Café Mongo’s maiden episode features PayMongo COO Edwin Lacierda as he catches up with veteran journalist-turned-entrepreneur, mother, and PayMongo merchant, Ces Drilon. Ces used to interview Edwin for her news stories. At Café Mongo, they now exchange views on the struggles and triumphs of a midlife career change and putting up their own businesses.
We’re listing down our five key takeaways from the episode:
Ces believes that for every crisis, there is an opportunity. Ces was among the retrenched employees of ABS-CBN following Congress’ non-renewal of the network’s franchise last year. This led her to transition from newscaster to entrepreneur. Ces is also an endorser for her own line of protective eyewear, Ces Style x Peculiar. As an entrepreneur, Ces said that part of the challenge was keeping track of all her transactions. Using PayMongo’s dashboard feature has helped her track customers’ payments in real-time.
Switching careers in your 50s might sound a little crazy for some, but for Ces and Edwin, the pivot opened up a lot of possibilities for them. Ces devoted her time to farming at Vagabond Farms, where she has been growing malunggay, among other greeneries. She uses the malunggay for soap making, then sells the handmade soap online. Most recently, Ces has been busy making her own smudge sticks or sage sticks, which she plans on adding to her list of handmade products for sale due to growing demand. In the long run, Ces hopes that these efforts could potentially improve the livelihood of farmers.
Edwin, who previously served as Presidential Spokesman, shares how working at PayMongo helped him see the value of empowering SMEs in the country by allowing them to accept payments online. SMEs account for 99% of registered businesses in the Philippines, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Ces, who has gained a following online through livestreaming app Kumu, talks about the challenges of communicating and interacting with millennials and Gen Zs. You can catch her live @TitaCes on Kumu. “In-embrace ko na ang pagka-tita ko (I have embraced my being an 'aunt'),” she laughed.
It’s a common misconception that startups are only for the young. Ces points out how Edwin breaks that stereotype. Edwin describes working with the PayMongo team as “invigorating” because it keeps him in touch with the younger generation. “Iba yung language nila, iba yung mindset nila (their language and mindset are different), but there is synergy there. Maganda yung different ideas coming together (It's good to have different ideas coming together),” he said.
Ces has always been a plantita even before it became a thing, but she never had the time to pursue other interests outside of work. When she finally had time to dwell on her passions, she found herself attending a soap-making class and a natural perfumery class. Ces finds soapmaking therapeutic, and this made her realize how fulfilling it is to make something with her own hands.
Both Ces and Edwin had personal experiences which eventually sparked ideas for their business ventures. One of Ces’ Shiba Inus suffered from itchy skin and bald spots, and that is the story behind her first product: soap for dogs. The dog soap is made with all-natural products and malunggay, which is known for its antibacterial effect.
Before starting PayMongo, Edwin along with his co-founders experienced how hard it is to launch products and services on the internet because there was no convenient way to integrate payments to the system. Realizing how accepting payments is a pain point for most online sellers, PayMongo sought to build a modern payments infrastructure that provides businesses the easiest way to get paid online.