Peter Cauton: Pinoy Startup Mastermind
Peter Cauton considers himself a career HR Practitioner turned serial entrepreneur. But he is more than that. Technopreneurs and aspiring startups all over the country know him more as an inspirational speaker and a founder of several startup companies. He is an expert on how to get someone’s dream tech business started, and how to sustain it.
He started his first company, STORM Consulting back in 2006. The company has since grown by leaps and bounds and is now called STORM Rewards.
Peter Cauton is considered a leader of the Filipino Startup Movement via his site Juan Great Leap (juangreatleap.com). His mission in life is to inspire others to take the great leap into entrepreneurship. In his interview with Tech In Asia’s Raya Edquilang, he was asked: What was that defining moment when you made a conscious decision that helping others is what you want to do?
He answered, “In 2008, I made the biggest career decision of my life – I took the leap, kissed my corporate career goodbye and went full-time to help my struggling startup. Considering it was in the middle of the recession and I had a newborn son, it was an idiotic decision. By God’s grace, it worked out. In 2011, not only was I making a good living running my own firm, I also founded more startups. I just felt incredibly blessed.”
Peter felt the need to pay it forward. He also wanted to write a book. He shares, “It would consist of some of the lessons I learned in leaving corporate and developing my startup. But after some months, I found that it was just a huge step to develop material from scratch into a book. So I thought of something I had never thought I do – write a blog. I remember writing my first post. I dilly-dallied a lot, postponing pushing the ‘publish’ button for as long as I can. In many ways, starting a blog was scarier than writing a book. The exposure was instant. What if people hated what I wrote? Or thought ‘this guy is a hack’? But I thought, like my startup leap, nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without some risk. And so I clicked publish. The blog has almost taken a life of its own now. I totally did not forecast how much it would resonate with people. Its been an amazing blessing for me.”
His idea for Juan Great Leap is to do advocacy work to promote startups. One of their plans is to popularize Juan Great Leap conferences. “In the last one, sponsored by Ayala, we attracted over 200 people to a learning session/panel discussion. We are planning another one on March 2nd: a mass ‘speed dating’ event with 20 awesome startup founders. These bigger events are geared towards creating a mass learning opportunity for participants.”
Juan Great Leap also organizes smaller meetups, called Open Coffee. Every month, around 40 to 50 people participate. The meetup is geared towards collaboration and helping other aspiring techpreneurs. Peter says that the meetup is open to people from any part of the startup process from ‘I have an idea’ to ‘I have just sold my startup.’
The main attraction in Juan Great Leap events, according to him, is the open floor where people have two minutes to pitch anything to the group – an idea, a problem to solve, a need, a survey. The idea is to learn, share and have fun.
“Aside from these, I meet two to three entrepreneurs for coffee every Saturday morning. We talk about everything and anything – from startup ideas, outlining opportunities, and even the spiritual side to startups. A couple of people I’ve met at Startup Saturdays have become dear friends of mine, some also who I’ve had the privilege to mentor,” he adds.
Asked about the greatest challenge for Filipino tech startups, Peter remarks, “There aren’t enough entrepreneurs to take on the multitude of great ideas which are available. Right now, you see the same people in startup events – this is very good of course, as we are creating a strong community, but we need more people to join in. The biggest challenge is to inspire even more Filipinos to take that great leap!”
In the midst of his success, Peter admits that he has made mistakes anyone could possibly imagine. But he did not allow mistakes to stop him from pursuing his goal. “By sheer perseverance, passion, and prayer, STORM is still standing after nearly 7 years, and has been growing steadily,” he says.
Peter knows that being a technopreneur is also a process of learning things about yourself. He muses, “What I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that I really love the startup process – I absolutely love getting the right ideas and the right people together in solving great problems. I guess the HR person in me never left – I want to help other people find their passions. With this end in mind, can it get any better than rallying people to build startups, new entities that are supposed to center around the entrepreneur’s passions?
Looking around what has been happening in the startup scene around the world, I feel the Philippines has been left out a bit. I look at the Techcrunch-type sites around and I notice more and more extremely passionate, talented people taking huge leaps in pursuing their dreams, almost on an everyday basis.”
