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Fight for your passion – Stephanie Escaño

Stephanie Escaño established BREW.optimism this May, and it’s making a mark for “providing optimism in every cup”.

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Even in 2019, Stephanie Escaño already planned to open her own coffee shop. Certain things happened – including Covid-19 – that prevented her from doing this; but the idea to sell coffee persisted. And with around PhP5,000 to PhP7,000.00 in capital (covering the coffee, bottles, labels, and other ingredients and equipment used for the cold brew coffee), she established BREW.optimism.

The business was originally supposed to be called just BREW, “but when you apply for a username on Facebook and Instagram, it is such a common word. So I opted to add .optimism since the idea was to provide optimism in every cup of coffee made,” she said.

Stephanie said she always loved coffee.

Drinking coffee “has been a bonding experience for me and my dad, and it has been my companion through different stages/milestones in my life. Aside from that, I wanted to give Filipinos the opportunity to enjoy a great cup of coffee without paying over PhP120 pesos.”

The lockdown “helped” her, since “most of my weekends are now spent at home, I became more motivated to really get this going and I have more time to really focus on the business.”

Looking back, Stephanie said she sort of knew this was a field she would enter.

“I really love being in the kitchen and being able to make food or baked goods for my family and friends. I took up Hotel and Restaurant Management at St. Scholastica’s College Manila because I knew I wanted to be in the hospitality industry. After graduating, it took me three and a half years before I got the courage to pursue my passion in coffee,” she said.

The venue has done well thus far.

“Currently, we have reached ROI on our initial investment, but we are still putting money into the business to further develop our products,” she said. “Yes, I think the venture is definitely profitable, especially with the Filipinos’ innate love of coffee.”

There remain challenges.

For instance, due to the current situation, “we are not able to tap bigger markets since we cannot venture far (e.g. to join bazaars, have a pop-up stall at events, etc). Right now, we are focusing on providing quality cold brew coffee here in our neighborhood in Las Piñas, though we do get some orders from Manila and Quezon City from time to time that we fulfill by consolidating orders and using courier services.”

Another challenge was sourcing our bottles. “Since we are a small business, we do not have the purchasing power to order thousands of bottles in one go, so we had to resort to purchasing from resellers that could accommodate our orders. More often than not, their prices would change all the time or their stocks would run out immediately so we had to have back-up suppliers,” Stephanie added.

But Stephanie keeps a positive spirit, seeing these challenges as learning opportunities.

And so for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can she give?

“Give yourself time to plan – whether you are making a ‘super detailed, planned to the last item’ type plan or you want to start with a rough idea and slowly get all the pieces together, give yourself time to figure out exactly what you want from your business, and at least try to see what direction you want it to go in (e.g. a part-time job, working whenever you feel like it, moving towards a full-time business),” Stephanie said.

Entrepreneurs should also have “a fighting spirit if you really want your business to succeed. Because in my opinion, you really have to believe in what you sell for others to believe in it, too,” she said. “Which is my second tip – it is both much easier and more difficult to put up a business related to something you are passionate about. Easier in the sense that you can love what you are doing to the point that it sometimes does not feel like work, but also much more difficult when you do not meet the standards you set for yourself or your products, or when you encounter setbacks. But in the end, the pros of working with something you are passionate about outweigh the cons… at least for me. So I am glad that I am lucky enough to pursue a business I believe in.”

Wanna taste the coffees of BREW.optimism? Head to Facebook and Instagram, and shoot them a message to “place your orders and we will do our best to provide you with optimism in a cup.”

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‘Don’t be afraid to take risks’ – Diana Abne

For Diana Abne, owner of Sugar Mommah PH – established in 2020 with a startup capital of only P5,000 – people should find their passion. “It is never too late to find new passions and goals in life. Find what your strengths are and what are your weaknesses … build your business from there.”

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To help ease the anxiety brought by COVID-19 (while augmenting income at that), Diana Abne established Sugar Mommah PH in June 2020 with a start-up capital of only around P5,000.

“It started as a passion project,” said the single mom, though “I have always loved cooking for my family (even if) I haven’t tried baking. But during the pandemic, I wanted to learn something new and add new skills, (so I started baking).”

It helped that people around her were supportive.

The oven she uses, for instance, “was a gift from my parents,” Diana said. And other family members and friends “became my first customers.”

These are also the very people who “inspire me to make good food.”

Looking back, it never occurred to Diana he’d go into this line of business.

“I always thought I do not have the patience nor the discipline to bake,” she said. “In cooking, I have always trusted my instincts in mixing spices and flavors. But in baking, everything has to be exact. I graduated Communication Arts in UST and is currently working as a Social Media Manager for a digital company. It is not aligned with my current business although it helps me in handling my social media pages.”

But yes, the decision to open Sugar Mommah PH was a good one.

“It is already profitable,” Diana smiled. “I was able to get my ROI within three months.”

Obviously, there are still challenges; as is normal for any business.

“The biggest challenge and struggle for me is handling my business, my work and being a mom. I live alone with my kid with no hired help so I am very much hands-on in everything – from cleaning the house to homestudy with my 7-year-old,” she said. “I get to adapt by following a very strict routine and schedule. I wake up at 5:00AM so I can have my me time and start cleaning and cooking. Baking time is scheduled every weekend since I only accept weekend orders, as of now.”

