Founder Spotlight: Georgianna Carlos of Permitly, On Being A Social Entrepreneur And Spearheading The Country’s Premier Office and Business Permit Solution
By Angela Lim
Georgianna Carlos is a bonafide serial entrepreneur whose knack for creating innovative solutions and business ventures has gotten her 3 top-notch companies under her belt and a lot to be proud of. One of her projects is Permitly, a platform where professionals and entrepreneurs register for or renew their business license without all the trouble. We spoke with George to get her take on working in new economies:
You started off in the Virtual Office business almost 15 years ago. What made you enter the industry/what potential do you see in it?
My mom started the business in 2004 because at that time, the only shared/virtual offices readily available were Regus, Servcorp — basically these big brands. She couldn’t find an option for SME owners like herself so she started one. I joined in 2014 and slowly helped modernize it. I began offering our services “tingi” style, catering to the culture of Filipino entrepreneurs who wanted to pay for only what they need, and opened our DIY space in our Makati branch.
To differentiate MyOffice from other spaces, we focused on mobile workers. These were people who prefer working at home or who are always on the go. The concept was, there are people who don’t need an office space 24/7 but need support to keep administrative things going. Our support services are catered to these types of people. At the moment we have 3 branches —all are self funded.
I entered that business for two reasons: I wanted to be an entrepreneur but wasn’t sure what or how. The second reason was that my mom was ready to semi retire so I felt... why not? At that time I was working in PR and wrote about PLDT’s first Ideaspace batch so it did spark my curiosity when it comes to the start-up world.
How did you go about giving birth to Permitly?
Permitly has been an idea for a while now but I never got around to doing it because I was so busy with my other companies (Fetch! Naturals and MyOffice Philippines). It was a group effort by MyOffice team. For our website, we outsourced — Limitless Lab, who are amazing! — since they were able to translate the way we wanted to communicate and present the business registration process to the public- seamless and “non-threatening.” Starting a business is already an overwhelming task so we want to be that person who will “hold their hand” in a sense through that process.
Running a virtual office means we do represent companies in a way because they use our address for their permits. At the same time, all admin related tasks, which also may include notices from LGUs, are things we handle and coordinate with our clients. So, it was only natural that, since our virtual office was being used for permits, it means there was a need to offer this service, Our advantage though was since we cater to all types of entrepreneurs in our virtual office, we were able to point out the work style that they all exhibit, so it was easier for us to mold Permitly to address that as well.
When did you notice the shift for a growing market for processing business permits?
In the Philippines, it’s quite common for people to hire someone to assist them in registering their business. This is usually done by accountants, lawyers, and other professionals or firms. But I noticed that there was no one stop shop for small business owners to go to to register their business. At the same time, we were getting more and more inquiries in MyOffice asking if we can help them register as well since we provide business addresses for registration. Knowing the personalities of our existing MyOffice clients, who prefer working and communicating online because they prefer the mobile workstyle type of life, we knew that if we were to set up a business registration company, it had to be, as much as possible, tech enabled. All of these things kind of came together. The fact that more MyOffice clients, who already had this “work profile” were asking for this kind of service, that’s when I realized it was an opportunity we can explore.
How did you go about the business development for Permitly?
Permitly is still a newborn — launched last August 2019 — so we are still going through a lot of trial and error. But we saw a growth opportunity from our work with MyOffice. It made sense because both companies are involved in a similar industry, addressing the needs of each other. MyOffice is part of the process of business registration- providing a business address. That’s why we had an idea of what may be needed, we just needed to do our due diligence and fleshed it out with MyOffice clients in mind.
Do you see Permitly as a tech service?
Definitely. At least, that is the goal we want the company to be. Right now, since to be able to deliver this service requires following the processes of LGUs, the tech portion of the service is focused on making it easier on the client’s end when it comes to their requirements and understanding the registration process.
You’ve managed to stay UX centered. What are the driving forces behind this, and
how do you implement this?
We focus on our key competencies. This is why we outsourced limitless lab to create our website. We already knew there are so many options for business entities… entrepreneurs can get confused on the best one for the type of business they want to set up. Based on MyOffice’s clients, we already know that they want to be able to work mobile. Permitly has to be customer focused so they see us as that go to person who not only help you register, but will make the entire process as easy and relaxing as possible.
What is the commonly perceived notion of your line of work in Permitly?
People think that we are just like any other firm that offers a service to register a business. Yes, we do have a lot of similarities and we are offering the same product/end goal but what makes us different is that we are focused on making the experience easy for clients using technology. The focus isn’t just getting the company registered, it’s making the process as easy and efficient as possible by trying to fulfill as many processes as possible through an online platform.
What is the correct way to think about it?
One thing I’m glad about is that the idea of a virtual office has definitely evolved throughout the years. In the past, people were ashamed to say that their business is using a shared office. Now though people understand that we have a very strict process before accepting clients. People are also more open and have a more collaborative mindset than before and believe the saying that it’s execution, not ideas, that make a business. People are starting to understand what it is: a shared office space that offers services that help new businesses start and grow
What don’t you agree about when it comes to the initial ideas of what people think when the words “virtual office” and “business permit fixing” come to mind?
When it comes to Permitly, it can’t be helped that people think that way because of the nature of that industry. What we hope to be able to show there are other ways to deliver the service. One is through an amazing customer experience. Another is using technology to show how it can expedite certain processes. People also have a tendency to think that business registration is crazy complicated. While yes, it is tedious, I think the difference we can make is to showcase the journey for them to better understand and appreciate the process. We are very transparent on what stage we are in when it comes to their business registration and what steps we took and are currently taking.
How do you think the industry is progressing?
When it comes to shared space, it really has grown which I’m glad. More people, both small businesses and large enterprises, appreciate and understand the purpose of virtual offices and other types of work spaces under the shared office umbrella. Now, entrepreneurs have many different options when it comes to what kind of work space and services they need, which is great.
Though slow, I think there are efforts when it comes to upgrading the systems to register a business. We have the Ease of Doing Business Act and SEC adopted an online process. While there is definitely a lot of space to be improved on, I feel that most of the efforts in the future will be centered around technology based processes.
Itching to start your business and sort all the paperwork and details the right way? Head on over to Permitly to get started.