BANGKOK, Thailand (ILO news) - Paitara Chaochalard is a Thai entrepreneur who runs an event planning business, specializing in meetings and conferences. COVID-19 cut 80 per cent of her income, but through her participation in activities with the ILO’s Rebuilding Better Project she found the support and skills needed to move her operations online.
Ms Chaochalard started her business, Neat Event and Consultant Co., Ltd. in 2018. She works primarily by herself, with some part-time staff for contract work. Neat Event and Consultant fulfils her dream of being an entrepreneur. It is her main source of income, and allows her to support her parents.
Like many others she originally thought COVID-19 would be a short-term disruption, but the extended lockdowns halted all in-person events for over a year and forced her to seriously re-evaluate future plans. Ms Chaochalard recalled: “The first thing that came into my mind was whether I had enough savings, and how long they could support me?”
Business resilienceMs Chaochalard eventually realized that COVID-19 and its impacts were going to change the landscape of event planning in the long term. She resisted the temptation to give up on her business and her dream, and instead doubled down, by committing to improving herself and her skills.
She made the decision to adopt a digital strategy, moving her business online. She had some ongoing contracts with government agencies, all which had to be amended to account for the changing circumstances.
“At first when I realized I had to shift everything online, I felt a huge weight on me since I am not tech savvy. But there was no time to despair, I had to do whatever I could to do to make sure we could organize online events and keep the business going. I had to engage with partners to collaborate and support each other. I also let customers know that we could now offer online events,” she said.
We-Can: Community of business womenMs Chaochalard first learned about the ILO’s support for women entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19 through her participation in the WE-Can Be Resilient programme. This was delivered by the social enterprise Space Bangkok, under the ILO’s Rebuilding Better Project. She enjoyed connecting with other women entrepreneurs and decided to join other sessions organized by the Rebuilding Better Project.
“Before joining WE-Can, I really felt like I was alone in the world. I was discouraged and lost hope. I had no one to support me as an entrepreneur except some friends and my own family. When I joined the programme and got to meet other members who were also entrepreneurs and all women, I understood what they had gone through - I had been through a similar situation. We were able to give each other support. It empowered us to keep going and get through this together,” she said.
The We-Can Be Resilient programme facilitated peer-learning between groups of women entrepreneurs and fostered a networking and business community. The programme created an environment where the participants could share ideas, challenges and successes.
For Ms Chaochalard, the programme provided just that; her key takeaways from the programme were: establishing a sense of personal and professional purpose, online marketing skills, and the invaluable network she gained. Two of her connections in the programme have even become a new clients!
“I feel more confident, I feel empowered from within to take on challenges. This programme made me realize I am not alone. There are others who are facing similar things, and this encourages me to stay strong. I have also learned so much from the technical sessions such as marketing techniques, how to reach clients and brain-storming new ideas. This gives me more confidence to plan and try new things,” she said.
Looking towards the futureThe sessions Ms Chaochalard attended contributed to actual changes in how she run her business. She was able to identify her business objectives and focus on the process, rather than only the results. She is also implementing some of thing she learned related to branding.
“My hope for my business in the future is to keep it going and set a standard for event organization in Thailand. I want to be a business that is considered ‘small but fierce.’ I would like to be recognized and known for my good relationship with clients,” added Ms Chaochalard.