Mikee Canaman: Reap What You Sow

Mikee Canaman: Reap What You Sow

Iloilo-based ladyboss Mikee Canaman talks about planting the seeds to her dream startup after the pandemic took away her job.

Mikee had just wrapped a long day at work when she finally turned her camera on, looking apologetic. “Sorry! A meeting ran late,” she said, straightening out items on her desk according to photographer Rae Cabradilla’s precise instructions.

Busy is a great thing for this up-and-coming entrepreneur who had recently built up a new business from scratch — and in the middle of the pandemic at that. Sowenscale, her startup, is an Iloilo-based franchise development firm that specializes in digital marketing, market and brand research, franchise development and implementation, and capacity building. From the way her day was going, business is doing well. 

Yet cliché as it may sound, the road to get to this point was not an easy one. In a plot twist that’s all too familiar to many people at this point, the pandemic took away her job, one that she liked.

Mikee was still working with her previous company, thriving at it, when the lockdown first happened “I have to be honest that I wasn’t emotionally concerned about having to work remotely at first,” she admitted. “I am a homebody. I enjoy spending time at home, which I hardly had time for pre-pandemic. I was embracing the perks of having to be home all the time.”

So she continued working, albeit with some changes. “My thoughts were: a tech company is naturally wired to weather this crisis as we are digitally-able,” she remembered. “I was trying to be responsive, setting new expectations, adjusting work schedules and exploring new ways to cope with work and the team despite the change in routine.”

The lockdown also gave her more time to spend with her family, spending time with family, reconnecting online with friends; raising awareness about COVID-19 in Western Visayas through Bayanihan Around the World, and advocating for growing one’s own food. 

“It took me a while to see the dreadful impact of the pandemic,” Mikee continued. “I am naturally optimistic and I have high tendencies to explore new things or respond to whatever adversities I am faced with.”

But things changed around when the enhanced community quarantine was lifted in Iloilo and she and her team were made to revert to their original KPIs, which posed a challenge in difficult and uncertain times. Six months in, Mikee — along with her team of 14 people — were let go.

“Being a messenger of bad news on how their livelihood is at risk is a challenge in itself,” she explained. “But on a personal level, the most challenging is to let go of the team that I found myself to be most productive in. I know that whatever steps I make for my own career, I can’t do them by myself.”

But this, in turn, led to her pioneering team in Sowenscale. “Deciding to start on a new venture wasn’t the most challenging anymore, because I have the right people with me.”

A year into the pandemic, the birth of Sowenscale is what Mikee is most thankful for, but she acknowledges she couldn’t have done it alone.

“It’s nothing without its backbone: the team who is sharing and working on the vision with me; and the clients and investors who believed in our work and potential.”

As we moved from shooting Mikee at her desk to redirecting her to another location, the proverbial curtain was pulled back and we saw that despite being solitary on our screen, she had her team behind the scenes all along. In an ideal world, we would have been the ones assisting her in person, but the Zoom photoshoot we were doing meant our models would have to do most of the work. 

The camaraderie of her team was evident — even virtually — as each of them gamely filled out what were meant to be our traditional roles, setting Mikee up with her lighting, positioning her laptop at our behest, and fixing her hair. It’s clearly a supportive community, one that reflects well on her company’s name: Sow, a metaphor for one’s actions (“to reap what you sow”); and Scale, which in her own words is “setting the stage to enable and support growth.”

The process of building her dream startup also showed her what was truly important. She highlights three pivotal lessons that she will be carrying in moving forward. “Bloom where you are planted, practice gratitude, and be mindful of your intentions,” Mikee said.I believe that there are dreams that the universe easily conspires with: those are dreams rooted from good intentions.”

Quarantrends I picked up: Backyard gardening. DIY Woodworks. I still do Dalgona on weekends, or when I have extra time lol

Something that surprised me about myself: I become more effective and productive when I’m taking extra care of myself. There are self-care habits that I didn’t make time for because I thought they stole time intended for more important things, only to realize that I can give more if I am full and sure of myself.  Giving myself enough time to rest allows me to show up at my best, and not give people the burnt-out version of myself. 

Something I’m looking forward to when it’s safer: Being present to my friends and loved ones’ important days. I missed three weddings of my good friends this year! 

Wise words for people who want to start something new in these times: To start is the most difficult part, they say. Well, it is. I’d say write down the reasons that hold you back from starting. Whether it’s the capital, the people to do it with, or the skills you lack, knowing these first will allow you to respond accordingly and start breaking barriers. Build good habits, an empowering work culture, and lasting relationships whether it’s with a client, supplier, or colleague. Be your brand’s chief storyteller.  Find your tribe, your genuine cheerleaders. You need them on difficult days. 

Mikee Canaman is the COO and Co-Founder of Sowenscale. Follow her on social media at @mikeecanaman.

Photography by Rae Cabradilla-Padin | @raecabradilla