Peter has some words of wisdom for fresh college graduates and young aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Our graduates by and large think of one path: to make a resume, get hired by a corporation, and work their way up the corporate ladder. Then maybe get an MBA in 3-4 years, ideally abroad, and then resume going up that ladder. Talk to any business graduate of any school and this is what you’ll hear. This is the mind-numbingly singular plan.”
“Ever think about starting a business? What if you took that leap 2 years ago?
It is shuddering to think how many dreams have been quashed, how many creative impulses wasted, how many spirits have been broken, in these corporate jobs where positions matter more than people.”
Peter continues, “No way in hell is this because of a lack of talent. Filipinos are world-renowned talents. No way is it because of a lack of ambition. It is because of a lack of perception. A perception that, yes, someone in her twenties can put up a great, world-class startup. That, yes, you can make a dent in the universe.”
His final piece of advice for those who want to become entrepreneurs?
“Take that leap, Juan.”
PAL Saves Sharks
By Nicole Ann M. Aguila
All people might not know how important sharks are on our planet, thus raising awareness is the key to finally educate the whole world reasons why we must protect them.
Who would have thought that an airline company will put an effort to save marine life? Yes, Philippine Airlines or PAL just announced the ban of shipping of sharks’ fins.
This is after Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Earth Island Institute – Philippines and other concerned organization started a petition that protests against their freight policy.
“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins,” said Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island.
The airline was previously reported tohave shipped 136 x 50 kg bags accumulating 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong storeroom run by Global Marine.
Shark fins are hailed as an important ingredient on soups and traditional cures in China. But animal welfare groups toughly disagree with the trade, which usually comprises of taking only the fins and leaving the main body dead in the ocean.
“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches.
“We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem,” he said.
Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death.
Globally, tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.
Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food. The ocean produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.
Sharks play a vital role at the top of the food chain by maintaining balance in the oceans. Destroying shark populations could destroy our oceans and our life support system.
(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)
Tricia Gosingtian: Success Through Fashion Blogging
Unlike other young entrepreneurs with a specific brand or product, Tricia Gosingtian does not have a physical product or merchandise to sell. The twenty-four-year-old calls herself a creative entrepreneur. Her success stems from the fact that she simply pursued her passions: freelance photography, modelling, styling, and blogging, alongside a string of other skills. These hobbies helped her develop her skills as an entrepreneur and a fashion trendsetter. She is now one of country’s highest paid bloggers. A successful high-traffic lifestyle blog can generate up to seven figures from an accumulation of advertising, product placements, reviews and other sources of online revenues.
A graduate of Ateneo de Manila with a degree in Fine Arts and a major in Information Design, Gosingtian built her company from her blog, Tricia Will Go Places. The reknowned fashion blogger modestly claims that the blog, and the business that followed, was born accidentally.
At a young age of 18, despite lack of formal training in photography, Tricia started taking photos related to her interest in fashion, beauty and culture. She knew that there are professional photographers who are more experienced in the field, but that did not stop her. Tricia took and posted fashion photos simply because she is passionate about them.
A newspaper hired her to do street fashion photography. In contrast to fashion designed by famous name designers in studios, street fashion is any style of clothing design that emerged from youth culture. A photographer usually goes exploring places in an urban center where young people congregate, such as parks, rock concert stadiums, music festivals, malls, and university campuses. The photographer then proceeds to spot people in the crowd who stand out based on their sense of fashion, and asks them if they do not mind having their pictures taken.
It was during her stint with the newspaper when Tricia decided to upload her photography work to her blog site. She shares, “Eventually, I wasn’t able to sustain it due to my busy schedule back in college, so I decided to just take my own personal style photos. And the rest just followed.” Tricia admits that she has always been a very active internet user ever since she was in high school. She was not expecting that her hobby will turn into a full-time business venture.
