It’s a rainy morning in the Philippines at 8:30 AM, while it seemed a sunny day in Sydney at 10:30 AM, as seen through the video as Rica hops in on Zoom to join me for an interview.
It’s not everyday that you get to interview a busy lady CEO who wears quite a number of hats, yet is able to do what she loves and make a difference to her countrymen at the same time. Interestingly, despite her radiant personality, Rica prefers working in the sidelines – no spotlight for her, just work. She has owned several successful businesses yet has only obliged to two interviews – this, being the second one.
A Filipina now based in Australia and was also once an online freelancer, Rica continues to empower Filipinos by giving them a better option in terms of work and a more convenient way of receiving what they earned from all their hardwork.
It all started when she saw the opportunity to outsource work from clients in Australia to the Philippines. While clients in Australia were not new to outsourcing, Rica’s challenge back in 2006-2007 was really more of “selling the idea” to the Filipinos on how they could work and earn from home. The concept of working from home using the internet was fairly new to a lot of Filipinos back then, yet when Rica helped build Remotestaff.com.au together with her husband Chris, it eventually became one of the sought after platforms by Filipinos who were looking for online opportunities.
Who is Rica Lalaine Jankulovski? What is she passionate about and what problems of today does she loves solving?
I define myself based on what I value most at this point in my life. Right now, I am a mother first, then a wife, then someone who’s working on resolving some problem via projects and businesses that I am working on. I love reading high fiction books and I believe in aliens.
There are lots of problem around us. Life in itself, I think, is a problem, but a good one that’s worth solving.
I am mainly keen on looking into what I can do within the Filipino communities. My focus are my kababayans (countrymen) 100%. There are 100 million of us, and there’s a LOT of problems that needs addressing. There’s a lot of opportunities, as well. There’s still a lot of inefficiencies at the way Pinoys do things. I can pick at least a hundred here, but I’d like to focus on 2 that will make the most impact : Money and Jobs .
I love solving problems with tools. I believe that tools are extension of ourselves, and with proper tools – and ability and foresight – to use it properly, we can do more. We can do better. We can solve problems easier and faster.
I worked at Remote Staff from 2007 – 2014. I did recruitment, operations, accounts, IT, client management etc. I have handled all facets of operations except for Marketing. I loved this so much, this was my first baby. It had full of problems I love to solve.
- Providing jobs to underrepresented Filipinos – Check!
- Providing tools that promote transparency and trust – Check!
- Identifying the best matched Filipino Staff for every business – Check!
- Mentoring Filipino Staff – Check !
The past 5 years (Dec 2014 to present) revolved around helping the Filipino immigrants in Australia send money back home online. When I started Remit.com.au, most Philippine remittance providers are only doing cash based remittance. I went in and thought there was a better way to do this. I refused to take cash and “trained” my customer to do online transactions. 20,000 registered customers later, I think I’ve done my part and have relatively reached my goal.
Online remittance in Australia is now a norm. I have done what I can for the Filipino communities here. So now, I am going back to my first love. Doing something for the Filipino digital workers. This time, I will solve the issues on Filipino freelancer payments.
What was your journey like to get to where you are? Did you have any mentors? Who were they?
Back in college, I did my thesis about migration. There is a conclusion in one study, that the further you move from where you are born, the more successful you can become income-wise. Meaning, you will be financially better off than your parents if you move away from your hometown. That got to my head, and from early on I wanted to move out of the country. My greatest dream then was to go to America and work at McDonalds. I heard they pay $10 per hour! Back then, that was already a lot of money. I learned that it wasn’t easy to get to the USA. So I went applying for Macau, Hong Kong etc. – to work as a domestic worker. I went through that journey and while waiting to get out of the country I worked as a call center agent. Ate a lot of pancit canton. Commuted my share of 2-4 hours a day.
It’s a long journey getting to where I am today. A lot of people see what it is now and forgot that there was a journey to get here. Though not explicitly, I consider Chris – my husband and mentor – as my greatest critic. I consider ALL the business owners and startup founders I talked to my mentors, as well. I learned the ins and outs of doing business via my work at Remote Staff. I talk to a LOT of clients who are hiring staff everyday. I also talk to a lot of staff working with clients everyday. I breathe the hows and the whys of these businesses. It can’t be helped to grow into a person that wants to do its own business.
While working with RemoteStaff and a kid in tow, I did a lot of false start business. The very first one was an Asian dating site called iDateAsian.com. The goal for the site was to help Filipinos find love online. That didn’t work for a lot of reasons, mostly because I didn’t know how to monetize it. It was a challenge because I didn’t want to take money from people. Then I started OnCallNanny.com.au – where I get Filipinas who are already in Australia to work as babysitters. After getting 30 something Filipinas hired, I also stopped because I couldn’t take money off these Filipinos. I feel bad taking a commission off their hourly rate. I also did www.PhilppinesAtWork.com – this was about the same time we started RemoteStaff – it was redundant to what RemoteStaff is, so this was killed too.