Business-wise, a challenge is “making sure that I have something unique and new in my shop. With the pandemic ongoing, food business quadrupled, and my competitors have years of experience in baking and decorating. I used to envy them and feel bad about myself but I realized that like most in life, we are on different levels.”

“I always remind myself that I will be able to achieve their successes in time. I don’t need to rush things and I need to take it slowly. As long as someone still believes in me and as long as I don’t give up, I can achieve their successes too in my own time.”

DIANA ABNE
Owner, Sugar MommaH PH

Diana also eyes to succeed for her son. “I am a single mom and he inspires to do everything, so I can help him make his dream come true.”

To others who are looking at opening a business, Diana suggested facing their fears.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. I firmly believe that if it scares you, it means that you are one step away in changing your life. It is in that moment of fear that you should jump and go for it,” she said.

Another advice would be to “find your passion. We are trained to believe that we can only have one passion in life but I learned that your passion can change in every stage in your life. It is never too late to find new passions and goals in life. Find what your strengths are and what are your weaknesses … build your business from there,” Diana ended.

Wanna try the savory offerings of Sugar Mommah PH? Head to Facebook or Instagram: @sugarmommahph; or send a message to Viber/WhatsApp 09177537804.

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Some people won’t understand your product, but they’d recognize quality – Chris Bezuidenhout

Chris Bezuidenhout started Braai Brothers Philippines in 2016 with a startup capital of only P10,000. That was a good move, since Braai Brothers Philippines made a mark.

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Braai Brothers Philippines was started in 2016 with a startup capital of only P10,000.

“My family has been in the food industry for many generations, and the love for quality South African food is a family tradition,” said Chris Bezuidenhout, adding that his late grandfather was a butcher in South Africa for many decades, and “his recipes are what I use for my products today. My father, Arnold; and my aunt, Marlene, are responsible for keeping the recipes safe all these years.”

In 2016, “I was making the(se) products for personal consumption and for occasions with friends. After a few people said that it was good enough that they would pay for it, I decided to turn my passion into a business.”

That was a good move, since Braai Brothers Philippines made a mark.

Looking back, and because of his family’s history, “anyone (who) pushes innovation while acknowledging and respecting the lessons of the past is who inspires me,” Chris said.

Chris actually came to the Philippines because of the BPO industry.

“I started my career in the catering industry and spent a decade learning the trade including training as a chef before switching to the BPO industry,” he said. But having worked with the BPO industry, he also learned “managing a successful business. Even though they are vastly different businesses, the BPO industry taught me how to manage the financial aspect as well as what world class customer service is.”

There are still challenges in running Braai Brothers Philippines.

“The biggest challenge I have (is) balancing my BPO career, the business and family life,” he said. “I am all about a balanced approach to life and always aim to ensure that each get their quality time to ensure all are successful.”

Braai Brothers Philippines already reached ROI; in fact, this was reached “within the first few months,” he said. This may be because “I had a low initial investment and have pushed profits back into the business in order to improve equipment and quality. It is profitable and continues to grow slowly but surely.”

For people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Chris give?

“Follow your passion. People may not understand your product at first but they will recognize your drive. If your market is limited in size then stand out by your quality, your customer service and your business values. By doing this, your market will grow organically,” Chris ended.

If you want to get in touch with Braai Brothers Philippines, visit their Facebook page @Braai Brothers Philippines (https://www.facebook.com/braaibrothersph), check out their website (https://braaibrothers.one/), or send them a message via mobile phone/WhatsApp/Viber at 09272588688.

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‘Don’t be scared to work hard’ – Paul Theunissen

Covid-19 pushed the establishment of The Bushveld Kitchen by husband and wife Paul and Mary Jane Theunissen in July 2020 with around PhP30,000 capital. “Don’t be scared to work hard,” Paul said. “A lot of time and effort will reap the benefits.”

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The Bushveld Kitchen was established by husband and wife Paul and Mary Jane Theunissen in July 2020 with around PhP30,000 capital. Covid-19 pushed them to start the business, actually, since Paul is a foreigner and relied on contracts abroad to earn income while here; and all contracts came to a stop due to Covid-19. They also had to make a living for their two sons, Joe Carlos and Paul Jr.

The business, said Paul, is “something that is unique that you don’t (commonly) find in the Philippines (since it offers) authentic South African delicacies.”

Looking back, Paul said they didn’t think they’d become business people. Yeah, they loved eating the dishes; but it never occurred to them “I’ll make it for an income,” he smiled.

There is continuous learning.

For instance, “getting the right meat for the product. Specific cuts are needed for each product. If you don’t get the right cut, it will not come out as the same product you find in South Africa. It will either be chewy when it comes to the Biltong and Droewors, or too dry and no taste when it comes to the wors.”

But they learned “to demand the right cuts from the butcher.”

Has the business reached ROI?

“If it was not for daily expenses to pay for the bills and buy food, it will be a profitable company. I’m sure in another year’s time I’ll reach my goal to have enough customers,” Paul said. But “slowly the company is growing… with new customers wanting to try the products. I have a lot of customers that return weekly to buy again. Some come back monthly.”

But yeah, this is a profitable venture, he smiled.

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Paul give?

“Don’t be scared to work hard,” Paul said. “A lot of time and effort will reap the benefits.”

If you want to get in touch with The Bushveld Kitchen, contact them through WhatsApp or Viber 09062252996; Facebook account @thebushveldkitchen; or email thebushveldkitchen@gmail.com.

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