Being a fashionista who loves to collect clothes, Tricia thought of putting her clothes into good use. Her idea was to make a photo documentation of herself wearing the clothes that she loves. Essentially, she became her own photographer and model. Until now, she still posts photos of herself on her blog. Her sense of style and individuality has caught the imagination of young Filipinas all over the country, who look up to her for fashion ideas.
“I never really thought it could grow to something much bigger. I’ve always had a penchant for graphic design so I remember enjoying creating layouts for all my friends’ blogs and for my own blog. Photography came into my life some time back then, when I suddenly grew obsessed with deviantART and sharing my work in this wonderful art community, ” she says.
Tricia works with publications and brands who see her as the icon of youth fashion. It isn’t far from the truth, as the blog regularly features photos of Tricia in her latest fashion getups. She believes that she has a lot of creativity to share throughout Asia and the rest of the world. She calls her style as ‘sophisti-cute’, her own mix of her two influences, Japanese fashion and Western high street fashion.
Tricia finds unique sources for inspiration, beyond the realm of traditional fashion design. “In terms of fashion and photography, I was mostly influenced by Japanese magazines. I wanted to recreate that kind of soft lighting they always had in their photos, so I decided to pick up my own camera and try to produce the same results. Fashion-wise, I don’t strictly follow Western trends, but I do follow Japanese fashion religiously. Coincidentally, Japanese fashion also takes its roots from Western trends,” she observes.
Asked what important traits one must have to be successful, she answers, “Positivity breeds positivity. Nothing good can ever come out of surrounding yourself with negative people who say negative things all the time. Focusing on the positive things can help you look at life in a different, more meaningful way.” As to her definition of success, Tricia replies, “Success is relative! My definition of success doesn’t really have much to do with fame or money, but a lot with being able to carry out my dreams with the presence and support of my loved ones.”
Life Beyond Work
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”
~David Star Jordan (1851-1931)
Educator, Author, Peace Activist
A fulfilling and satisfying life means more than the usual office-home routine.
A university friend I haven’t seen or heard from in several years sent me a message in Facebook last month. He was asking for information on volunteer groups so that he, in his own words, “has something worthwhile to do in his life.” Though his desire to be part of a socio-civic group might have been driven by wanting to have a social life outside of work, he could easily fill that gap by NOT doing volunteer activities. Yet he chose to share his time with others with the hope that by helping improve the lives of others, he improves his too.
Young professionals like him have the resources – time and energy – to volunteer and to actually do something concrete to help improve lives. I salute him and the yuppies who are like him.
This article outlines some of the volunteer services and groups I suggested to him.
It’s that time of the year again when people go to places with cooler weather. Others choose to brave the heat and volunteer their time cleaning and preparing public schools for the coming school year. This yearly activity is called Brigada Eskwela.
Being a Brigada Eskwela volunteer means sweeping, dusting and wiping floors, windows, ceilings, and whatever surface there is. For the few days that you are part of a school’s Brigada Eskwela volunteer corps, you will do everything and anything with nary a complaint.
If you don’t know of a school looking for volunteers for its Brigada Eskwela project this summer, message me and I will get you in touch with school principals who are looking for able-bodied volunteers.
If going places is your passion, volunteering in the places you go visit will certainly enhance that experience.
Travelling becomes much more meaningful and worthwhile when it is spent enhancing our knowledge on how other people, cultures are. A growing trend is the “travel with a cause” where solo or group travellers go someplace to volunteer their time and expertise.
With the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas still recovering from the devastation, kind-hearted Filipinos and foreigners have been organizing their vacation with the goal of helping the survivors recover. Maybe you and your friends may want to support the Yolanda survivors by going to the affected areas and physically help in the rebuilding process, say, by collecting and delivering books to public libraries.
Create Your Own
Now if the existing plethora of volunteer activities and groups don’t float your boat, don’t worry you can still volunteer by creating your own activity.
You only need to look at the needs of the less fortunate in your neighborhood, and then assess your skills and capabilities. For example, are there a lot of children who are below school age in your area? Why not create a regular reading group? You can partner with your neighborhood religious group in organizing this activity.
