WITH Christmas literally just hours away, let's have some fun. :) I stumbled on this post at stupidbusinessideas.com -- stupid business ideas for Christmas: 1. Christmas present opening service. Great for those who want a calmer Christmas. No more ripping up gift wrappers and screaming in delight. 2. Christmas dinner eating service. Great for those who don't want to gain weight this holiday season. Let others eat for you and devour the buffet spread. Merry Christmas! :)
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UPON entering the lobby of the Midtown Wing of Robinsons Place Manila, you can't help but notice the giant red umbrellas beckoning you to this cozy nook just behind the escalators. It's Art's Cream Gallery, a 20-seater gelateria run by the same group behind the Italian ice cream brand Fiorgelato. Far from it just being a scooping station for gelato (an Italian ice cream made of 100 percent fresh milk), though, Art's Cream Gallery has elevated ice cream serving to an art. Credit goes to renowned stylist Rachy Cuna, known for his floral architecture, who has thought of a myriad ways to serve ice cream. For instance, the gelato flavor Coffee with Toblerone is served on an antique-looking picture frame. The banana split is served on a sushi boat, and green tea ice cream looks cool on Japanese pottery. A serving of their concoction Blooms features sugar roses with red M&Ms at its base. Pretty interesting is the I Love You, a serving of chocolate gelato on a pretty bowl you can hold as a bouquet, with a sugar rose on top. But what gets the oohs and aahs most is the One for All, a 12-scoop tower of gelato (choose your own flavors), which goes for only P350. "Every time we serve it, customers smile and always take pictures of it," says Noel Castro, store manager. To date, it has taken two people at the very least to finish it all, but as much as 20 people have shared an order of it too. Rachy says Art's Cream Gallery is selling and sharing the experience, not just the ice cream. "It's fun and different, a gallery where ice cream can be shown in an artful way," he says. "It's sharing food and art at the same time, a new concept we are proud of." All ice cream served here is of course, Fiorgelato, manufactured locally by Art's Cream Gallery's parent company Milkin Corporation using Australian fresh milk and Italian ingredients. "Gelato is our passion. Technically it is not ice cream, though. It has less fat and less sugar and is thus healthier. Call it gourmet ice cream," explains Ricardo Cuna, president and CEO of Milkin Corporation. The Robinsons Place main outlet just opened last July but so far, market response has been very good. Customers appreciate their unique and innovative way of serving ice cream. Best-selling flavors include Coffee with Toblerone, Strawberry, Pistachio, and Tiramisu. Art's Cream Gallery is not just all about gelato, though. They also serve coffee, sandwiches and pasta. At their NAIA Terminal III outlet, they serve morning snacks as well, such as pan de sal, since they are open there as early as 2 a.m. to serve those boarding early flights. But of course, gelato is available for anyone with a sweet tooth. Product photos courtesy of Art's Cream Gallery
How do you make yourself unique in a market that seems saturated? Simple. Offer something the market does not have yet – a blue ocean strategy. Such was the business model of Treena Cueva-Tecson when she thought about what to do after she gave up her full-time marketing and PR career two years ago to be a wife and mom. Born and raised in Bacolod, Treena noted that the chicken inasal sold in Manila does not taste the way it should. “The inasal in Manila are sweet, dry, and not cooked well. I know how inasal should taste like. Ilonggos would really know the authentic taste of inasal,” says Treena. “And the inasal places in Manila sell inasal by the stick (ex.: paa, pecho). No one is selling whole chicken inasal.” Armed with her mom’s recipe, P250,000 in capital, and husband Adrian’s all-out support, Treena worked out the details of Tambokikoy’s—her new inasal business. Tambokikoy is the Ilonggo word for chubby. Treena envisioned it as a take-out place that would sell authentic-tasting whole chicken inasal. Tambokikoy’s chicken inasal is cooked rotisserie-style over charcoal—not electric grill—and chopped two minutes after it is done cooking. “In that way, the juice goes back; it doesn’t dry out,” says Treena. Her pricing strategy is to offer the food items at a price lower than others do. “I want a lot of people to try our inasal, so we made it affordable. It’s a healthier alternative to fried chicken and fried pork chop. Even my daughter Hailey eats it,” adds Treena. Whole chicken is only P199. Half chicken is P100. A quarter chicken with garlic rice goes for P75 (fast-food places offer a small one-piece chicken and rice at a price higher than that). And pork chop with garlic rice is P65. And the market response has been very good. Since Tambokikoy’s started operations this September 1, office people and families have been dropping by to order take out from lunch time until dinner time seven days a week (it’s open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.). It helps that Tambokikoy’s is in a very good location right across the Mandaluyong City Hall on Maysilo Circle, the crossroad to San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Manila. “I gauge my success with the people who come by,” says Treena. “They’re no longer friends and family. They have heard about Tambokikoy’s from others through word of mouth and from our friends in radio and magazines.” By December, Treena is expecting to hit her return on investment. Franchising inquiries have already started to come in even as Treena says she is not yet ready to franchise. “One of my regular customers said I got the 3Ms: Mabilis, Masarap, at Mura. Fast, Delicious and Affordable. Our satisfaction is in seeing people enjoy our chicken inasal and come back,” says Treena.