So anyway, I left RemoteStaff in December 2014. Then I went and did www.Remit.com.au – this is the very first business that earnt money and has been profitable from the start. I did this on bootstrap, I think I had $2,000 when I started this and a Filipina VA. This company has grown and processed approximately AUD $300,000,000 from Australia to the Philippines.
Doing a money transfer business is not easy. I did not expect regulators to exist. I did not expects that banks wanted to be treated like gods. I did not expect the red tape. When I started RemitAU, I was only thinking of making it easy for the Filipino communities in Australia. I didn’t realize that it was more complicated than that.
Tell us about your latest ventures. Describe that a-ha moment when you knew your venture with PayStaff and Working Remote might actually become a success.
I have been working and building remote teams since 2007. This sub-group of Filipinos is very close to my heart. Chris and I would sometimes talk about this and we would tear up, he would cry. I would cry thinking about the vastness of what can be done for the Filipinos needing jobs. There is a lot. So much work needs to be done here.
I noticed Facebook groups for Filipino freelancers around about 2016. I told my RemitAU marketing team to test the idea of offering services to Australian SMEs with a Filipino team in the Philippines. I think we did like 1 week campaign and we got clients coming in. We stopped and then we moved on. RemitAU is mainly built with the Filipino immigrants in mind, so I put the SMEs on the side. I parked it and thought I will get back to it when I am ready. 2016 has been a crazy year for me – new baby, my husband paralyzed with double brain operations then kidney operations. I parked everything and did what I can.
Come June 2017, a year later, I attended the Running Remote Conference. I am very passionate about my remote team and I do everything I can to make it better for myself and my team. I was like, “Wow a conference on how to run remote teams? I’m in!” So I got there and learned. I got to talk to several Australian business owners with teams located in the Philippines. Most of the questions revolved around TRUST, RECRUITMENT and PAYMENTS – HOW is this done ?
That was my AHA moment. A more conscious and directed AHA moment. I know the answers to these questions. There was a lot of learning the past 5 years from running RemitAU that can resolve these problems. I also decided then that the Filipino Freelancers needed an event like RunningRemote – so I started www.WorkingRemote.ph , which is a conference that can bridge the gap between the client and the Filipino staff. I wanted full understanding for both sides to happen.
What do you hope to achieve for both ventures in the next couple of years?
For PayStaff, I want to streamline the payment process for the Filipino remote workers by making it easier for the client to move money to the Philippines and, likewise, make it easier for the staff to receive the money in the Philippines.
For WorkingRemote, I just want more people to know that there’s the option of working from anywhere. That there’s a whole world of jobs to choose from. That it’s sustainable to work from home. That no one needs to suffer from Manila traffic and (sometimes) from unreasonable demands of local employers.
What was the best advice that you received in terms of career and business?
First is you can say no. Second, people will take advantage of you if you let them. Third, read contracts properly. Last but not the least, you don’t need to be 100% ready to start a business.
When it’s all over, how would you like to be remembered?
I am not sure how to answer this question. I’ve always just wanted to work on the sidelines, I am very introverted. I do not want people to know me. I don’t want people to remember me. See, this is one of the issues I have with WorkingRemote. I was asked to make videos and build my profile and I’m like no, I don’t want to do it. Saying that, the Filipino market is very responsive to personal branding, it was necessary.
Look, I just want things done. And done the most effective way possible. One thing we all have to know is that behind me, there is a big team working. This is why I feel awkward putting myself at the forefront and say, “Hey I founded this, I founded that.” The reality is, I couldn’t have done it alone– a lot of what I have achieved is done because of my team.
So if I have to answer this question. I guess when you remember me, remember that I work in a team. Remember my Remote Filipino team when you remember of me.
In world where the playing field is being leveled, one can just imagine what problem Rica wants to solve next.
Rica Lalaine Jankulovski is one of those female business owners who has a foresight other than that that directly translates to revenue generation. She is a passionate problem-solver who knows how to use the latest tools and puts them to good use; who’d also rather put her team instead of herself in the spotlight, also someone who takes the lead in solving the problem of her countrymen yet prefers to be just in the sidelines.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see her on stage at the biggest upcoming Working Remote conference on September 13 and 14 and the SMX Aura.
Be there and just see her vision unfold. A great lineup of local and international speakers awaits aspiring remote workers and digital professionals alike – Chris Jankulovski, Kris Reid, Gina Romero, Virginia Bautista, Julian Canita and MK Bertulfo, to name a few.
Marketing in Asia is a media partner of the Working Remote Conference PH 2019.