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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.”

BizWiz

Turn your hobby into a biz – Gem Zapanta

When Gem Zapanta established “Put It In Paper” in 2017, with a start-up capital of PhP5,000, it was because of a hobby. But she made it work, earning ROI in just few transactions.

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When Gem Zapanta established “Put It In Paper” in 2017, with a start-up capital of PhP5,000, it was because of a hobby. 

“Journaling/crafting was my hobby and there were items I’d like to have but didn’t come cheap so I ventured into offering my crafting services and reselling stationery,” she said.

She was actually initially apprehensive entering this line of business. “I was brought up with the thinking there was no money in this field,” she said.

But inspired by her sons, she persevered, eventually not just getting back her capital, but earning profit.

Nowadays, Gem said the big challenge is completing tasks by the deadline. This could also affect creativity. Nonetheless, she said: “Deadlines are easy to face as I work with grace under pressure. For creative blocks, that’s quite hard to (face)… but I push myself into creating even if I’m not in the mood to create because this is where I get money to pay bills.”

Since she also engages her clients to ask them what they really want, it makes the tasks easier since Gem said she no longer has to create something from scratch.

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

“Let’s admit (that) my industry is not essential, and with the pandemic right now, you need to be practical and realistic. Competition is brutal and logistics is a challenge. But if you really want to go into the world of stationeries and crafting, you need to find your niche, build your brand, target your audience and be consistent,” Gem ended.

Want to get in touch with “Put It In Paper”? DM via Instagram: @putitinpaper (https://www.instagram.com/putitinpaper/).

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Go out of your comfort zone – Lia Monica Chua

Meet Lia Monica H. Chua, who opened The Holy Crab PH with a starting capital of PhP50,000, but got ROI in just a few months. Every venture is a risk, she says, but challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone.

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In October 2018, Lia Monica H. Chua opened The Holy Crab PH with a starting capital of PhP50,000. “We initially targeted being a supplier to restaurants and concessionaires,” she recalled, although “there, the competition was fierce, especially when it came to pricing. This nudged us to thinking of other ways to further build our business with the resources we had available, which then led us to coming up with an online food business with crab and shrimps as our main offerings.”

Lia said that going into any business always entails risks. But her former mentor (also currently a partner in Holy Crab PH) of three years encouraged her to start a business. “As a mentor, he has always inspired me to challenge myself and to go out of my comfort zone. Now, we work together in building our brand, our selection and our reach,” Lia said.

But Lia said she was always fascinated with entrepreneurs, including her father. “He always encouraged me to start my own business. There will be a lot more challenges, and a lot more uncertainty but being a business owner would prove to be fulfilling, just as my dad said.”

It helps that Lia graduated in Business Administration.

“But in terms of the actual cooking, I’m afraid I still need more experience,” she smiled. “As our line of business is largely dependent on how we prepare and cook the food, I relied on my partner as he has the know-how on sourcing our ingredients and on the actual cooking.”

But The Holy Crab PH is succeeding; so what they are doing is obviously working.

Lia said that “what sets us apart is our attention to detail, receptive customer service and how we value customer feedback.”

“The need to know and study about the facets needed in your business is important, but do not let your hesitations tie you down. Just take the leap.”

There remain challenges.

For one, “given that our line of business is food, it was critical to ensure the consistency of the taste and quality in the platters we serve. We needed to intensely train our staff on how to properly prepare and cook the food. However, we are directly affected when there is a movement in our staff (resignation, new hires, etc). We had to come up with a system to make sure that there will be minimal disruptions to our processes despite any changes,” Lia said.

Another ongoing challenge is product development to “keep your brand relevant to the market. Without this, the business will stagnate. Product quality is the main reason why your customers will order again from you. This is why it is essential to always, always get customer feedback.”

There is also the issue of scaling up. “When’s the right time to scale up? This was a question that we continuously pondered on. It was a big decision as it would mean we would be investing on equipment, ingredients, manpower, marketing efforts and so on. We were hesitant. But seeing as our sales trend was consistent enough to sustain our investments, and with the common aim to grow our business, we took the risk. There were areas where our investment did not return any income, but this did not dishearten us. Rather, we took the time to reassess what went wrong, and how we can do better. In time, we were able to see our overall sales go beyond our expectations.”