If reading to kids is not your thing, then why not organize a group to collect donations for care packages and deliver them to orphanages, halfway houses, etc.?
Truly when a person wants to do something worthwhile for others, only our imagination is the limit to what we can do.
As an opinion writer, I tend to shoot of my mouth with ideas on how the government and so and so elected official should do this and do that. This after all is the heart and soul of being an opinion writer. But an opinion writer who is so detached from reality is someone who is as dangerous to the society as a corrupt politician. To ground myself to the reality of the Filipino masses, I go out and volunteer. By immersing myself to what is happening on the streets, in the boondocks, I hope that my opinions are with soul.
The Gerry Roxas Foundation & Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees, Inc. invite you to the Leader’s Forum on May 24 3PM at Balay, Araneta Center. GRLAs Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte and DILG Usec Austere A. Panadero will speak on leadership & nation building. The Leader’s Forum is part of GRF’s year-long celebration for its 55th anniversary.
To confirm your attendance, text your complete name, high school & year of graduation to Jose Francisco “Cholo” Kawada at 0917-8824656.
Liza fancies herself a writer, but what she wants to do is to actually spend all her time reading what others have written. In the meantime volunteers her time for the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees, Inc. and Rotary Club of Makati McKinley’s charitable activities. Visit her Web site at thegirlninja.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or engage her at http://www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar.
Gian Javelona: The Pinoy ‘Steve Jobs’
Gian Javelona is the kind of person who would reach for the stars. In a recent interview with Rappler’s Ezra Ferraz, he confided, “When I was a student, I always dreamed of having a company. I wanted to build something that any person could use and a product that could change people’s lives. I remember my classmates were laughing at me when I told them that one day I would have a company that will beat Apple, and that I will name it OrangeApps.” We can imagine who is laughing now, but Gian is modest about his success.
Gian Javelona is only 20 years old, and he is now the CEO of of his own company, OrangeApps. How that happened is based on several factors. In the first place, Gian has never given up on his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He has always dreamed of having his own company even when he was still a student. One plan has remained on his mind: To build something that any person could use and change people’s lives.
To be a successful entrepreneur, Gian knows that you have to surround yourself with other people driven to succeed. A person can learn from them by absorbing their knowledge and ideas. The young CEO also has an attitude of confidence and resourcefulness. He has never allowed other people’s suspicions to get him down. This outlook helped him find the right people for his company. People have asked, “How can a 20-year old CEO successfully run a company?” He knows this is how many people think but he chose to ignore naysayers.
Building the company from scratch can be overwhelming. Javelona knows that there are issues he has to deal with. He confesses that building his OrangeApps team was the most difficult experience he has ever had. It’s not just because people looking down on his age, but there are other matters at hand. For one, it is hard to get people to join a very young company. It is another challenge to convince them when he can’t even assure them of a regular salary. For so many people, it is too risky to join a company that nobody has heard of.
Despite these circumstances, Javelona found inspiration in the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Gian claims to have watched the biopic ‘The Social Network’ ten times, and he identifies with what Zuckerberg went through during the early days of Facebook. Coincidentally, both Gian and his idol Zuckerberg started out by breaking rules. Zuckerberg built Facemash, precursor to Facebook, by taking the photos from Harvard’s website without permission. Gian created and released his first mobile app, a PUP-based mobile portal that accesses public information on the university’s website, without notifying PUP.
The school authorities told him to shut it down because security issues started cropping up. This did not discourage Gian. It just made him more determined as he fixed the app in one month. He tried once more by doing a relaunch. The app was an instant hit with PUP students in just three days. The users grew to around 2,000 active users out of a school population of 70,000 from over 20 campuses. He shares, “The President of PUP called and asked me to present the platform. Sometimes, you need to break some rules to make big things happen.”
In spite of this success, some people still question his capability to run a company at a young age. He responded by building the company “like someone would build a family – you have to make sure there is chemistry.” He picked people whose way of thinking is out of the box, like he is. He also chose those he knows he could work well with.
