Looking for the next big leap
Manila Bulletin, 07-27-2014
Amanda Carpo is not your typical take-all-risks entrepreneur.
She was well aware of the pitfalls of timing and the nature of the
market-her father was one of the first Filipino real estate
developers in the U.S., enjoying success during the late 70s and
80s in what would become Silicon Valley. The economy was booming
but was hit hard by the 1987 savings and loan crisis, and her
father went from building condominiums and subdivision to filling
In 2000, just a few years after her son was born, she saw the
dot-com bust take its toll on the economy in San Francisco. While
working as a senior tax consultant with Price Waterhouse
Coopers(PWC), she saw the difficulty of starting a business in the
other side of the world.
"We had a client that wanted to set up a BPO here. He had a storm
of problems," says Carpo. "He spent all his money on start-up
costs. His local bookkeeper stole from him. His local employees
stole equipment. He had a heart condition. It was a nightmare," she
Where others saw problems, Carpo saw opportunity. "I felt for the
guy. There was no market-no advisors for his size of business. Back
in 2005, there was no one addressing the need of small and medium
enterprises coming into the Philippines," she says.
Carpo wanted to make doing business in the Philippines easier for
foreign investors and help sell the country as an investment and
outsourcing destination. After she left PWC, she met entrepreneur
Gregory Kittelson and started a business consulting firm,
An appetite for risk
In the early days of their business, all they had were two used
laptops and shared a wooden table, but they were determined to turn
the idea into reality. It was Carpo's first foray into
entrepreneurship, but she was confident about what they had to
"There are so many people who will tell you that it's going to
fail," says Carpo, "so you have to be utterly confident that you've
got a good idea. You have to have that hunger, that appetite for
She adds, "We didn't really care about our competition. If you
think about your competition all the time, you'll never look at
improving yourself and never do something new."
Kittelson and Carpo ended up bringing one of their first clients,
Michael McCullough, on board the company. McCullough would help
them form KMC MAG Group, areal estate service firm, and KMC
Solutions, a staffing and serviced office provider.
While she was the experienced lawyer among them, she considers her
role to be that of the protector, making sure that every step was
calculated while weighing the risks and rewards.
"I'm the bossiest of the three," admits Carpo. "I feel strongly
about things like 'This is the way it should be.' I like to think
that what I do is pushing things along while watching over them. I
need to make sure that they're okay, because Gregory and Mike are
really aggressive in business. I am the type to say 'Let's take a
step back and assess, or let's write this down,'" she says.
The trio wasted no time, offering office space to small and medium
enterprises and developing their brokerage team, creating a
one-stop shop where foreign investors can register their business,
find an office, and even hire staff.
Their responsiveness, vision, and agility soon set them apart from
their competitors, with KMC MAG Group attracting business from
organizations such as Canon, Fox International Channels, the World
Wildlife Fund, Roche, Aboitiz, and QBE Shared Services.
"Clients were surprised because somehow we knew exactly what they
needed," shares Carpo. "The only reason why we knew what they
needed was because we listened to what the last client said. We had
plug-and-play solutions-we made it easy for them," she says.
One of the things that Carpo enjoys the most about her job is
being of help with the process of entrepreneurship. "Some lawyers
like annulments, some like litigation. I like business pitches and
helping create things," she says, adding, "It's always fascinating
to listen to business ideas, ranging from animation, accounting,
legal process outsourcing and real estate-a really wide range of
businesses. Seeing the idea become a reality is one thing, but
making a contribution to other people's lives and business success
Carpo enjoys the problem-solving aspect of her job. "When it's a
foreign investment, you have all these layers you have to get
through. It's like finding your way through a maze," she muses.
Keeping up the momentum can be a challenge for any entrepreneur,
and Carpo works just as hard to pursue her other
passions-triathlons, books and food-and achieve work-life balance.
"I try to squeeze in eight hours of work a day with endurance
sports training," shares Carpo. "I train every day. I always push
myself physically and mentally." Later in the year, she and her
husband Mike Bond are participating in Iron Man in Palma de
Mallorca and then Iron Man Philippines.
Getting the Correct Work
With KMC MAG Group looking at expanding its brokerage team and
its footprint to keep up with the country's real estate boom, Carpo
relies on a great support system to get her through her high-octane
schedule. "I have a team on the office and I have my triathlon
team," says Carpo. "I kind of keep the worlds separate. That helps
This year, KMC MAG Group will be celebrating its fifth
anniversary, while Kittelson&Carpo Consulting will mark its
seventh. For Carpo, it's been a long road since working with the
client who inspired her to take a leap of faith. She shares that
the last she heard of him, he was still trying to set up a
business, "Sometimes, it's the wave at the right time," says Carpo,
adding, "you can make a fortune or you can lose it, depending on
the timing." Catching the right wave also means being attuned to
the trends and events that could affect the industry. Carpo
foresees IT-BPO companies continuing to come to the country, and
other areas outside of Metro Manila benefiting from
decentralization. "The development is finally going to centralize.
It has too…it's too crowded in Metro Manila. It was always the
plan. It's in the Local Government Code, even the PEZA law. It's
going there because of the sheer pressure of the population and the
jobs," she says.
She looks forward to having more investors come in and be part of
the country's growth story. "There's still much room for growth
here-I believed it then, and I believe it now. This country has a
lot to offer," ends Carpo.