Monday, February 3, 2003

Drive, motivation not enough; have the right product, service

NOTE. This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section, and also at the following web address:

It is not enough to have the drive and motivation to be an entrepreneur. One important question is having the “right” product and service. Or better yet, does your pro­duct satisfy a real need of your customers? Given the number and variety of similar products in the market, does your product have a unique selling attraction? Do you have the requisite marketing support, e.g. advertising, promotion, publicity, etc.

When Rene Mayol and I were planning to venture into business, we first thought that we should go into the food business. I remember what my professor in college taught us. He said that during economic hard times, people would generally spend their money on two products: food and beauty products. He said that they would ensure their survival so they need food and would be in denial stage most often so they mask their desperation and frustration, even hunger, with beauty products.
At Eastwood, the best selling product was the never-say-die barbeques. Coming from their respective offices and before they do their rounds of the stalls, shoppers first feast on barbecued pork and chicken meat, innards and feet. The foods taste and smell good, the prices affordable, the portions are just right. You don’t have to wait for a table. You could eat, as is the wont of Filipinos, while walking and talking.

At Riverbanks, the food stalls made a killing. Even the ice cream, peanut and quail egg itinerant vendors were all smiles. People will always need food. Filipinos are insatiable eaters. My son Adrian just turned off the DVD player in the middle of a movie he was watching and said, “I can’t continue watching. I ran out of popcorn.”

Max’s, Savory, Aristocrat, The Plaza, Ma Mon Luk, Juanchito’s, Ferino’s, Little Quiapo, Emerald, Via Mare, Aling Nene’s, Joseña’s and many others are still serving their specialty food for countless loyal customers despite the dominant presence of Jollibee, McDo, KFC and others. I am sure that in every nook and cranny of our country, there are eateries that are still very much in business to this day. A&M Restaurant in Baranggay Kumintang, Batangas City, continues to serve the same nutritious and delicious native dishes they have been known for for the past 50 years. Satisfied customer Boni Pontipedra proudly says that A&M have also been consistently adjudged the cleanest restaurant in Region IV year after year by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Joseph Mapalo says a bowl of steaming mami at Session Café, Star Café or Luisa’s along Session Road is a must when you visit Baguio. His family also enjoys the bread and pasta at Café by the Ruins in front of City Hall. Sylvia Hermosisima-Luz remembers her family’s and friends’ eating outings at Carlo’s, Ding Qua Qua and Blue Café at Executive Royal Inn. In Davao, my friend Jess Dy and his family have been dining at Tai Huat Claypot House, Dencia, Famous and Grand Men Seng and the many restaurants at the pier for as long as he could remember.

Biscocho House in Iloilo is still the best for pasalubongs. The best La Paz Bachoy is served in the public market. When in Bacolod, Aklan, Mindoro, Roxas City, Dumaguete, Sorsogon, La Union, Pangasinan and other seaside places in Visayas, Mindanao and Luzon, you will inevitably dine in one of the seaside restaurants offering fresh seafood, sinugba-style, dipped in a mixture of calamansi and soy sauce or soy sauce and vinegar with plenty of siling labuyo.

The unnamed restaurant along the entrance to the public market in Balanga, Bataan, serves the best seafood cooked in sampaloc. That is why the restaurant is popularly known as “Sampalukan.” Their eel dish is also heavenly.

I have observed the peanut vendor at the corner of Road 4 and V. Mapa Streets in Sta. Mesa grow old and wrinkly but her roasted peanuts are still the best and her balut always freshly boiled. Sari-sari stores in our community say that their most saleable goods are food items.

There is one or two bakery in every barangay here in Manila that sells comfort breads like kabayan. Fruit and ve­getable vendors are all over the place. Comes summer, families (grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, housemaids) make halo-halo and ice candy together and sell them in front of their house. You see wrappers of candy, bread, frozen delights and other foods litter every street. Proof that Filipinos munch at something everywhere.

Open every drawer or locker in your office and you will find food items in them. Our employees not only keep their minds and hands busy at work; also their mouth. We are so afraid we might starve and that our big intestines will eat our small intestines.

What is the lesson to be learned here by budding entrepreneurs like you and me? Food is, and will always be, the product for all season, all the time. There is big business opportunity in food. Comfort food, I may add. The food our mother used to serve us. Our stomach is used to them and crave for them. International food such as shawarma or sashimi or others takes a lot of getting used to and requires special ingredients and equipment to prepare. I’ll have Excellente, Adelina’s or Majestic ham anytime with my hot pandesal and tsokolate eh.

Alan Yu, consultant for business development at Riverbanks’ Big Fan Corp., warns of stiff competition, though. Last December when I got a stall in the Riverbanks Night Market he said, “please don’t sell anymore food items. Everybody wants to sell food items.” Almost every non-food stall still sold one or two food items. They said that food is what attracts customers to their stalls. What Big Fan has done, starting February 1st, is to construct 18 food stalls for vendors of all kinds of cooked, fresh, processed food. Go visit them and make those entrepreneurs happy and smiling on their way to the bank.

Man does not live by bread alone. So what other products sell? Let’s discuss that in our continuing Journey on Entrepreneurship.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and welcomes your comments and participation via

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