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Business Bits: Charles Paw Of Beyond The Box And Digital Walker

For Charles Paw, the secret to making it as a successful entrepreneur is simple diskarte. From selling GI Joes to his elementary classmates at a small profit to building computers for his family and friends in college, Charles Paw, the man behind Beyond the Box (the local Apple reseller), Digital Walker (the one-stop tech accessory store) and the Tasteless Group (behind Scout’s Honor, Le Petite Souffle, and Ping Pong Diplomacy, among others), shares a glimpse into his life as an entrepreneur and the secrets to steering your business in the right direction.



What events helped shape you into the entrepreneur you are a today?

My father was small-time businessman, but my entrepreneurial mindset came about out of necessity. I grew up in a lower middle-class family and went to a school where my classmates travelled and had money. So when I wanted something—for example, a toy—I had to work for it.

I couldn’t ask for toys  from my parents, so kailangan kong gumawa ng paraan para sa sarili ko (I had to find my own way to make money). Every Friday, I would ask my elementary school classmates what GI Joe they had wanted, and I went with my mother to Divisoria to buy them. A GI Joe then cost around 45 pesos, and I’d sell it for 65, so the profit I would use to buy myself a toy. So that’s how it all started. 

Another factor that pushed me to become an entrepreneur was my father giving me a “financial deadline.” He said to me, “Until high school lang kila susuportahan, after that, you pay for your own college; tapos na ako sayo.” He was just wired that way.

So I worked for my cousin, repacking diapers, tissue paper and cotton buds in the stock room. I’d spend half the day working, and half the day going to school.


Beyond the Box and Digital Walker has almost 50 stores nationwide, and you’re also managing numerous successful restaurants and dining concepts under The Tasteless Group across the metro.

Beyond the Box


Digital Walker


What are your rules of thumb when it comes to choosing a business? What makes you decide whether a business idea is good or bad?

Before it was all about gut feel, but now I’ve come to rely more on the numbers. Now, when I’m considering launching a new product/ restaurant, I also think whether I can grow this concept to 10 to 12 stores. If it’s a “one of” type of idea, I don’t pursue it because sayang lang yung pagod (it’s not worth the effort).


What traits do you think are essential in an entrepreneur?

Diskarte (resourcefulness). There are some people who are born to do business and some who can’t handle it. Hindi lahat ng tao madiskarte. For me, I think it also helped that I’m a positive thinker and a risk-taker.

I also think you should be open to new ideas and suggestions. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so if you’re not as adept when it comes to a particular aspect of business, hire someone who can help you. For me, my weakness is organization. Buti nalang my wife is organized so she helps me with that.


Can you recall a business idea that failed? And what did you learn from it?  

Marami na (There were many). One example, I tried to launch a one-price concept like the Japanese stores that sold everything at 88 pesos or 99 pesos and the like in Greenhills. It didn’t do very well.

I realized that not all businesses can be built using the same model. Even if this business model worked in my other enterprises, it doesn’t mean it will work for this particular concept. You still have to fine tune and look for a model that will work for this specific idea.

Another mistake which I learned was don’t branch out with too many ideas, which I did with my food business. Instead of developing numerous concepts at a time—which becomes confusing and laborious—focus on scaling up instead. If an idea/concept works, scale up (open up branches). If you’re handling different concepts/ products or services, choose the ones that are working. For the ones that are not doing so well, kill them off.


What other tips and pieces of advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?

Never invest more than what you’re willing to lose. Set a limit. For me, I have a particular financial threshold which I set for every project; dapat hanggang doon lang yung losses ko. Even if the business loses money, it shouldn’t affect our cash flow or operations for the other businesses. Of course, you set a limit which you’re comfortable with.

Set a deadline for ROI. For most of my business, it’s two years. More or less you should be able to gain traction in 2 years. If I feel that a concept has no hope of recovering, we shut it down immediately to cut our losses.

Go for the basics. In the end, if you want to be successful, go for the basics. Go for products and services that will cater to the most people, the biggest common denominator –products that either people need or which people are most familiar with.

Build relationships and network. This is the basic skill that every businessman should know. Learn how to talk to people; importante talaga ang relationship.


Photo of Charles Paw by Kitkat Pajaro for PLANT magazine