“There is always something new and change is constant. It is essential to be able to stay relevant and be aware of the trends. By being curious, you develop the urge to learn and become open to ideas.”

Nonetheless, looking back, Lia said that “every time we encountered problems, we always had an open mind and faced them head on. No shortcuts, no excuses. As long as you do not lose sight of your main objective in growing the business and are fully determined to give your utmost effort to meet that goal, you will be able to overcome any obstacle.”

For people who may also want to go into this line of business, what tips can Lia give?

First, she said, “don’t be afraid to the take the risk. There will always be doubts when you try out something new, but it’s always best to start somewhere than to never start at all. There are some who have the tendency to overthink to the point that they do not make any decisions any more, which is disastrous in any business. The need to know and study about the facets needed in your business is important, but do not let your hesitations tie you down. Just take the leap.”

Second, “surround yourself with people you aspire to be. This was the major turning point for me where I wanted to become more. Mindset for me is the hardest to change, but once you are able to shift your perspective, everything will follow. That is why it is important to surround yourself with the people you usually look up to, since you will unconsciously try to keep up with them and be inspired by them. Ultimately, you will keep pushing yourself forward and you will be able to reach to their level.”

And lastly, “be curious. There is always something new and change is constant. It is essential to be able to stay relevant and be aware of the trends. By being curious, you develop the urge to learn and become open to ideas,” Lia said.

For a business that reached ROI less than three months after opening,  Lia knows what she’s talking about. And yes, this could definitely help others too.

For more information about The Holy Crab PH, head to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theholycrabph) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/theholycrabph/); or email holycrabph2018@gmail.com.

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Rise from tragedy, helm a business – Connie Hina

Connie Hina’s daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was robbed, stabbed and left for dead over eight years ago. She survived, and is now baking as part of her therapy. And their biz’s offerings are good, too, now making a splash.

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The formal start of Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner was on June 9, 2020, “when one of our neighbors bought our first banana loaf and other neighbors signified their interest to buy,” Connie Hina said. “We decided to have a formal online launching by creating an FB Page on June 20, 2020.”

The startup capital: PhP1,400.

But prior to this, Connie said they have been sharing samples of their baked goods to neighbors and the gate guards (particularly when they had significant events like birthdays). These goods were a hit, and “we gathered positive feedback on the taste and consistency.”

And given the Covid-19 pandemic, “we realized that demand for food products that can be purchased online increased, especially since baked shops and restaurants are either closed or not operating regularly. We saw this as an opportunity to try the market of ready-to-eat products that can respond to people’s cravings for finely and uniquely delicious baked goods.”

A DEEPER STORY

But what not many may immediately know is that Connie’s family’s venture into this line of business was triggered by a tragic occurrence.

Eight years ago, her daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was a fourth-year UP Diliman B.S Political Science student and active student leader. In the afternoon of the 1st of February 2012, inside the USC Office, Vinzons Hall, UP Diliman – while on volunteer duties for the University Student Council – Lordei was robbed, stabbed seven times in the left side of her head with an ice pick and beaten in the face with a metal object.

“Her assailants pretended to be applicants of a booth for the UP Fair,” Connie said.

The most fatal stab wound was the one that pierced through from the left to the right side of her brain (just like “na-barbecue”); likewise, a skull bone fragment of one centimeter in size got embedded in her brain. Moreover, the beating before the deadly stabbing fractured both of Lordei’s sinuses and nose bridge.

“Worst, the suspect locked the room of the USC Office before he fled, leaving my bloody and unconscious daughter lying on the floor. It took about 30 minutes before my daughter’s companion found a key to open the door, after which, she was rushed to the hospital,” Connie said.

Lordei survived as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) victim. But the double brain injuries impaired Lordei’s memory, speech, cognitive and motor skills.

“It is a miracle that Lordei survived; thank God. She was given a slim chance considering the magnitude of damage to her brain,” Connie said.

Lordei was confined in the hospital for more than three months, with almost a month of being in coma. Afterwards, she could not move her body, eat and talk. After her discharge, she continued with her rehabilitation and therapies at home – i.e. occupational, physical speech, neuro-psychology, etc. – to regain her brain-related functions that had been damaged.

Lordei can already walk, talk and eat on her own at present, but her right arm is still semi-paralyzed, she has memory lapses, and behaving like a child from time to time. Her injured hypothalamus affects her emotion and body temperature.

