Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico is founder and CEO of Evident,, an Integrated Marketing and PR agency. We talk to her about her journey from working with the government and NGOs to starting her own company and what makes it different from other agencies in the industry.

Can you give us a quick background on what it is you do and what Evident is all about?

Evident is a full service integrated marketing and public relations firm. Our goal at Evident is to provide our clients—whether they are brands, NGOs, or corporates—with high-impact, multi-platform, strategic communications that deliver success in areas where it matters most for them.

Did you always think you were going to start a business after graduating from college?

I graduated with a degree in International Relations and a minor in History. After college my interests were working in the public sector—government and NGOs. I served as Executive Director of the Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation for a few years, and it was through this work in the development sector that I saw the need for better communications solutions for the sector. Through my work at CLAFI, I built up my skills in stakeholder engagement and partnership building, which I later used as important building blocks for my career in communications. I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree in communications and upon returning to the Philippines, I started Evident. It’s not a traditional linear career path, but I think that my diverse work experience gives me a much broader perspective that I now take to our work with clients.

Today we’re a team of thirty people and we cover a broad range of work from public relations, corporate communications, digital marketing, and advocacy communication.

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Proud of our CEO, one of the two Filipinos in @campaignmagazine APAC’s WOMEN TO WATCH. RP: @cecile.dominguez Five years ago I decided to build an agency despite the fact that I had no prior agency experience and my background was in NGO work. As an outsider to the advertising and PR industry, I am honored to be part of this list of incredible women. I am also grateful that Evident is recognized as “a company that has an uncommon focus on social impact.” Helping NGOs become more effective communicators is part of our DNA and will always be a major driver of the work that we do. Thank you Campaign Asia-Pacific for the honor! #WomentoWatch #2018 #CampaignAsia #CecileDominguezYujuico #evident #evidentph #advocacy #communication #marketing #publicrelations #digital #agency #manila #philippines

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What were any challenges you encountered starting your own business?

In the beginning, a key challenge was that I didn’t come from a traditional consumer advertising or public relations background. So we initially focused on niche areas where we were most competitive, and then we used that strong base as a jumpoff point to expand into more services and specializations.

Are there things you wish you knew before starting your own business?

I started Evident because I loved working on communications campaigns. I enjoy working with clients and helping them solve their most pressing challenges. But as CEO, I’ve learned that in order for the business to grow and scale, I have to be very good at balancing my time between client work and other parts of the business—finance, operations and HR. Having a great team is also important in ensuring growth, so you can distribute responsibilities well and there’s minimal bottlenecks and backlog.

What do you think sets Evident apart from other businesses in the industry?

What sets us apart from other agencies is that our team is much more diverse than most traditional agencies. I believe that we get the most creative, strategic solutions when lots of different voices and perspectives come together to collaborate. This diversity also means our team is able to handle a broad range of projects from various industries: digital marketing for a fintech firm; sports entertainment for a PBA team; PR for brand new property developer; to advocating for more girls in STEM careers.

The other thing that sets us apart is our culture. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to build and maintain a culture where people feel empowered and enabled to do their best work. I run an annual employee engagement survey and present the findings to the entire organization. I choose to present this because I want to lead by example and show that I consider employee satisfaction and a positive workplace environment as key metrics for our success. We try to maintain work-life balance with generous vacation and work from home options. We also give additional days off for parental and family leave to make sure that our team members can take the time they need to care for their kids or elderly parents.

What are your go-to podcasts, newsletters, books for tips on business?

The book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity has a catchy title, but is also a really helpful guide to mentoring and how to have candid conversations with your team. This book helped improve the way I think about company culture and my role as a mentor for my team. I also enjoy listening to Reed Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast. I also recommend that people should read industry-specific publications so that you understand the challenges and opportunities of your industry and prepare for what’s ahead.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of starting their own business?

When planning your business, have a very good understanding and a clear picture of who your initial customers will be. Don’t go with generic demographics or behavioral information—really focus on segmenting your customers well and in a very detailed way so you know how to focus your efforts in areas where you have the highest chance of success, especially when you’re bootstrapped.

Are there any non-negotiables you have when it comes to balancing work life and your personal life?

I have a four-year-old son, and my husband JR and I try to start our work days early so that we’re able to spend a good chunk of family time at home at the end of the day. We also try to equally share parenting and home responsibilities so that also helps with time management and flexibility.

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"When we talk about women's participation and success in the workplace, I think in the Philippines we also have to layer it with challenges of inequality when it comes to socio-economic background. So for example, if it's somebody who comes from a position of privilege, those barriers may not be the same as somebody who wasn't able for example to finish high school. So there are gender barriers but there are also other barriers that I think when we look at it as a whole, it has to be that full picture of what's happening in the workplace, what's happening at home and then also, acknowledging privilege and understanding that our barriers may not be the same as the barriers of other people in society." – @cecile.dominguez, CEO and founder of @evident.ph. Thank you @cnnphilippines for hosting another successful women's summit. It was a privilege for our founder and CEO to join the discussion about female leaders in the workplace. #women #workplace #womenleaders #evident #ceo #CNNphilippines #takingcharge #balanceforbetter

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Is there anything else you want to share about owning a business, especially here in the Philippines?

Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum and your focus shouldn’t only be on your customers. In today’s challenging business environment you have to understand your full stakeholder landscape and that includes your supplier network, employees, industry network, local community, and regulators. Aside from working on your product or service, I recommend investing time in building business intelligence so you’re always prepared for what’s ahead and understand potential risks and disruption to your business model. At Evident, we often work with our clients on this kind of business intelligence and it helps them make more strategic decisions that have impacts their growth and bottom line.