The Online Selling Enabler: Steve Sy, CEO Awards Honoree for Entrepreneurial Excellence
When Steve Sy discovered online selling, he reinvented Great Deals’ business model. In doing so, he also empowered a legion of online sellers and built a billion-peso company.
Riding the wave of e-commerce in the Philippines, Steve Sy developed his company Great Deals into one of the fastest-growing startups in the country, currently with over a billion pesos in equity. However, what’s most remarkable isn’t how Sy correctly read the market landscape and found a lucrative business model in e-commerce–a considerable feat in itself–but how he bootstrapped the company without external funding or investors while saddled with tens of millions in personal debt.
Through this experience of adversity, Steve Sy transformed Great Deals from a wholesale seller of cellphone accessories to an e-commerce seller to an e-distributor and e-retailer.
Today, Great Deals is more than a company that just sells wholesale or retail. It is an e-commerce enabler, managing stores, warehousing and even providing customer service for online sellers that were not unlike Great Deals in its early days. Harnessing the power of data and analytics together with shrewd business fundamentals, the company has become both the champion and the partner of countless sellers online.
The Business Manual recognizes Steve Sy’s transformative leadership by awarding him the CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Through his efforts, he has empowered online sellers to follow in his footsteps and harness the revolutionary power of e-commerce.
The CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence
The CEO Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence is a special category in The Business Manual’s CEO Awards where the website’s editors choose honorees for their entrepreneurial achievements in growing businesses. In partnership with Pharmaton, the award showcases leaders who are one in both body and mind. Each honoree must display outstanding leadership in two categories:
For the “Mind” category, candidates for the CEO position should demonstrate impactful pivot decisions made within the last three years. These individuals must substantiate their capacity for active decision-making, thoughtful analysis, and strategic leadership.
Keen insight and critical decision-making is only half the story. For the “Body” category, candidates should exhibit successful milestones achieved during their tenure through proactive execution and entrepreneurial initiatives.
Steve Sy’s leadership of Great Deals is a shining example of a great idea executed to perfection.
The Pivot that Changed Everything
For Sy, his eureka moment came when Great Deals was a wholesale dealer of cellphone accessories. “At that time there were deal sites. I was supplying them [with] cell phone accessories [and] power banks for their deals. That’s where it started,” he recalls. “And then Lazada came in. I became a merchant in Lazada just to move my slow-moving products.”
At the time, it was the company’s first time to join a Lazada event, and in just one day their entire stock of power banks was sold.
“That was my lightbulb moment,” Steve says. “Sabi ko, ‘What kind of animal is e-commerce that all of my stock for Christmas is gone already [and] I [now] have to restock?’”
All-In on E-Commerce
Knowing that e-commerce was–and still is–the future, and given his limited resources, Sy shuttered all his offline stores and focused solely on online. The bet paid off.
Taking a broader view of e-commerce, Sy developed Great Deals into more than just an online seller. Today, they are an e-distributor that empowers online sellers. And what’s more, they are an e-retailer that manages online shops for sellers, providing services such as content creation of photos, videos, and even live selling events.
For the first four years, Sy grew his company without any external funding, choosing to bootstrap his way to success. By stringently managing his cashflow and pouring his earnings back into the company, he steadily grew Great Deals.
As of 2021, Great Deals had an equity of PHP1.65 billion. It is one of the fastest growing startups in the Philippines.
Sunrise for E-Commerce
For Steve Sy and Great Deals, this is only the beginning. According to Sy, “I always say up to now, up to today, e-commerce is still a sunrise industry. When I say sunrise, [it’s] because [in] the whole total retail sales of the Philippines, only less than 3% are in the e-commerce space. Compared to China’s 40%, we can still grow 10 times more.”
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