Six of Cebu’s notable business icons shared their ups and downs managing their companies and navigating through the challenging COVID-19 pandemic in an informal panel conversation that inspired a fully packed room of entrepreneurs and aspiring ones.

These icons include Christopher Vincent Kokseng, Management Committee Head of Harbour City Dimsum House Co., Inc.; Andrea Aldeguer, Founder of Better Food Market and Financial Development Head of The Islands Group; Elizalde Berdon, Chief Operating Officer of Zink Studio; Charmaine de Leon, Finance Director of Sugbo Mercado Food Bazaar, Inc.; Georgia Felice “Jaja” Chiongbian-Rama, Founder and Chief Brand Cultivator of Bigseed Public Relations & Events, Inc.; and Lery Chik, Chief Operating Officer of Cloudkart.

Guided by Jude Bacalso, their conversation during the Cebu Business Month 2022’s GO Invest Cebu: Meet Your NeGOsyante Icons at Arthaland’s Cebu Exchange on July 7, 2022, elicited their success and failure stories and proved how personal, corporate, and business experiences make the best teacher under any situation.

The negosyante icons emphasized the importance of taking care of their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Mr. Kokseng’s case at Harbour City, protecting the physical well-being and mental health and improving the skills of his employees were among the urgent measures taken in response to the global health crisis.

“In my years of business, I learned that nothing is ever certain,” said the second-generation steward of the 53-year old family business. “But doing nothing is worse than doing something to respond to the times. We do not mind committing mistakes and learning from them, especially when, during the pandemic, it was like navigating through the dark. We have kept on calibrating since the business must go on.”

Ms. Rama added that not all things can be controlled so during the pandemic that caused a domino effect across industries, her company focused on things within their realm of control, such as taking care of her team, improving processes, and ensuring sound financial management.

This demonstrated her team’s agile and growth mindset and ability to adjust and adapt quickly. Bigseed Public Relations & Events, Inc. holds a track record of having collaborated with over 250 brands and organized more than 300 events across 15 industries and sectors.

For Mr. Chik, whose business was formed in direct response to the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic, “mental toughness” is required in the face of adversities. He explained that they need to keep their emotions in check as they serve customers, provide jobs, give opportunities to suppliers, and ensure that food reaches the doorsteps of the Cebuanos.

By embracing technology, Cloudkart has become a one-stop online shop of groceries and essentials. It now features an FDA-licensed pharmacy, one of the company’s measures when the government started lifting some pandemic-related requirements, easing public mobility.

Resiliency was another important highlight during the GO Invest Cebu: Meet Your NeGOsyante Icons.

Mr. Berdon defined resiliency as constantly moving forward, finding ways to achieve one’s vision. During the pandemic, he took serious measures to streamline his fitness business processes to ensure his team gets paid. With this, and the fitness videos he made, he has continued to work on his dreams of setting up branches for Zink Studio amid growing competition.

“Just because the business closed down, it does not mean the business was not good. We can always evolve into something else. As long as you find your purpose in what you do, you will never be unsuccessful,” he said.

Ms. De Leon, one of the owners of Sugbo Mercado and Pop District Bazaar, sees resiliency as a humbling opportunity to assess the impact of a critical situation (including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Typhoon Odette), openly communicate with her team, and work around concerns to the best of their ability.

As a co-owner of Sugbo Mercado and Pop District Bazaar, she makes use of her financial knowledge growing up as a breadwinner and from experiences and lessons gained from past small businesses.

For her part, Ms. Aldeguer advised starting entrepreneurs to enjoy their days as a “small ship” before going big because the experiences they will gain from being so will strengthen their values, allowing them to go through any situation with determination and resilience.

She works for her family’s business, The Islands Group (Islands Souvenirs, Islands Pasalubong, Islands Stay Hotels, and many more) and founded Better Food Market, an online specialty grocery store, in November 2020 — during the pandemic — to introduce Cebuanos to healthier food option and get them excited about maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Entrepreneurs are confronted with challenges surrounding staff recruitment, distractions along the business journey, and empowering the youth — concerns aptly raised by the audience in an interactive exchange that followed the panel conversation. In response, the icons recommended to always keep abreast of trends and developments, make use of every opportunity to learn, and find their purpose in business and act on it while taking calculated risks.

Cebu Business Months 2022 is presented by Filinvest Land Inc., PLDT Enterprise, Smart Communications, Inc., NUSTAR Resort and Casino, and co-presented by Cebu Landmasters, Inc., Maya Business, Angkas, IPI, with Platinum sponsors Arthaland Corporation, Ayala Center Cebu, Cebu Pacific Air, Converge ICT Solutions Inc., Eastern Communications, Qualfon Philippines, and SB Finance.

GO Invest Cebu: Meet your NeGOsyante Icons is made possible through its event sponsors: Amazon Web Services, Oriental Port & Allied Services Corporation, Global Business Power, GT Cosmetics Manufacturing Inc., Mataverse, Xeleqt Technology Innovations Inc., Golden Prince Hotel & Suites, Unisol, Rockport/Primer Group of Companies, and Megaworld Corporation, and media partners: Alcordo Advertising, BIGSEED Public Relations & Events,,, Mataverse, and RMA News.

For more information about CBM 2022, contact the CBM Secretariat at (63 32) 232-1421 to 24, email at or, or visit any of the social media accounts:,, and