Photo courtesy of Dylac By Mark Ruiz The humble sari-sari store is the smallest kind of store in the Philippines, but it can also be one of the most powerful. It’s normally started by a simple Nanay from a humble background who wants to augment the family income. After all, the sari-sari store is a relatively simple business to start. It’s home-based, which means that there’s no rent nor major construction expenses. In most cases, it’s literally a hole in the wall. All the Nanay needs to get started is a little capital--just a couple of thousand pesos will be enough to buy the initial goods. These items are then sold with a little margin, more inventory is bought, these in turn are sold, and so on and so forth. The virtuous cycle of sari-sari store retailing has begun. But because the sari-sari store is small, the earnings are also relatively small. And because most sari-sari store owners don’t have proper training and enough access to opportunities, there is little room to grow. And because the sari-sari stores are not organized, their collective potential is largely untapped. Fact : the sari-sari store IS small. But with more than 600,000 of them nationwide, collectively that’s a powerful, positive force from the bottom-of-the-pyramid that can be unleashed. It was in this spirit and opportunity that HAPINOY was born. HAPINOY is an organized chain of Sari-Sari Stores owned and run by disciplined microfinancing borrowers, and trained with standardized operating systems. Our company, MicroVentures, partnered with Microfinancing Institutions such as CARD-MRI, TSKI, Kasagana-Ka, and SEEDFinance to provide business development services to these stores for them to grow and evolve. The key benefits to Hapinoy members include a micro-loan, access to better prices and new businesses, training and values formation, store branding, and community development. Hopefully, all these services will help us realize our mission of empowering microentrepreneurs. On top of our partnerships with Microfinancing Institutions, Hapinoy has also created a network of partner-manufacturers who support the program. Through these relationships, Hapinoy stores are able to bulk-source products which are sold through Hapinoy Community Stores. The Hapinoy Community Stores are run by Nanays who started out as small sari-sari stores who are then taken to the next level – from a micro-business into a small business. In fact, we already have a lot of successful Hapinoy Community Store owners, some who started out as a hole-in-the-wall store but now can be considered a mini-grocery. Once successful, the Hapinoy program can professionalize communities of sari-sari stores, and ultimately evolve them. This will be achieved through new products and services, the use of technology, and the marketing of community-produced goods. With all these efforts, we deliberately want to take the humble sari-sari store to the next level and unleash their potential. But it’s not enough that we just focus on economic improvement. Hapinoy also has a strong values formation program in order to make the program more wholistic. By empowering our Nanays, we hope to have an impact to their families. By evolving the stores, we hope to have an impact on the communities. As we always say, “kung ang Nanay ang ilaw ng tahanan, sana ang Hapinoy ay magiging ilaw ng komunidad.” Hapinoy, ultimately, hopes to contribute in our own small way to nation-building. For more information about Hapinoy, do check out our website, www.hapinoy.com. *Mark is the Managing Director of MicroVentures Inc.
While sipping barako coffee today at Figaro on Congressional Avenue in Quezon City, I thought about how the area has changed in the past 10 years or so. You see, I live in the area, and have seen how this extension of Congressional Avenue has changed from a grassland occupied by squatters to a busy concrete road connecting to Mindanao and Visayas Avenues. In the early 90s, Congressional Avenue ended just after the road leading to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish and Congressional Subdivision in Project 8. Now, you need to take a jeep or drive a car to reach the end of it at Visayas Avenue in Project 6. Where before, there was cogon everywhere, now there are gas stations, banks, schools, salons, spas, supermarkets, a bookstore, strip malls, fast-food outlets and restaurants. In fact, when I need to take a quick break from working at home, I head off to this area for a quick meal or just to browse at the bookstore. It's just ten minutes away from our house. When Cherry Foodarama put up a supermarket here in the mid-90s, people at first wondered if it will survive. Most people did their grocery shopping at SM City North EDSA. But now Cherry Foodarama has won a steady clientele, and the traffic is terrible around it on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, when everyone it seems is shopping for Noche Buena here. A few years ago, I thought to myself that the area lacked only one thing: a decent coffee shop. A place where one can talk with friends over coffee or tea, or where one can work quietly on a laptop or read a book. I remembered thinking how it would be good to get a franchise of a coffee shop and put up one here. But since I'm really more a journalist than an entrepreneur, I didn't give it much thought. Well well, Starbucks and Figaro have since established a presence, and people just love hanging out in these two coffee shops. So, my point is, if you spot a business opportunity, explore it, and if you feel there's a future, take that opportunity. Just a decade ago, Congressional Avenue was not a "happening" place. Now it is.
