By Mark Louis F. FerrolinoSpecial Features Writer

The best tips in running a business do not always come from top executives; sometimes, they are heard from a typical individual who chose to stay behind the spotlight. These advices — which entrepreneurs must hear — may be picked up from an artist, a homeschooled biochemist and chef, an accidental entrepreneur, and a person who was diagnosed with a mental disorder. These tips may come from Jetro Rafael.

With a quiet intensity in his voice and a short sharp smile at the end of his statements, one can easily see the compassion, kindness and affection that pushed Mr. Rafael to start his businesses — installations rather.

“I don’t call it businesses because it is always equated to economics, I’d rather call it as installations,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview.

Mr. Rafael is the owner of Van Gogh is Bipolar and Bi•Ø2: The Oxygen Food, both located along Maginhawa Street, Quezon City. Unlike other food stops and stores in the street, these were established out of Mr. Rafael’s eagerness to share his knowledge and extend his hands to help other people.

Just like the famous painter Van Gogh, Mr. Rafael was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 28. Instead of taking the usual medications, Mr. Rafael decided to create his own natural homeopathy. He developed various concoctions, scientifically designed to trigger feelings of calm and happiness. 

To share the benefits of mood-altering nutrition with other people, he opened the Van Gogh is Bipolar in 2009. The place now serves as a mood-healing sanctuary and becomes a safe haven for every single being to celebrate greatness behind imperfections.

The recently opened Bi•Ø2: The Oxygen Food is quite different — from the atmosphere up to the way it is designed and presented. But just like Van Gogh is Bipolar, it is a product of Mr. Rafael’s advocacy. It is an avenue for him to share the successful healing process he witnessed after a family member who was diagnosed with cancer survived and was healed.

Bi•Ø2: The Oxygen Food is a zero waste zone health store that serves 100% alkaline-based natural nutrition. Products are scientifically designed to activate immune system and heal the body in a cellular level.

“Business, entrepreneurship, economics — these things need a lot of precision, assessment, logical thinking and rationality. What I learned is to go beyond rationality, to go beyond logical thinking, beyond assessment, beyond precision, and what is left is the innate wisdom that is beyond the usual consciousness and awareness that we read from books,” Mr. Rafael said.

His installations: the Van Gogh is Bipolar and Bi•Ø2: The Oxygen Food, are probably the testaments of how trusting innate wisdom works.

For aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, Mr. Rafael has some tips and ideas to share. One is: when you create something, make sure that it’s something that is part of you.

Second, be authentic. He said that running a business is not a performance. “Just be yourself because there’s no pressure to be someone else.”

Third, turn your problems into opportunities. He shared. “Two years ago, when one of my loved ones was diagnosed with cancer, it was supposed to be a problem. What’s the opportunity there? I saw the opportunity to create something that will somehow empower people to live their lives.” And, that’s how the idea behind his recent installation Bi•Ø2: The Oxygen Food came. 

Another important tip pointed out by Mr. Rafael is: in business, you have to be socially relevant. He explained that entrepreneurs have to make sure that they are doing business for the greater good.

“We’re part of a community, of society, and we live and thrive not just because we are great but we need everybody,” he said. “If you’re not socially relevant, what’s the point? When we create businesses, it is important to always be socially conscious. We are creating something because we want to create something good.”

Undoubtedly, many individuals enter into a business to gain and earn money. But whether it’s a business or not, don’t ever think about the return of investment (RoI) first, Mr. Rafael said. “It’s ironic. The moment you start of thinking about the RoI, then that’s the end of you being an entrepreneur,” noting that achieving excellent services and products must be the top priorities of entrepreneurs.

Finally, relax, enjoy and play as these are the only ways to survive the day-to-day business operations, he said.