“Thank God she is not violent like other victims of TBI. She is still under continuous medication and therapies up to this moment,” Connie said.

To engage in a productive activity as part of her therapy based on the advice of her doctor, Lordei started baking.

“The business is also a way to help her augment the cost of her continued medication and therapies. As a single mother, I am the sole breadwinner for my daughter,” Connie said.

INSPIRATIONAL MOVE

Lordei is, of course, the inspiration for this business; but Connie said that her son Carlo, and niece Joyjoy (a nurse by profession) helped push this business forward.

“In fact, at that time when my daughter was stabbed, Carlo was baking her favorite, a blueberry cheesecake. It was still in the oven (when the tragedy happened) and the baking had to be stopped as we rushed to the hospital,” Connie recalled.

Looking back, this seemed like a field they were going to go into.

“My late mother – Nanay Inday Silveria – was an excellent cook. She could blend simple ingredients into something very delicious and palatable. The smile of those who ate her dishes was a reward for her,” Connie said. “It is from her where I learn how to cook and bake simple cakes.”

JUST A START

Connie is still planning to own another business – in agri-business, not baking. “I want to have a self-sufficient and sustainable farm in my home town in Southern Leyte; but come to think of it, the ingredients we used are from the farm – so it is more production or adding value of processed farm products,” she said.

Connie completed Master in Management – major in Development Management in her post graduate degree, and a B.S. in Agricultural Business Management in her college degree in UP Los Baños.

So the business is aligned with her expertise because the concept of management in general, and financial and marketing management, in particular are the same across business types. “So this business is like a laboratory for me – where I can apply practically what I learned from my academic studies and in my work experience as international consultant and trainer on financial inclusion and development management.”

FACING CHALLENGES

“Every business start-up is always faced with challenges in various degree as part of the ‘birth pains’. But so far, we encountered only minimal challenges like taking longer time to book courier for deliveries, non-availability of ingredients, especially now that many people are engaging in baking. There are also customers who want to buy right away, thinking that we have a physical store or outlet,” Connie said.

They have been coming up with specialized solutions – e.g. with the courier, they resort to other available courier or, “worst case scenario, we deliver using our car – which we also use for TNVS – like Grab,” Connie said.

For the availability of ingredients, “we buy in bulk so we have stocks.” And for those who want to buy right away, “we inform them to give us time and place the order at least two to three days prior to delivery date. Although there are instances when we have less delivery for a day, we accommodate them and they can order and have it delivered within the day.”

GOOD BIZ MOVE

Is this a profitable venture?

“There is not much of an investment cost here since we do not have a stall or a physical outlet. The main investments are the oven (of which the shelf life is already exhausted) and baking equipment and utensils. We bought a new portable oven though after two weeks to accommodate our batch delivery. I would say the cost is relatively not that much so I can say we already have attained our ROI since we started,” Connie said.

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

“One must have a passion on something and transform that passion into concrete goals. Set a goal first then break it into do-ables – plan – take the first step to make it happen,” Connie said.

Then look at the market (demand and supply side). “What opportunity can one take advantage of – like in this pandemic – despite the many negative impacts it brings? There are also many opportunities.”

Connie also recommends for people to “be creative and always think of the satisfaction of the customer”; directly communication with customers (e.g. thank them during the first point of contact – regardless if they are only asking or placing order already, get their feedbacks after each complete order and send a personalized note); and for a family business, make sure that each involved member of the family is in the same mindset, commitment and passion.

Lastly, do the business not just purely for profit but on how this business can be of help.

“Our slogan is order for a cause. While the cause is for my daughter, but still, if my daughter can be helped and can get back to normal, she can help a lot more people (she already did before the tragedy happened). She is still hoping that she can be a lawyer someday and help the disadvantaged and discriminated who are deprived of justice and their rights,” Connie said.

In ending, Connie said to “always put God (or whoever one believes in – higher self) first in everything (regardless of what religion you belong to). Seek for guidance and bring Him in what you think, say and do. Have deep faith that in every business or undertaking, it is an expression of who you are – unique creation, regardless of status in life, gender orientation, etc.”

To support Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner, head to Facebook; email lordeiwbc@gmail.com; or call/text 09566090363.

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