Putting up and maintaining an office is getting costlier every day. If you have been working out of your home for some time now and are put off by the idea of putting up a brick and mortar office due to cost, a virtual office may be the answer. Virtual offices have been around for quite some time now in major cities in the world like New York, London and Hong Kong. It's great for those who don't need an office full-time but need an office presence. Companies that are downsizing or are just starting up may also benefit from having a virtual office. Just what is a virtual office? Tina Cuerva, marketing consultant of My Office , a Makati-based company offering virtual office services, says: "A virtual office lets the entrepreneur enjoy the benefits of having a traditional serviced office without having to physically occupy office space. This way, an entrepreneur will still have a professional image without having to spend much on capital." Cuerva herself has been working out of her home for several years now. But there came a time when she didn't feel comfortable forwarding her clients' calls to an answering machine or giving out her mobile number. That's when she brought up the idea of putting up a virtual office with her sister, Milette Carlos, to service the needs of entrepreneurs who don't need an office and staff full-time. Carlos became My Office's managing director. According to Carlos and Cuerva, a virtual office may be just what small business owners need these days. "With no end in sight to the weekly increases in oil prices, our subscribers are able to save on gas by telecommuting. They are able to maintain lower overhead costs, maximize their resources and focus on their businesses," they say. Since 2004, MyOffice specializes in office support services such as mail receiving/releasing, phone answering, call transfers, fax to email service, inquiry handling and others. Its facilities, like workstations and meeting room, are made available to clients either on demand or as part of their subscription. "This set up has worked very well as it gives our clients the flexibility in work hours and capability to control their expenses," Carlos and Cuerva say. Nina Martinez, business manager of ProAccess Business Services, Inc., says the company's virtual office service started in 2002 as an offshoot of the services they were providing to the tenants of the Makati building they were in. "Further recognizing the need for small and starting businesses to have the option of a good corporate address without the attendant expensive costs, the ProAccess concept for providing flexible office solutions was born," she shares. Like My Office, ProAccess provides clients a respectable business identity with several flexible subscription options based on individual client specifications at very reasonable costs appropriate to the selected option. It also offers ready-to-use serviced or flexible managed offices, business support services, conference center, and even a concierge service. "There is a basic cost which is inclusive of many services such as lighting, electricity, airconditioning, security, etc. If and when needed, all other services are on a "pay-as-used" basis so the client need only pay for what is required in a timely manner to save any unnecessary fixed costs. Clients receive a single monthly billing and where applicable, includes the detailed usage records such as business services utilized, toll calls made, text message transactions, etc. allowing the client to track and control costs," adds Martinez. The cost of all these? Very flexible, says Cuerva. "The subscription price will depend on the services availed of and our minimum is P1,000 per month. We can come up with a package having a combination of features that best complement one's business." For ProAccess, rates start at P2,000 for a mail access virtual office subscription. Serviced offices go for P15,000 monthly for a shared office space.
IF someone told Thomas Edison that the light bulb he invented can be lighted up using garbage, Edison would probably have laughed. But now it is no laughing matter as biogas from solid waste is indeed being used to power up lights and other appliances even in our country. It has been six months since the 100kW Biogas Pilot Power Plant was inaugurated in Cebu City. An upgrade of the Inawayan Waste Disposal Facility, the facility is designed to convert solid waste into an energy source. In fact, Philippine BIO-Sciences Co. Inc. (PhilBIO), the operator, has confirmed before that about half of the 400 metric tons of mixed solid waste taken here daily can be converted into biogas. The project has been touted to give added benefits: reduction of landfill mass, additional revenue for the city, and jobs for the people in the area. There are of course the environmental benefits of depending less on fossil fuels for energy needs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And before 2008 ends, the city government is planning to offer for bidding the bigger component of the Inawayan facility for a 10MW biogas-fed power plant. The energy generated will be used for the landfill facility. Iloilo has also been eyeing a similar project, eyeing the establishment of a biogas facility in Bacolod that could generate 350 kW of power, enough to light up a barangay. Closer to home, Payatas in Quezon City is also in on the biogas trend, after the Quezon City Controlled Disposal Facility was inaugurated recently in the famous dumpsite. Some 42,000MW of electricity is envisioned to be generated over a 10-year period in Payatas. And over at Magallanes Village in Makati, PhilBIO, in a project for Manila Water at the South Makati Sewage Treatment Works, will utilize microbial matter to reduce sewage sludge and create high quality biogas. Experts at PhilBIO believe that the methane gas to be recovered will be more than enough to provide electricity to the sewage treatment plant. So, yes indeed, there is power in garbage, and money in garbage too. With increasing garbage landfills all over, businesses dealing in solid waste-to-energy efforts remain viable while helping care for the environment.
