By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 00:29:00 06/21/2009
Filed Under: Food, Economy and Business and Finance, Entrepreneurship
SAN PABLO CITY – While most local households consider “lugaw” (porridge) an alternative meal in times of financial woe, a couple here has found fortune in selling this affordable food.
Sherwin, 27, and Beverly Aquino, 28, started their porridge business, which they named Lugaw Queen, with only P1,100 as capital. Now, they have nine branches and are in the process of putting up even more.
Lugaw Queen has been a favorite stop of people looking for a combination of affordability, cleanliness and good taste in each meal.
Just for extra income
The couple used to have a computer shop but had to close it down in 2006 since earning from its operation was no longer that much.
Beverly recalled that they wanted to put up a business then to have an extra income since they felt that their combined salaries would not be enough for their needs.
After they decided to close the computer shop, they started looking for other means to earn some extra money.
Sherwin, who was working for a fast-food chain then, was offered by his boss to rent the vacant four-square meter space beside the fast-food branch for P6,000 a month.
“I initially declined the offer. I thought a P6,000 monthly rental was too much. Only three people can be accommodated in the space being offered,” Beverly related.
But they were consistently convinced by the owner, and the couple decided to give in. They chose a food business since Beverly was really into cooking.
Beverly thought of just selling porridge since it does not require a big investment.
She bought 12 pieces of eggs, 1 kilo of rice and the other ingredients needed in cooking porridge. They only had three chairs for the customers.
The couple convinced the owner of the space they rented that they would pay P200 a day instead of P6,000 a month, which they thought was easier to pay.
In November 2007, the first branch of Lugaw Queen was put up in San Pablo City.
“Our initial cost was P1,100,” Beverly said, adding that the first pot they used in cooking was not yet fully paid when the store opened.
“We paid 100 a day for that pot,” according to Beverly, who up to now could not believe how their business succeeded.
“We were surprised how the customers kept on coming in. From three chairs that we had, we had to buy 10 more chairs and tables to accommodate the customers,” Beverly said.
Barely two weeks after the couple opened their business, they had to put up another branch in San Pablo City just to accommodate the hundreds of customers who wanted to try their product.
Sherwin and Beverly were forced to resign from their respective jobs since they wanted to focus on their growing business.
“The number of customers increased, and our capital was literally doubling every day,” Beverly shared.
Lugaw Queen offers a meal for as low as P12.
“Aside from the price and taste, I think customers like our products since we value sanitation in our operation,” Beverly said.
Sherwin’s former boss at the fastfood chain, Eugenio Cheung, 29, also joined the business and helped the couple expand it further.
Months after, four more branches were opened in San Pablo City, Los Baños and Sta. Rosa City in Laguna and in Manila.
Despite the success, the couple also faced some problems in running the business.
Beverly said some barangay (village) officials used to complain about their business since it added to the town’s traffic problems.
She added, “There was a time that I wanted to give up the business since I felt too tired, but the people’s patronage of our products is just too overwhelming.”
Sherwin convinced Beverly not to give up the business since aside from helping their family with their finances, they are also giving employment to at least 50 people, whom they value for their hard work and diligence.
“In maintaining a business, you need to value your employees for them to render the service that you want,” Beverly said.