Can a former doctor fulfill entrepreneurial roles? Forgoing a stable career in medicine to a road of uncertainty is one of Severina’s daunting life decisions. Discover how she found her niche and utilized her non-medical skills to earn while helping tourists explore new places through Severina Travel Services!
Severina Nobleza (50) studied in Ukraine State University as a Doctor of Medicine to secure a rewarding career both financially and intrinsically. After 2 years of practicing her field in Russia, she decided to go back to the Philippines to support her husband in raising their kids. Her initial plan was to take the board exam in her home country and become a certified doctor however, her husband discouraged her to continue her profession to focus on their kids instead.
“My husband told me that I need not to continue my profession because only one of us is enough to provide for the family…’di namin kaya pagsabayin,” she said.
At that time, her husband only provides just enough for the family’s basic necessities. She relied on medical allowance for transportation and food. She thought that chasing an amazing career while balancing a busy family life is impossible to achieve. Severina believed that the board exam was still worth taking a shot, however the lack of moral support from her husband and the overwhelming responsibilities as a mother did affect Severina’s confidence to fulfill her career goals.
“When the board exam results came in, I did not pass,” she said.
That day, she thought that maybe her husband was right. She recalled that staying at home with her kids was hard but harder for her ego. She couldn’t fathom how uncomfortable she was after she decided to let go of her medical career and embraced the uncertainties and financial consequences ahead.
With the encouragement of her husband, she thought of a business that she could run from home and came up with Severina Travel Services (STS) in 2003. STS is a travel service for Russians, Ukrainians and Kazakhstanis who want to travel to Philippines for leisure or business purposes. To start, she printed business cards to attract clients and went to several travel agencies for referrals. She contacted her former classmates in Russia to assist her with the growing business. STS’s excellent service made an unforgettable impression that enabled Severina to get a steady stream of new clients through word of mouth referrals.
“I rarely do other promotions to get clients. When I did, dumadami sila…Before I needed to hire a van to handle 20 pax in 1 week then 20 pax again the following week,” she said.
With the help of her husband, STS was able to occupy other locations like Bacolod, Cebu, Palawan and Boracay. They sold travel souvenirs like shirts, mugs and pearls which attracted more Russian tourists. What makes STS different from other travel agencies? Severina does not request for additional charges. She offers great tips from transportation, destination and activities and helps tourists to achieve a perfect vacation by avoiding unnecessary costs. Moreover, her foreign language skills enabled her to build rapport with her clients easily.
The Challenges of Growth
Severina’s biggest challenge was managing the workload. Her family can only do so much because of the language barrier. At one point, she had to shut her business to realign her priorities. She decided to hire 3 of her former Filipina classmates in Russia to help her with the business, however it did not turn into something she hoped for. One of them was accused of stealing money while the others stole her clients and started their own business.
Finding the Right Balance
Entrepreneurship may not be the path Severina wanted to pursue 30 years prior but it definitely gave her the opportunity to dream bigger and to see more possibilities. Severina’s 13 years as an entrepreneur taught her that it’s okay to slow down as long as she meets the standards she set for herself. Her home based business has given her the freedom to earn money and at the same time to visit other tourist spots with her family. Furthermore, she is able to teach valuable skills to her kids while enjoying the business trip. She loved how she is able to provide great experience to tourists and call it a day.
Her entrepreneurial mindset enabled her to see the possibilities rather than the problems. Truly, STS has been an instrument for Severina to achieve financial freedom and also gave her the opportunity to give back to the country that took care of her for 10 years. Instead of waiting passively for an opportunity, Severina was able to utilize her skills. Most of us wait for the right opportunity to come but does the opportunity ever come?