Cristyl Mae B. Senajon* We all dream of a Philippines without corruption, where people pay taxes without being goaded to do it, where officials use public funds for public good, where deeply ingrained respect for others make most traffic rules unnecessary, and where each child can get quality education that will give her plenty of job options and good pay. Mary Ann Alampay, a 20-year old BS Management student from the Ateneo de Manila University, believes in this dream. How to reach it, however, was the big puzzle. Perhaps it was her love for teaching or her hope for the Filipino child that pointed her to a direction that might change a nation. Mian to her family and friends sat herself one Saturday afternoon and poured her heart out on pen and paper. The result was Bright Kids Learning Center, a social entrepreneurship project that would teach underprivileged children for free that art, colors, counting, and reading are as much fun as showing empathy and respect for others. Bright Kids won a P20,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation during the First Leaders of Asia Forum’s Make It Happen! Business Plan Writing Competition last January 17-19, 2008 along with five other business plans. College friends Kookie Magno (AB-Psychology) and Mark Carillo (BS-Management) who are also now in their senior year are helping her turn her dreams into reality. Last summer, they taught five and six-year-olds at the Batasan Hills Elementary School for one hour and a half each day.
“Sometimes it takes just one simple step for something great to happen. I think that sometimes you have to take risks. You can't just live your life in your own comfort zone. Nothing will ever happen if you live that way. If you want to do something for the country then find a way to do it. It's that simple," Mian says.Mian recalls spending long hours with a young girl who told her classmates their work was ugly and they were stupid because of the way they colored their artwork. "Values should be taught to a kid at a very young age or else they will bring those bad habits with them when they grow up. It was fortunate that we were able to address this issue as early as that time. But how about other kids who grow up in the same kind of environment? It is really important to be involved in the formation of these children so that they would not grow up with a wrong set of values," Mian says. The lack of early education is the kind of social problem that Bright Kids is trying to address. “I saw that the family has a big influence on the learning and value formation of the children” says Mian. While doing craft work to create nimble fingers and nimble minds, Mian teaches basic Filipino values such as "po" and "opo". The idea is that the path to attaining national growth is for each Filipino to learn to show empathy towards “kapwa Pilipino” and that simple acts of humanity can cure a flawed nation so mired in poverty. Working with children that only have rice and ketchup for breakfast has opened Mian's eyes to reality and closed her heart to apathy. Her first summer art workshop this year was where her dream ended and the glorious part of action began. *Cristyl is program assistant of the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program at the Ateneo School of Government. For those who wish to learn more about social entrepreneurship and how to become an effective social entrepreneur, the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government together with Ashoka-Philippines will be running Beyond Bottomlines: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship this coming July 12,2008 (Saturday), 8 am to 5 pm at the Ateneo de Manila-Professional Schools campus in Rockwell, Makati City. If you are interested to attend this seminar, you can send an email to youthventureph (at) gmail (dot) com or contact Katrina Wy at (02) 683-0262 local 141.