When asked how a person can unlock his or her true potential, Gian thinks it has something to do with the Philippine educational system. The country’s institutions of learning still have a long way to go to match its global counterparts. What it is doing now, according to Javelona, is to force students towards a job marketplace where being employed relies on skills that constantly change every year.
This is why Gian’s biggest advocacy is youth entrepreneurship. He is constantly invited to speak to young people in symposiums and seminars. Javelona believes young people should consider becoming entrepreneurs. On this, he thinks that education is the main problem. Our educational system molds students to be employees and not employers. He emphasizes, “If you ask a student today, what they want to do after graduation, most will say that they want to work for a big, local company or go abroad and earn big money.”
Last year, Gian was accepted to Ideaspace Foundation’s incubation program for young entrepreneurs. He remembers a funny moment when he is presenting his ideas to Coach Chot Reyes and Manny V. Pangilinan, and he was just wearing a regular shirt. He admits not knowing that he needs to have financial projections and a business model. “I didn’t even understand what those words meant back then,” he says good-humoredly. Even so, Javelona’s time at Ideaspace was life-changing. He actually recommends the incubation route for those who want to build a startup, but have no idea how, for as long as they are determined to see their business ideas come to life.
The people at Ideaspace assisted the young entrepreneur in terms of incorporation, financial projections, valuations, and marketing. Gian says, “Through them, you will meet the best people in the industry, including entrepreneurs, technologists, social innovators, and other aspiring startup founders.”
OrangeApps recently launched the app Khawna. The name comes from the Tagalog phrase ‘ikaw na’ (that’s you), a teasing way to praise a person who has done anything remarkable or impressive. It coincides with the company’s slogan: “It starts with you.” Gian believes that all of us can make a difference in the world.
According to him, Khawna is a learning platform where you could learn skills currently required by the industry. He believes that the app bridges the gap of industry learning and makes education available to everyone around the world. The learning platform offers online classes that emphasize hard skills, such as science and technology, engineering, mathematics, and entrepreneurship.
Gian says, “Imagine a kid in a rural area attending a class on entrepreneurship from his mobile phone, one taught by industry experts. What will happen to the Philippines? There are 7.93 million underemployed Filipinos and 6.24 million out of school, young Filipinos. With Khawna, we can make every Filipino employable.”
He hopes that this would result in more students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and create their own startup companies. In this, Javelona is very optimistic. He shares, “I’m really happy to see successful startups operating in this country, such as Kalibrr, Guestlist.ph, and TimeFree Innovations. They inspire young startup founders to keep pushing forward – They help us realize that disrupting industries here in the Philippines will lead the country to a better future.”
Every time Gian talks to students, he reminds them of how many huge tech companies started out as small ventures. He emphasizes that all of these tech companies like Microsoft and IBM started the way he and other young entrepreneurs started. “They were built by human beings like us. So it’s not impossible for Filipinos to also build a billion dollar company in the future,” he says.
For a lot of students and fresh graduates, it will be their first time to be told through Gian’s talks, that they can do something other than compete for entry-level jobs. He shares, “For the first time they see a Filipino company who wants to build something that can definitely change lives. I always tell them that ‘the sooner you start, the faster you will learn.’ I hope that inspires them.”
Many young Filipinos are so impressed and inspired by Javelona’s story. Many of them want to work for OrangeApps, and some feel encouraged to start their own company. Some of these young people started out as Khawna’s earliest users. They see the app as a launching pad to learn the skills they need to survive and succeed in the job market. Gian hopes that most of them can become future innovators, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders who will help uplift the country’s economy.
