fact the business plan of the company as it allowed the culture of what turned Naturale Labs (the former name of the company) into the dragon that it is today.

The corporate culture of Dragon Edge Group was not dictated by Dennis and Emily alone, but emerged from the bottom-up (although it generally helped that the couple were not indifferent to the concept of “work hard, party hard”). With youth as a driving force of its human capital, the company was able to become flexible in ensuring that ideas remained unhindered by common notions of how to run a business.

A quick look at their past and current employees reveals that the “edge” in their corporate identity is supported by every employee’s individuality. Dennis believes that the persona of an employee at work and in his or her personal life should be one and the same. He believes that by allowing every individual to be true at work, creativity will be increased. This does not mean Dragon Edge Group is all fun and no work – on the contrary, this freedom translates into a sense of responsibility in the minds of employees.

Thanks largely to this innovative style of management, the company’s growth has successfully catapulted its brands into the consciousness of the domestic market as well as key markets worldwide, where it has gained a reputation for high-quality craftsmanship. The way Dennis and Emily have nurtured their dragon is testament to the benefits of allowing one’s children to explore the world unimpeded but with a proper sense of responsibility starting at a young age. This is how to train your dragon without getting burned.

Disclaimer: King del Rosario was one of the first employees of the Dragon Edge Group. He attributes much of his marketing and his entrepreneurial spirit to his early exposure to the company.

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