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.”
‘Don’t be discouraged nor lose hope even if the process is difficult’ – Cyramae Ubaldo
This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000. “Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first.”
This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000.
“(When) I started planning my wedding, I thought scented candles would make great souvenirs,” she recalled. Though, obviously, these would also be applicable for any other events. And “that gave me an idea to start this business.”
Since she finished BS IT, Cyramae said she never imagined that candle making would become her passion. In a way, this makes the venture challenging.
“Some days I tend to become hesitant if I’m going to pursue this business. (I have) lots of negative thoughts (about this business) – e.g. that it might fail right away, that no one would purchase the goods, that my candles won’t be pleasing compared to others,” she said.
But with the support of her partner, “I was able to push through.”
She has yet to reach ROI, but Cyramae thinks this is a profitable business.
And for people who may want to also open their own business, what tips can Cyramae give?
“Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first. The most important thing is that you love and you’re happy of what you’ve been doing. Even it is a small progress, it’s still one step towards your goal,” Cyramae ended.
Create value for your biz to succeed – Jico Ambrocio
Jico Ambrocio, founder of Elo Athletics, believes in creating value for your customers. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following.”
Elo Athletics – better known as just Elo – was conceptualized around July 2020, and officially launched via Instagram in October of the same year with an investment of around PhP150,000 to cover startup costs and the initial inventory of products.
It was, perhaps, a line of business Jico Ambrocio would eventually enter.
“I’ve been very close to the fitness industry, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle ever since I was in high school,” he said. “I was an active gym goer before and I pursued weightlifting as my main source of physical activity throughout college and even when I started working.”
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Jico was placed in a similar position as many others – i.e. “I couldn’t keep doing it because all the gyms had to temporarily close down.”
Jico tried exercising at home by doing bodyweight exercises such as HIIT, but he said he didn’t enjoy it as much as working out in the gym “maybe because there was always a feeling of isolation and uncertainty during this pandemic, that I couldn’t push myself to perform intense exercises.”
And then he came across Yoga, “and it really changed my perspective on health. Yoga taught me to be mindful of my emotions and to adopt a holistic approach to fitness.”
The newfound love – i.e. Yoga – led to the establishment of Elo Athletics.
“I… felt that the brand can open opportunities to spread the importance of taking care of our well-being, especially our mental health,” Jico said.
LOVING THE INDUSTRY YOU CHOOSE
It helps that Jico studied Business Administration and Accountancy in college, and “it has always been a personal dream to be able to start and grow my own brand. Back then, I thought my first brand would fall under either the food or fashion industry, and not in the industry that Elo is currently a part of.”
All the same, “thinking about it now, I love the industry that I’m in because I know that the products and services we can create will be valued by a lot of people since most of us really value our well-being. My degree helped me make better decisions for the brand but it was my personal experiences that really pushed me to do my best.”
As a new biz, “we haven’t reached ROI yet,” Jico admitted. Nonetheless, “I’m seeing a lot of opportunities for the brand to grow and I’m still personally investing more money in it so we can create better experiences for our customers. I would say that it’s a profitable venture because we are able to generate a healthy volume of sales, but it also requires a lot of patience to see it through until it eventually reaches ROI. Hopefully that happens soon.”
There are still challenges.
“One of the main challenges I face is being insecure about the brand and its progress. I’m constantly aware of the actions of competitors and I tend to compare the growth of my brand to theirs — which has negative effects on my confidence, and belief in our products,” Jico admitted.
However, “I have learned to overcome this feeling by focusing on the things we currently have. I realized that if I start looking inward — looking at positive customer reviews, or how many customers we’ve served, I am able to help myself view these challenges positively and constructively.”
On the business side, delivery and logistics are also challenging the running of the business.
“I have to ensure that the products arrive to customers on time and in their best state. This means that I would also put a lot of effort into tracking the status of deliveries and communicating with customers, and consistently working with our couriers and partners to make sure that the delivery process is good,” Jico said.
But Jico is confident Elo will eventually carve its name in this industry.
And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Jico give?
“Don’t be afraid to start! The fact that we have to invest money in a business means that we have a tendency to make sure that everything is perfect before launching — because no one wants their money to go to waste. However, the act of actually launching your product/service and getting it out there will really help you create better products/services for the people you cater to. Start with something small, listen to your customers, innovate and improve, and things will get better,” he said.
It helps to do initial research about the industry: the product, the prospective customers, competitors, etc. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following,” Jico ended.
Believe in your product – Jansen Prado
The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000. “Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.
The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000.
“Our family loves to cook. We just love cooking and making our guests happy with food.. good food at that… And we always had this plan to launch our family’s heirloom recipes. We want to ‘put them out there’ and share to everyone the love and passion that goes into every dish,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.
In fact, by the end of 2019, “we were already gearing up to launch our mom’s estofado seco; and we planned to sell them in jars.”
But then COVID-19 happened…
Though, initially, “we decided to put everything to a halt… we saw how the pandemic hit so many of our ‘kababayans’. We had to do something.” And so “we aimed to help not just our own kitchen but other home cooks, too, who were displaced by the pandemic. We reached out to people whom we knew can lead us to people that can cook really well.”
And so, yes, The Pantry Project Manila came into being.
The first dish offered was the “badass bopis”, a recipe “loaned to us by our mom,” Jansen said.
Now, why bopis?
“(We) want the public to be comfortable eating bopis. That bopis can be very meticulously prepared, clean and positively distinguished. And that bopis can be gourmet and not be too expensive at the same time,” Jansen said.
ROI has already been reached, and “I am really very grateful.” This is also a profitable business, though “hard work and creativity are really essential.”
In hindsight, “I never thought I would be the one who will be pushing this plan. I have pictured my sisters to make this business materialize. I was so much into what I was doing in the corporate world that I did not see this coming,” Jansen said.
Fortunately for him, he has a degree in Marketing Management that “I find very helpful to the business.”
There remain challenges.
“The biggest challenge, especially during these times in the MSME world, is creating your market, your niche,” Jansen said.
Also, “with our main product, the Badass Bopis, it was hard to convince people that it is worth trying. A lot of people have reservations regarding eating the dish. So yeah, we had to add more to the menu.”
Businesses, of course, need to learn to face challenges.
For Jansen, the approach is to “focus on our purpose and knowing that there are a number of people who depend on the online pantry’s operations; this keeps us going.”
And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Jansen give?
“Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going. Always welcome change as it is inevitable. Patience. You need tons of this. Have faith. No day is the same, so stay calm, focus, work harder. Optimism will never hurt,” Jansen ended.