Franchising in the Philippines : A Guide For Filipino Retirees
Most Filipinos who work abroad as employees put all their time and effort to eight to five type of jobs for many years even for decades we might say, so that they could earn better to support their families and raise the capital they need for that dream business! They remain patient until the time they could finally rejoin their families in their homeland where they could retire and begin the next phase of their lives as even more productive citizens, seniors as they would be called, but not as employees anymore and not only as dependent members of the family, but as business-minded individuals who could contribute to the overall development of the country’s economy with their businesses that could employ a good number of fellow Filipinos.In these days, Filipinos are becoming even more learned about the significance of being business-minded. The opportunity for employment runs out at the age of 60-65, so the other option for retirees who envision active lives which is definitely more lucrative is to have their own businesses. However, the problem is that even though they have the funds to start-up businesses according to their interests, they seem to be hesitant about pursuing it, because of the challenges they might face in shaping their products and services, creating a business name, developing training, operation and production systems, and everything else under the word branding. It all appears to be overwhelming, because of the required attention on the details of doing business. Nevertheless, in franchising, problems that could possibly arise when doing business could be easier solved for senior citizens wanting to do business. Moreover, with the inevitable decrease in capability to deliver laborious and time consuming tasks in conducting one’s own business, the idea of franchising all seems to be very convenient, entirely beneficial and promising, because of its ready made plans, templates, and support system. Moreover, a franchised business is already popular, so if you are able to find the best location for it, you can expect that customers will come to you. If you are an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and dreaming of having your dream business in the Philippines after many years of work, I would suggest that you invest your hard earned money through franchising if you would want to be saved from most of the hassles of creating your own unique business.
There is the Association for Filipino Franchisers Inc. (AFFI) which you may go to and ask for the latest activities and resources pertaining to franchising. The said association encourages Filipino business enthusiasts to patronize local franchises. According to Armando O. Bartolome who is the president of AFFI, ‘franchising is a booming business’. To give you a better idea, Bartolome mentioned about a previous record that stated the income from this industry which amounted to Php54 billion in 2012. In addition, he also said that, ‘Philippines reportedly ranked third among countries that investors are looking at to source potential franchises’. This year, prominent local franchisees are expanding their market reach in other countries. It only means that franchising really is tested to be viable and more importantly, profitable. The success of the franchising industry in the Philippines could be attributed to the fact that our country’s very own franchisees and other international franchisees are incredibly packaged for the newbie entrepreneurs.Depending on your financial capability and interest, there are numerous options to choose from ranging from various industries namely food and beverage (which is very much sought after), travel, convenience stores, pharmaceutical, clothing etc.Food carts cost approximately thirty thousand pesos (Php30, 0000) to even double of this amount. This is very cheap already considering what you would get which are basically what you would initially need when putting it up. You would not have to worry about what to use as equipment and materials, how to train your staff, produce products and where to get your supplies.
You only have to take care of all your operational costs which include rental fees, salaries to employees, electricity and water bill. If you opt for something which is of bigger investment, you can expect to need some Php1.2 million for Mang Inasal, Php30 million pesos for Jollibee, Php35 million for McDonalds, Php5 million to Php8 million for Figaro and Php5 million for Mocha Blends (full store).Considering franchising as your gateway to business is undoubtedly a practical way to succeed in the industry and not put your hard earned money to waste. To retirees, capitalization is at hand, because they could utilize their retirement funds. Aside from wanting to spend it to finance the kind of lifestyles they want when they retire, retirees could use it as investment capital. After all, return of investment and profitability from franchising is realizable.
Richard Sanz: The Emperor of Iced Tea and Bibingka
Young entrepreneur Richard Sanz started out with nothing but a business concept and his gut feel. Going by personal instinct and intuition has been considered too risky by many business people. In Richard’s case, it has proven him right in the long run, because he now rules one of the most successful food businesses in the country.
He started his venture in 2004. “I was 23 years old when I resigned from my engineering job in a multinational firm. It was a risky decision as I had a family to provide for, but I went ahead because I was young and excited to have my own business.” He remembers his mother making iced tea from tea leaves and water. With that dearly-held childhood memory, Sanz collected Php120,000 worth of capital from personal loans and created Tea Square, the Philippines’ first specialty iced tea brand.The first Tea Square branch was opened at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City.
“We are confident that through focused development and brand-building, we can get a respectable market share in three to five years,” he shares. Despite the fact that most food businesses rely on the tried-and-tested iced tea prepared from powder, Richard Sanz has successfully popularized a line of all-natural tea beverages. Food Asia Corporation, his company, currently has four brands and 80 retail outlets nationwide, and has experienced revenue growth of over 1,000 percent during the past years.
