There’s an African proverb that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This couldn’t ring any more true when it comes to launching a business.
Many start their businesses on their own for many reasons. Some have trouble letting go, delegating, or relying on other people to do tasks the way they want it to. Others face the challenge of finding someone as passionate as they are. But when they do find a business partner that complements them in their venture, more often than not, the sum is a whole lot greater than its parts.
More than friends
Entrepreneurs Kelly Parreño-Librojo and Rachel Carrasco were introduced by a common friend while they were both living in Singapore in 2012. The two became great friends and eventually founded several startups together—even one during the pandemic—which, at least based on their experience, underscores a logical part of how successful partnerships should kick off.
“Having the same values, we feel, is the most important thing. It will paint you a good picture of how you can grow and evolve together. You want your partnership to have a long life span and stand the test of time,” says Carrasco.
Although everyone may have heard of the advice that no one should go into business with friends, Parreño-Librojo and Carrasco’s alliance doesn’t only stem from compatibility.
“Being in a business partnership entails a lot of commitment, patience, and hard work. Kelly and I have been and are in other partnerships, but we can say that what we have together is the best so far. We can be chill about things, but we can grind at the same time,” Carrasco explains.
“Having the same values, we feel, is the most important thing. It will paint you a good picture of how you can grow and evolve together. You want your partnership to have a long life span and stand the test of time,” says Rachel Carrasco.
Not only is compatibility important, but so is sharing the same goals and work ethic in keeping the partnership healthy and durable. However, the duo is quick to point out that it shouldn’t start and end—or be built—on friendship alone.
“There needs to be a common ground, mutual respect, and trust,” says Parreño-Librojo. “By mutual respect, we mean you see each other as equals. Second, find someone who complements or adds to your capabilities rather than one who goes against it.”
For instance, one who always runs wild with ideas might do well with someone who is more grounded and pragmatic. You can also self-introspect and pick out traits that you might lack and search for someone who can compensate for you in that department.
“We believe that our business relationship works because we each bring our own set of expertise to the table. This enables us to have mutual accountability as well as respect for each other’s standing and individual [points of view],” says Carrasco.
Carrasco, who is currently based in Singapore, handles strategy, business development, and marketing, while Parreño-Librojo and her husband Miguel take care of operations and product assessment and development. “Our process is simple. We always ensure that there is a clear split to our workflows,” explains Carrasco.
Joining forces for Rio
Banking on the strength of their partnership, Carrasco and Kelly and Miguel Librojo tread familiar territory when they joined forces again to bring a new canned vodka-based cocktail brand to the Philippines. “Rio came about when my husband Miguel and I first discovered the brand while on a business trip to China in 2018,” says Kelly.
After securing exclusive distributor rights, the couple invited Carrasco in the second half of 2020 to help develop Rio’s presence, given her expertise in managing global wines and spirits. The drink is known for its strength (a can is equivalent to the buzz of two to three cans of beer), low sugar, and zero purine (which is the culprit behind gout, among other things).
“Truthfully, there really isn’t a rule book to a perfect partnership. You will both need to have the ability to compromise and listen to each other, like any other relationship in life,” says Kelly Parreño-Librojo.
Although the pandemic has restricted travel and may have handed them uncertainties, the workflow remains the same. “The only frustrating part is that in the past I could easily fly to Singapore and Rachel would always be in Manila, so we get face time every month and then we get to meet our manufacturers and suppliers in person. But none of it hasn’t been impossible to do online. It’s just that, of course, there are things that could be achieved or resolved quicker in person,” says Parreño-Librojo.
The two don’t seem fazed by the “new normal” dilemmas. In fact, it may even be conducive to growth as they are looking to launch Baken, the world’s first premium all-bacon snack and confectionery line, this August.
Ultimately, the duo’s career arc isn’t designed simply to be a blueprint for any kind of partnership, but it comes close enough to learn about finding meaningful working relationships. “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” shares Parreño-Librojo about red flags in finding the right partner. “Avoid highly emotional partners and one that is not solutions-oriented. You want someone who will help you, not bring you down. Truthfully, there really isn’t a rule book to a perfect partnership. You will both need to have the ability to compromise and listen to each other, like any other relationship in life.”