Young set invests time, effort in web design firm
DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines—Twenty-six-year-old Mikkle Angelo Fernandez dreamed of having his own company and running it someday.
He was still an information technology student then but he was already designing websites with the passion and excitement of a child playing with a favorite toy.
Two months ago, Fernandez’s dream came true when he and college friends, William Allan Balanza and Ronald de Leon, launched Pixel Hub Creative, the first web design agency in Pangasinan.
“We’re so excited to have this business and this office,” says Fernandez, the company’s managing director.
But before getting where they are now, Fernandez and his friends had to work in different places, adapt to different work environments and deal with different clients.
After his college graduation in 2006, Fernandez was hired as web designer and developer by The Design People in Metro Manila. After two years, he went freelance and had as clients CIS One/CIS Media, a web designer and developer firm based in Pasadena, California; Bain and Mercer, an online marketing specialist based in Singapore; and Paper Boat Creative, a web design firm based in London.
“I was inspired by The Design People, my first company. They started small and look at them now. I realized, pwede pala (it can be done),” says Fernandez, a native of Bayambang town.
Balanza, 30, a computer engineering graduate, used to be a freelance web and graphic designer.
His clients, all of them based in the US, included the software giant Microsoft, animated cartoons and movie producer Walt Disney and telecommunications firm Siemens.
“We set up this company here in Dagupan, and not in Metro Manila, to showcase the talents of local web designers and to cater to local clients,” says Balanza, the company’s creative director, who is from Mapandan town.
De Leon, 30, has worked for more than six years as software engineer in different companies in the US. He is now connected with the Recreational Equipment Inc., an award-winning gear and clothing company in the US.
Fernandez says they had to put together part of their savings to set up their office and pay for their operating expenses, such as rental, utilities and salaries of their four employees.
“We really had to spend a lot,” he says.
But losing all their investments is the least of their worries because they say they know they have a good market here.
“Those who need our services are just there, especially now that we are in the digital age,” Fernandez says.
Balanza says being the first web design company with an office in the province gives them an edge over freelance web designers.
“It’s about trust. Having a physical office builds trust,” Balanza says. “It’s because there are some freelancers who do not finish a project and the clients do not know where to look for them.”
Today, Fernandez’s team is already working on some projects and negotiating with several local clients.
In April, his company “branded” the Bangus Festival—from website (www.dagupanbangusfestival.com), billboards to brochures. They also redesigned the Pangasinan provincial government’s website (www.pangasinan.gov.ph) to make it more attractive and interactive.
Fernandez says one of the challenges his team is dealing with right now is educating many of their clients.
“Many people are hesitant to spend for a website. So we tell them why they need a website and how it can help their business,” Fernandez says.
Some prospective clients, he says, also find it expensive to have a website. “And we do a lot of explaining why it is so. We have to explain the specifications,” he says.
But he says it will not take long for business owners here to realize what a website can do to their businesses, “like in Baguio City and Metro Manila.”
“From our experience, Faces, a portrait studio [based here], increased its sales after we launched its website. Overseas Filipino Workers contact them for their weddings when they came home,” Fernandez says.
At their office, Fernandez and Balanza come in their shorts and rubber sneakers.
“But we have professional relationships here. We see to it that we meet our deadlines,” Fernandez says.