“My target was the upscale, health-conscious AB market. Since I had a low budget, I developed my own products based on what I felt the market would enjoy. I also designed the cart, and learned how to use Adobe Photoshop to create my company’s logo and marketing materials. The entire setup took two weeks,” Richard narrates.
“Since I only had one employee, I did all the marketing, accounting, and other tasks myself. But it made me so proud to see people frequenting the store–between 50 to 100 customers came each day, probably out of curiosity. The good thing, though, is we were able to translate that curiosity into continuous sales.”
One way to ensure business success is to to educate the public about one’s products. Richarddid taste tests and set up in-mall posters informing the consumer of tea’s health benefits, such as boosting one’s immune system, preventing cancer, and reducing high blood pressure. He also had the creative idea to use ‘LoyalTea’ cardsto attract more customers. Richard believes in excellent customer service. To show his dedication in satisfying customer demand, he printed his personal cellular phone number on all packaging materials. If that isn’t engaging with your market on a very personal, down-to-earth manner, we don’t know what is.
Tea Square has grown to twenty branches nationwide. “I was able to recover my initial investment in only six months and repay my loans within a year,”Sanz proudly says.
In 2006, not wanting to rest on his laurels, Sanz sought to venture into the bibingka business. His idea is so simple and yet quite effective. “My family likes eating bibingka, but sometimes, we can’t finish a whole serving. So I thought of making smaller portions.” He called it as Bibingkinitan!, a combination of‘bibingka’ with ‘balingkinitan’, which means small or petite in Filipino.
At Php20 per piece, Bibingkinitan! rice-flour cakes are accessible to the mass-based broad C market. It has classic and flavored variants of the classic bibingka recipe, including chocolate, cream cheese, and macapuno.The mini-bibingkas sold like hotcakes. According to Richard, “Bibingkinitan! is the country’s leading bibingka chain today in terms of revenue and store number. It’s also our bestselling brand. We now have over 60 Bibingkinitan! branches.”
One would think that another business success would leave an entrepreneur to settle down, but not Richard, who seems to be quite a natural in handling a business venture. One year after Bibingkinitan!’s launch, he opened another upscale outlet called Bibingka Cafe at the Alabang Town Center in December 2007. Its menu consists of bibingka ala mode, champorado, salabat, tsokolate,and barako coffee, all classic Filipino comfort food and beverages,offered at very affordable prices. Not to be stopped, he opens three more branchesin 2008 at SM North EDSA, SM Clark, and SM Mall of Asia.
To further grow his flourishing business empire, Richardcreated another business division. Calling it Fresh-Foods, its first product offerings are ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook frozen foods, like Stuffees stuffed bread and tilapia ala pobre, as well as fresh poultry produce, like fresh white eggs, red duck eggs, and fresh chicken.
SM Supermarket was impressed with the company’s products and marketing efforts, and offered the opportunity for Richard to develop a brand of consumer food products for the broad C market. These products are now being distributed in major SM supermarkets and hypermarkets nationwide.
Richard notes that FreshFoods’s competition is much more formidable than those of their retail brands, but he remains confident about it. “We are confident that through focused development and brand-building, we can get a respectable market share in three to five years.”
FoodAsia presently has a workforce of almost 100 employees and occupies a 100square meter office in Muntinlupa City. Both Tea Square and Bibingkinitan! have begun franchising, with its combined 20 franchised outlets comprising roughly 25 percent of the current total stores. “We want to establish a presence in all towns in the Philippines,” Sanz says.
In today’s globally-oriented world, an entrepreneur should be able to think in more global perspective. “Innovation is part of our strategy. The product itself is an innovation because we changed the landscape for bibingka. I want to make Bibingkinitan a global brand. All the other food from other countries like Italy, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand are available locally but we have to establish distribution of Filipino food abroad. My dream is to make this Philippine delicacy known globally through Bibingkinitan. We have inquiries in Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong today. Hopefully it’s a first step,” the founder of the country’s first bibingka empire says.