“Work Hard, Fail Fast, & Learn From Your Mistakes”

PipelineDeals profiles Natasha Villaroman, a Filipino entrepreneur who started her first business before she was 21. Natasha shares how luck, hard work, and being prepared helped her become successful in business and in life.

Success and luck in business can sometimes feel inseparable. Legendary sales professional Zig Ziglar paraphrased a famous quote about luck by observing, “success is when opportunity meets preparation.”

In sales, you need to be prepared to engage with your leads as soon as you have an opportunity. That’s why we build Accelerator – to let you know when a lead is ready to engage and when you should contact them.

 Natasha and her family in front of Naci Comfort Foods, her restaurant in Bonifacio Global City
Natasha and her family in front of Naci Comfort Foods, her restaurant in Bonifacio Global City

Recently, we sent out a message asking for business people to share stories about their lucky break. One story that stood out came from Natasha Villaroman – a Business Development Associate at Kalibrr. Natasha is an entrepreneur and savvy businesswoman who has used luck and preparation to find early success in her career.

When did you first get interested in business and entrepreneurship?

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since high school. One of my favorite classes focused on how to become financially independent and understanding how to develop a career. I immediately became interested in the possibility of owning my own business, and I knew that I wanted to work in a business that would allow me to be more entrepreneurial.

When did you first get the chance to start your own business?

In September 2012, I opened a restaurant with a family friend called Naci Comfort Foods. We raised capital from our family members and connections, and were able to launch the initial restaurant in the heart of Bonifacio Global City [in Manila]. I was the acting President for the company and I had a major stake in the success and failure of the restaurant, even though I had no past experience running a food establishment.

 Natasha and the Kalibrr team at the Kalibrr office
Natasha and the Kalibrr team at the Kalibrr office

Truthfully, it was the most challenging years of my life. We experienced a lot of growing pains and it was difficult to balance strategy, operations, marketing, accounting, dealing with the staff, investors and customers.  About two years into running the restaurant, we ended up running out of cash and I sold my stake in the company.

What happened after you left the restaurant business?

I heard early on in my career that many businesses end up failing in their first few years. Even knowing that, it was still difficult for me to deal with the fact that my business had failed. I knew that I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, but one lesson I learned was that I needed more experience if I was going to be successful.

Around the time I left my restaurant business, I stumbled upon a news article about a tech start-up that was based in Philippines. The business, Kalibrr, had recently participated in a prestigious incubator in Silicon Valley called Y Combinator. The article was about the round of funding that they received and how they were looking to revolutionize job hunting in the Philippines, and featured the CEO Paul Rivera.

What appealed to you about Kalibrr?

 Natasha and Paul Rivera, CEO of Kalibrr
Natasha and Paul Rivera, CEO of Kalibrr

As an entrepreneur, I was definitely drawn in by the vision of the company. There are a lot of funded start ups out there but Kalibrr’s vision was something bigger — transforming the way people find jobs and companies hire talent. I’m a big advocate of education and helping change Filipinos’ lives for the better. There is a huge skills gap and unemployment still remains a big problem here. So helping build a company staged for growth as well as helping build the nation is a win-win situation for me. 

So you knew you wanted to work at Kalibrr – how did you get yourself noticed?

I started researching and used LinkedIn to find out if I had any secondary connections with Paul. Luckily, one of my connections used to work with him and I was able to get an intro. Paul and I grabbed coffee together, and I was able to share with him my successes and failures building my business.

One thing that stuck with me about that meeting was when Paul told me, “[Your] failures are the stepping stones to your success.” I continued to email and speak with Paul, and was fortunate enough to get a job offer from Kalibrr a few weeks later.

How does luck play a role in how you got your current role at Kalibrr?

I’m a big believer that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. I was fortunate to get a meeting at Kalibrr to get my foot in the door, but I had to work hard and build my skills to be prepared when the opportunity came.  You don’t advance in your career just because your boss likes you. You advance because you’ve proven to be better in what you do today. I started small in Kalibrr, as a BD associate, but now I’m doing much more and managing teams to grow the business further. I’ve shown my boss how I hustle, how I learn, and how I improve, and that led me to where I am today. 

What advice to you have for other business leaders?

 The Kalibrr team posing near their HQ
The Kalibrr team posing near their HQ

 One thing I’ve observed from successful leaders is that they are humble. They always listen to what their employees have to say and they regard them as an integral part of the company’s success. It’s tempting for business leaders to micromanage people, but I believe the biggest trait they should have is their ability to inspire and motivate them to do things on their own. My advice especially for young business leaders like me, is to be open for feedback and not be afraid to fail. I found that many of my successes today came directly from the lessons I learned from past mistakes. Be humble, listen, and fail fast. 

What was your lucky break? If you have a story about your success and failure in business, we want to know! Submit your advice for entrepreneurs in the comments below. 

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