Can You Become An Entrepreneur in Dumaguete?

My introduction to the Philippines was over a decade ago, and personally, when I first visited, I did not plan on, nor expect to find myself where I am today. I currently act as the managing partner for group of companies that have enjoyed the phenomenal success which I always found elusive in the businesses I owned or managed back in Canada. I will not sugar coat it and say it was easy, but all the challenges that I faced and still struggle with on a daily basis, have definitely been worth it. That is true not only from a financial standpoint but also as an entrepreneur who has always found fulfillment in building something from scratch against all odds.

As someone who has walked the path myself, I sometimes enjoy taking a few minutes out from my hectic work pace and reflect on how I have achieved my success here, as well as sharing some of the things I have learned that may guide some other entrepreneurs that might be considering a similar path on some scale.


One thing I have seen is that entrepreneurs chose The Philippines for different reasons. For easy reference, and to provide a place where I might add links to future articles I may chose to write that will expand on certain points, I have outlined below some of the most common reasons I have seen:

  • TOO POOR TO RETIRE – This is me, lol. When I came to The Philippines and seriously considered making the big move, to be with the woman I fell in love with (and avoid the crazy Canadian winter, bbrrr), the reality was that I just did not have the money to live a decent lifestyle . Having been a small, self-employed businessman all my life, my financial worth was tied up in my business, and though the company did have good value, that was only true if I was actively at the helm. No one in their right mind would have been interested in buying me out at a reasonable price, knowing that without me, the business would be next to worthless. When this all became apparent, the only option left to me would be to start fresh in The Philippines, meaning that at 50 years old, I would have to find a new way to make money.
  • THE NEED TO REMAIN RELEVANT– This will also be me several years down the road I suspect. I very often run into people in their 60s or 70s here who have worked hard all their lives, only to find they have become bored in their retirement years soon after the initial thrill and excitement of retirement wears off. Not only does boredom become the enemy but very often insecurity of one’s self worth creeps in. For these people I have seen that financial reward is not the driving factor, but rather the basic human instinct of needing to feel they are contributing and are valued.
  • RISK TAKERS LOOKING FOR BIGGER REWARDS – This is typically the younger entrepreneur who is not really concerned about their retirement nest egg yet, but are looking to hit it big. Well the Philippines is the place if you fit into this category. I myself spent most of my adult life struggling along in a highly competitive mature market where the reward potential was limited and the most that could be realistically hoped for was to make a decent living. The Philippines is an emerging market that is expanding dramatically, most years at 6+ percent per year. The opportunities are endless and if you do it right, you can find that the potential is without compare in the western world.

If you are even reading this, most likely the thought of moving to The Philippines, and maybe even Dumaguete in particular, is an idea that is just starting to gel in your mind. While many other people will turn to thoughts of climate, fun things they can do, the practicalities of daily living, shopping, restaurants and health care, you, as an entrepreneur invariably end up asking yourself the question, what are the business opportunities. The first thing I would suggest you do is to reflect carefully on several things. What are your goals of course tops the list. Are you looking to make your fortune, earn a decent income to maintain a reasonable standard of living or do you just want to stay engaged in something meaningful?

The second question to ask your self is how much time are you willing to spend on whatever venture you get involved in?

If your goal involves making money, whether it is a potential fortune, or just a decent income to live comfortably on, you need to accept that you will need to start your own business and you better  fully understand that at least for the first few years, that business will be your life.  If you are an entrepreneur, you already understand this though.   If you are the person who just wants to stay busy or remain “part of” something, then the possibilities are endless and I am sure you can find something which will make you feel relevant and can be done within the schedule which you find acceptable.

So, why should you consider Dumaguete? To be honest, though I sometimes get a big head and think that I am a business genius, the truth of the matter is that luck played a big part in my success. I ended up in Dumaguete by chance and started business here for no other reason that I had little choice. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and though I have confidence in my abilities, if I had ended up in a different place or at a different time, the results may have been far different.

Why Dumaguete is the right place at the right time does have a lot to do with the basic fundamentals of business. I will try to run through a few of them

Dumaguete is going through a boom cycle which is being driven by both local and national conditions. On the national level, The Philippines is a rapidly developing nation with an expanding economy. Among other things, it has been discovered as one of the worlds most amazing tourist destination which people can enjoy at a reasonable cost. As more and more vacationers have come to visit, many, like myself fall in love with the people, the culture and the natural beauty that is so abundant, and ultimately some of us decide to stay and make the country our home. That has then fed a spin off industry driven by foreign retirees and expats, and fortunately Dumaguete City has been well positioned to take full advantage of the influx. I won’t get into the reasons for that here, but if you are considering Dumaguete, I am sure you have read plenty of articles online that tell you why it is so popular.

Another major factor I feel is important the attitude of the locals here. While many other places in The Philippines fail to appreciate the benefits a large expat community can bring to the community, our politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary Filipinos on the street, have just seemed to understand it.  Though not perfect by any means, they have embraced and welcomed foreigners to the region, and as long as we are respectful of their culture, they go out of their way to ensure that we get a fair shot in our business enterprises, relatively free from graft, corruption, intimidation or extortion. More often than not, their doors are open to work together to bring benefits to the foreign business operators knowing it will help the local community. As one who spent a year in Boracay with my business eventually being suffocated by the graft in corruption, I fully understand the benefits the local business climate existent here in Dumaguete.

A third powerful influence on the success of our businesses here has been the complete lack of viable competition. Though there is plenty of so-called “competing” companies, sadly, but also fortunately for us, very few of them even remotely comprehend the most basic business principles of quality and customer service. Though the local consumers and client base have become used to poor quality and service, there is a critical mass of foreign clients now in the area who expect more. If a company is able to provide that market with these two most basic tenets of business, the results can be amazing.

I also believe one other factor plays an important role in the Dumaguete business environment and that is the access we have to a more highly educated and skilled workforce. Dumaguete is a university town and there seems to always be an endless supply of potential candidates whenever there is a job opening. In many markets, the absence of skilled and educated workers can be a huge limiting factor to the growth of a business, and this something that we seem to ever experience.

In closing, I feel it is important for me to state that though Dumaguete City can be a real profitable place to set up business, with a boatload of potential, I caution you to think very long and hard before you make the leap. Besides ourselves, I can cite many other success stories, however do not fool yourself into believing it will be a walk in the park. Do your homework, plan properly and if or when you leap, be prepared for as rocky road here as any other country you may have done business in before. If you do it right though, and get a little luck along the way, the potential rewards just might blow your mind.


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