10 Jan 2020, 10:00 — 7 min read
Enterprise: Gasmee Corporation
Founder: Christian Jon Rillera
Industry: Digital & Technology
Year it was founded: 2018
Location: Angono, Rizal
Having an idea that you think can disrupt an industry is one thing. Executing and turning this into a profitable business is an entirely different story.
Take the business journey of Christian Rillera as an example; a father of two who left his five-year career in the fuel industry to pursue his startup Gasmee, an on-demand service for fuel delivery.
In conversation with UnionBank GlobalLinker (GL), Christian Rillera (CR) shares the daily grind of startup life on how he bootstrapped and secured his first investor. He also shares how he bounced back from failures and survived the near-death experiences of his business. Christian also gives practical tips on how to manage a family while growing your business.
GL: How did you come up with your business?
CR: I experienced running out of fuel while I was driving in SCTEX (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway). I know I was about to run out of fuel but because I was so busy with my phone call, I thought I can still make it to the next gasoline station.
Suddenly, about 2km away from the gas station, the car stopped. A company came to rescue and offered a fuel service. We ordered fuel worth of P500. To my surprise, the service charge cost P1,000.
That’s the time I realized that it can be a business. Because of that idea and my experience in the fuel industry for five years, my interest grew in terms of changing the trend of fueling cars. We came up with a mobile app. You just need to order the fuel from your doorstep or your office.
GL: What are the challenges you faced in growing your business?
CR: The transition from a corporate job into this kind of industry is challenging. It’s difficult in terms of finances, emotionally, and even physically. Sometimes you think of just going back to the corporate world. But you are energized, once you see your team is working with you. That gives me strength knowing that they are with me.
Funding is also a challenge. When Gasmee started, I was the only one in the business. My profit from my other business funds the project. I used my personal savings to bootstrap and pay the developer. Come February and March of this year, I no longer have enough funds that’s where I realized that I need to form a team and find investors and co-founders.
I started from zero. Even if you don’t have anything, but you have vision and values, you need to persevere and think of the impact of what you are doing.
GL: Are there moments that you want to quit?
CR: There are a lot especially when we were in the early stage. I was already burned out with our funding and I have a family that I need to support. It’s hard because I’m a father also. But the time when I was about to give up, that’s the time that the investor, my co-founders, and team came in.
Also read: It's a match: How to find the right business partner
GL: How does your family support you?
CR: My family is very supportive. You need to balance everything. What I do is I take advantage of the time when my wife is at home. Sometimes she comes earlier than me from her work. Every Monday, I don’t work. That’s my time for my wife and son. I spend time with them and I make sure that when my wife asks for a dinner, I make sure I grant it.
GL: What’s your business model?
CR: We charged P50 for the first 2kms. The profit goes 80% to our Gasmee partners and 20% to us. Right now, we’re still burning money because we are investing in our awareness campaigns.
We’re not rushing in terms of profit. Our focus is to enhance our products and our operations.
GL: What are your plans for your startup this year?
CR: We will be launching the version 3 of our app this month. We will be launching a lifestyle app focused on meeting vehicular needs. If you’re a driver, you no longer need to look for a mechanic or carwash shop. Because we also want to empower micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). While they are doing their business in their premise, we want to extend their service or extend their market.
GL: What are your tips for early-stage startup founders?
CR: I started from zero. I remember I went to my first client with only P50 in my pocket as my fare. That day, I got the deal, signed the contract and got my cheque as well.
Even if you don’t have anything, but you have vision and values, you need to persevere and think of the impact of what you are doing. We’ve just been operating for a year, but we already received inquiries for us to be able to expand in Japan, Brunei, and Australia. It’s a motivation for us to continue. What we are doing is not ordinary.
GL: What is your message to startup founders who are on the verge of giving up?
CR: Be patient. Find a partner or co-founders who will support you, someone who will not leave you despite the challenges. Think of the value and impact that you will be contributing to. Profit will come, you just need to believe in your company and in what you do.
Also read: 10 traits that power entrepreneurial success
GL: What are your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
CR: If it’s not for you, it will kill or break you. If you have a low-risk appetite, the process of managing or running your business can break you apart. Focus on the vision. Rejection is always there. At first, it’s painful, but you will learn a lot.
To explore business opportunities, link with Christian Rillera by clicking on the 'Connect' button on his profile.
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