IT used to be that all Filipinos had to do to look fabulous was to go to the neighborhood beauty salon. Now there are a whole lot of places to patronize if one is really vain or conscious about appearance: the facial salon, the spa, the medi-spa, the cosmetic surgeon, etc. Indeed, it seems that Filipinos have become more vain over the years, a fact observed by Faces & Curves’ Dr. Jesus “Jay” Recasata, Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife Dr. Sheila A. Recasata, a dermatologist. In the past eight years since Dr. Jay established his practice in Greenhills, he has seen the demand for cosmetic surgery and beauty services rise. “The prospects for the future are good,” says Dr. Jay. This is why in 2005, Dr. Jay asked his wife to join him in his practice and renamed the clinic Faces & Curves. Aside from surgical services offered (cosmetic, plastic, and reconstructive), the state-of-the-art clinic has since offered beauty services for the face, skin and body, all performed by board-certified doctors. Aside from having local clients, Faces & Curves also gets its share of foreign clients through the medical tourism program. A lot of their clients are balikbayans from the US, Japan, and Europe. Dr. Jay credits the Filipino doctors’ tender loving care and personal touch for the success of the medical tourism program. Prices for services in the Philippines are also more affordable. “Our rates are one-third that of US or Europe. Take breast augmentation, for instance. It may cost as much as $15,000 but will only run up to about $3,000 to $4,000 here,” says Dr. Jay. “The website is a big help,” says Dr. Sheila. Inquiries from all around the world have been pouring in through the website. Because of the clinic’s popularity, Faces & Curves opened a branch in Minato-ku, Tokyo called World of Beauty by Faces & Curves. Faces & Curves does about 30 surgeries a month but that doesn’t mean they do it on just about anyone. “We do a test first to see if you’re qualified to undergo surgery,” says Dr. Jay, citing one surgery they cancelled when a patient had a cough. He also refused one patient who he felt had too many surgeries already. “You have to look at it from a holistic view,” says Dr. Jay. Asked what the three popular surgery procedures are at Faces & Curves, the couple cites nose lift, liposuction and breast augmentation. But in the beauty department, the facial service is the runaway winner. At Weigh Less Center (Mendez Medical Group), facial services are also very much in demand, points out medical director Dr. Joel C. Mendez. “Filipinos just love to look good, and we are happy to make them look good,” says Dr. Mendez. His clinic offers many other services as well, from anti-ageing treatments to surgery procedures as well. There are many other beauty and medical clinics offering the same services in the country. But to get the best service, Dr. Jay advises people to look at the people behind the clinic. They should be board certified, he says. The future looks bright for the beauty business.
NEAR THE FAR end of Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City, a new restaurant has been quietly luring diners these past seven months with its authentic Asian cuisine. This is Nasi Lemak, a small cozy restaurant just across the big McDonaldâs outlet with French fries on its roof. Thereâs a queue at lunch and dinner on weekends, and during weekdays at peak hours, the restaurant gets almost full too. And itâs all due to word of mouth, as satisfied customers rave about the tasty dishes, mostly Singaporean, at reasonable prices. Restaurant consultant H.K. Tan, a Singaporean, says they are very particular about the quality of the food they serve, to the point of being paranoid. âWe import ingredients to be assured of consistent quality,â he says. They also donât scrimp on the ingredients to be used in the dishes so as to give customers the real deal. But itâs a true blue Filipina, Cora Lelina, who owns the business with her family. Cora worked in Singapore for 20 years as personal assistant to a paper industry executive. In the course of her work, she would travel to many countries with her boss, exposing her to a lot of cuisine. Since she was based in Singapore, Cora developed a taste for Asian food, and can cook it well. In the end, when her boss passed away last year, Cora decided to come back home to the Philippines. âI have been abroad for half of my life. I went back here to try life here,â she says. And since she has long planned to have a business, Cora invested in the food business in the Philippines upon the advice of her longtime friend, H.K. Tan. Tan has been coming to the Philippines for business for the past 10 to 15 years. He noted that there are many Spanish and Italian restaurants here already. As for Chinese restaurants, most of them use vetsin which isnât really healthy. This is why he advised Cora to go for Singaporean food, and offer other Asian dishes as well, without MSG of course. Popular items on the menu includes Kueh Pai Ti, a sort of fried lumpia with lettuce, turnip, carrots, and prawn on top to be popped in whole in the mouth. Thereâs Hainanese Chicken, a favorite in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong; the lightly spicy Malaysian Sambal Fish, which is crispy outside and tender inside; Japanese Tofu SautÃ©ed with Prawns; Singapore Laksa, a noodle dish with spicy coconut gravy which you can have with either prawns or chicken; and Stir-Fried Kang Kong with Blachan, among others. Of course, thereâs Nasi Lemak, a dish like our binalot, which is rice cooked with pandan and coconut cream. The Onde Onde dessert is like our pichi pichi but with a filling consisting of palm tree nectar. âWe didnât expect this kind of success,â Tan says. Itâs Coraâs first business venture. But theyâre handling it well, putting a premium on customer service. Tan takes the time to train the chefs and educate customers on the dishes and how best to eat them. They also offer delivery service. And thereâs free wifi too. This early, theyâre already looking at opening branches in other locations. (All photos courtesy of Nasi Lemak)