Business Ideas for OFW

I was washing my laundry this Sunday morning and it got me thinking; (you know how we brainstorm while we’re doing chores) I have been back home for the past 7 months, after working abroad for the past 8 years. I have actually looked forward to this day for years, thinking that I wish I could go home for good and not miss out on the outings, birthday parties and so on.

That’s when the reality sets in, I haven’t been to an outing yet nor parties or anything. Disclaimer: this doesn’t happen to everyone who goes home ok. I have a perfectly good excuse, I’ve been sooo busy with my business start-up that if I had the chance to go back I would do one thing: Start the business while I am still an OFW. Yes, no matter what you’re up to at this point, it pays to have a regular income while you’re building up your business. Anyway, here are some ideas that I thought of at my laundry’s second rinse. Lol! If you have more, please share at the comments.

  1. Open an online shop.

If you haven’t been home in a long time you might have missed this out but just check instagram and search the hashtags #manilabased (nameofyourhometown+based), #freeshippingph, #shopeesellerph and you would see hundreds of entrepreneur moms and individuals selling all sorts of things. I am so amazed of our country for being so creative and innovative when it comes to business. Anyway, the good thing is you don’t have to pay rent, you could start as small or as big as you want. You could get members of your family to pack the items and usually the couriers pick them up from your store. Usually people start by having an Instagram account or a Facebook page, both of which signing up is for free. I actually have more sales from online than from my actual shop. Had I known, I wouldn’t have bothered to pay for rent and buy all the furnitures etc.

One seller that I actually buy from would announce when she would upload her items on instagram. On said date we all say How many pieces we want per item. I think she solds out all her stocks in that day. Last i counted she made around ₱500,000 in 3 days. And she does this twice a month!!! 

Plus now there’s so many courier services just to answer to the growing need for delivery services. There’s abest, blackarrow, xend in addition to LBC and JRS.

2. Open a shopee account

It’s as easy as opening an email or a facebook account. It’s for free and both accounts can be used as a buyer or as a seller. No documents needed, no business license etc. And here are the main benefits:

  • They offer free shipping for P500 and above worth of items. Most of the buyers I met care a lot about free shipping. So much so that during the first month that I have been selling and shopee hasn’t granted me yet free shipping options, I shouldered my client’s shipping fee just to make sales.
  • COD payment options – this is the big thing now as most mommies have no time to go to the bank or line up. And it is so convenient, it’s like asking your nephew or neighbor to buy something for you (using your mobile phone) and giving the money when the item arrives.
  • Guarantee. Shopee guarantees that you will receive your item, if not they would give your money back. Once it is in your shopee wallet, you can now use this to buy something else.
  • A Hundred stores in one click. Why do you have to endure that shop with sellers who wouldn’t even bother to answer your questions? Just go to another shop. Compare prices….haggle. Ahhhh! 🙂
  • To see how the store looks like, visit my shop, gawakotohandicrafts. (Sorry can’t resist plugging :p) Also (awat na!) if you just need a few yards of pelon and one yard of fabric, why go to Divisoria when you can order online. 🙂

3. Think of What to Sell

Now that we got the part of where to sell, think of what you’re going to sell. If you’re based in China, you have so many choices. Just check out Taobao, China’s biggest online store and see what they have, to give you some ideas.

It has to be something you like or enjoy buying, because you have to know everything about them. In shopee, because we have chat options, people ask all sorts of questions. 

Also, think of having your inventory in your house or in your room. What items could you stock up on that you wouldn’t mind seeing all the time. I love fabrics and the idea that I could easily have access to these and sewing supplies or DIY craft projects is a plus for me. Also, they are quite Small and doesn’t take up so much space. I think toys would also be nice to have around.

If you’re from abroad, think of things they have that we don’t have yet in the Philippines. The country’ specialty, a special fabric, a decorative item. Please US peeps sell makeup brands like nyx, urban decay. I know they have it in SM but they could be cheaper if you buy them on Black Fridays (hint hint). Also crafting supplies, i saw so many “pasabuy” Facebook groups wherein the seller would buy from US and she would get orders beforehand. Down side is, it could take months to get the items. I think It’s easier if they just buy first and we get to choose 🙂 

4. Make Your Own Products

Some of my students back in Shanghai have businesses that started as a small factory that acts as a supplier for some buyers. Maybe you could also start one too. I’ve been seeing lots of mommies make crochet dresses, check happyfur bonnie on Facebook, made-to-order dresses, Luis and Lark on instagram and twinning outfits for moms and their kids. Also souvenir items for birthdays, weddings and so on. Some even do a personalized theme parties  with booths and product giveaways to match your decorations.

When I saw the variety of items being offered in Instagram, I am happy that we have a growing number of entrepreneurs locally and I hope you guys with resources abroad could add up and make the industry grow and make it more dynamic.

You could also learn some skills in order to make your products, I heard some people started with simply learning the software to start-up with their T-shirt printing, Photo Studio services or learning how to sew. At Gawa Ko To Handicrafts we can teach you how to make tote bags, pillow cases and basic clothes to sell. The classes are per project only. So you could simply choose the topic that you want to learn.

I know some people say LB is too far. Your family could enjoy swimming in Los Bańos while you learn sewing 🙂 .

5. Get Started

You could get started with how much time you want to set-aside for this. How much money each month to buy your inventory. The other day, a lady bought the last roll of fabric that I wanted. Lol! The seller told me, you know she works as a nurse and on the side she sells clothes. And you’re a teacher! She said it with such amusement. Yup! It’s possible to multi-task once you decide on it.

6. Market Your Business

Get all these accounts: instagram, shopee, facebook, twitter and a blog ( is free). You could use free accounts first then just subscribe to paid (self-hosted blogs) ones once your business is doing well). People are on social media all the time. When I first started, I thought I’d just need to market to people from Laguna. I never imagined shipping items to Pampanga or even to Mindanao. But thanks to the internet, it is possible to just order from anyone in the Philippines. No need to ask our relative to the nth degree get things for us  from their city haha.

Slowly as your business grows, it makes going home a closer possibility. At least when you go back, you have already endured the first few months or even years of the starting out phase and just enjoy talking to your customers and expanding your business. Thank you for reading until the end. If you have a business, I’d love to hear how you started up and please give advice haha how to endure the first two years of business. If you’re from Shopee as well I’d love to hear from you. Leave comments below so I could follow your shop. 🙂