Monday, September 26, 2011

Think green, Think business By the Go Negosyo team (The Philippine Star) September 22, 2011

          MANILA, Philippines - Living a healthy, organic lifestyle while carefully watching one’s carbon footprint seems to be the mantra of young, hip professionals nowadays. But for the owners of Serenitea, The Twillery Inc. and AgriNurture, Inc. living green was more than just a status symbol; it was the beginning of a successful venture.
Over the past few years, tea has slowly gained a steady number of followers that swear by its health benefits, from the idea that it’s a calming beverage to the fact that it’s good for one’s cardiovascular and immune systems.
          Knowing all this but also seeing that there weren’t any teashops catering to the Filipino market, Peter Chen and Juliet Herrera decided it was time to open one.
          The two looked to Taiwanese teashops for inspiration but with Filipino tastes in mind. After playing around with different concepts, they settled on a winner and Serenitea opened its first branch in San Juan in 2008.
          With various tea-based drinks on their menu costing anywhere from P95 to less than P200, Serenitea had unwittingly created a new trend. Peter and Juliet had the initial hurdle of trying to convince hard-line coffee and soda drinkers that tea was a healthier alternative, but within several months after opening, other shops started offering their own versions.
          Translation? Their initial venture was such a success that others just felt the need to go right ahead and copy it. Peter and Juliet aren’t sweating it, though. Each new competition that pops up is taken as an opportunity for them to improve their product and services, which in turn, would mean more happy customers.
          In the last three years, Serenitea has already opened eight branches all around the metro. With two more planned within the end of the year, this little tea shop that could is well on its way to realizing its dream of becoming the market leader in the industry.

Paper bags for the eco-conscious fashionista
          The Twillery Inc. is the brainchild of a group of friends —Martina Manas, Enzo Banson, Katrina Tecson, and Ezra Capucion —while they were all classmates at the School of Management Business Accelerator Program at the Ateneo de Manila University.
          As part of the program, students are invited to present business ideas to the school’s faculty, with those deemed to have the most potential to succeed being accepted. But more than just financial success, the program rewards business models that benefit small communities and preserves the environment.
          Twillery’s idea of using woven old newspapers to create fashion-forward handbags was one of those chosen to take part in the program. While the concept is a familiar one, what with the plethora of other eco-friendly bags already out in the market, the use of old newspapers made it a novelty.
          On top of that, they were the first to think of using synthetic leather and metal fixtures as accents for the bags, giving it a haute couture look.
          So with a song in their heart, a pep in their step and P50,000 capital, these friends set about looking for a community of weavers and a bag maker to bring their dreams to fruition.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
          “Our first challenge was looking for a bag maker. No one wanted to handle newspaper in the beginning. A lot of bag makers refused us because they did not want to go through the hassle of sewing on newspaper,” said Martina, Twillery president and head of marketing.
          With a little more legwork, though, the founders of Twillery were finally able to convince a bag maker in Marikina to produce their goods while a community in Nasugbu, Batangas was chosen to weave the newspapers.
          Dubbing their woven goods Papelle, Martina and her friends initially relied on their other friends and family members to sell the products, emphasizing their uniqueness and durability (thanks to the lamination process that each bag undergoes before being unveiled to the public).
          It worked. In fact, it worked really well. They were able to exceed their sales forecast within the first few months of their launch in July 2010. They also decided to join bazaars to get a feel for their clientele and soon their bags were also being consigned to other boutiques.
         While the road traveled was slightly bumpy, the end result was worth all the trouble as the group came out with the highest sales among their classmates and was even given a bronze award by the Young Entrepreneurs Awards of HSBC for the year 2010 to 2011.
The veggie man cometh
          Antonio Tiu wants you to make healthier choices.
          To realize his dream, this 36-year-old Chinese-Filipino trained his business sights onto the agricultural sector. After all, he reasoned, if you wanted people to eat smarter, you’d have to start straight from the source.
          In 1997, guided by principles learned in business school and through his exposure to the entrepreneur community, Antonio launched AgriNurture Inc. (ANI).
          In the beginning, ANI operated by simply providing farmers the means to get their produce to the market. Pretty soon, however, it dawned on Antonio that it was not enough if he truly wanted to address concerns of food shortage.
          So he decided it was time to take a more holistic approach. Instead of just getting the fresh produce to the market, how about getting it straight into people’s homes?
          This meant, of course, that he and his company would have to be more involved in the process; from farming to packaging to distribution. Antonio lovingly called it “an effective tool for nation-building.”
          Now, ANI has grown by leaps and bounds. It may have started out as simply one man’s desire to eat fresher produce, but a little over ten years down the road and it is now officially listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and currently exporting locally grown fruits and vegetables to international markets.
          Tomorrow, Antonio, Peter and Juliet and the founders of The Twillery Inc., are set to be honored, along with other entrepreneurs all over the country, at the Go Negosyo Young STARpreneurs Awards as part of this year’s Young Entrepreneurs Summit.

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