It definitely pays to be the first in the business, but having a good product is not enough. You also need a unique brand name for that product to give it a distinct identity as well as to protect it from copycats.
This, in a nutshell, has been the experience of Soledad Pahud, one of three enterprising sisters who put up a small bakeshop for native delicacies in Los Baños, Laguna, in 1965. Soledad, together with her elder sisters Virginia and Purita, borrowed P2,500 from a rural bank and set up shop along the busy national highway that cuts through the town.
A HUMBLE EXPERIMENT TURNS INTO PROFITABLE BUSINESS
They experimented with various baked native concoctions, using squash, banana, cassava, and uraro (a tuber crop), but these didn’t do that well with the customers. They were at a loss what to do, but another sister of theirs, Apolonia, saved the day for the fledgling business. The natural cook in the family, Apolonia came up with the idea of making buko pie—a concoction of shredded young coconut meat (buko) baked inside a crust of flour mix. She thought that by using coconut, which was abundant in the locality, she could make a good Filipino version of apple pie that was—and still is—so popular among the Americans.
But the product had to contend with consumer resistance to most anything new, so buko pie did not become an instant hit. But the Pahud sisters persisted and grew the business through the years until their buko pie became a byword among Filipino consumers. And their venture grew into the present Orient Buko Pie Bakeshop, a 45-person operation that produces daily about a thousand boxes of Apolonia’s original buko pie concoction along with several variants like apple buko pie, pineapple pie, and “tropical” pie.
Since the Pahuds were the very first to go into the buko pie business, it was but natural for the buyers of their new product to call it “The Original.” The sisters later used that name for their bakeshop and informally labeled their product with “The Original” tag. After several years into the business, they encountered a major snag when they decided to formally register the brand name with the Department of Trade.
Soledad, who now runs the Orient Buko Pie Bakeshop, recalls: “We wanted the name Original Enterprise because, after all, the idea of our business was to come up with unique products. But the DTI people refused. They said that since ‘original’ is a generic name, we could not register the name ‘Original’ without prefixing or suffixing it with another word.”
Rebuffed in their application, the Pahud sisters tried another tack. They used the first three letters of each word in “Oriental Enterprise” and combined them into a single word—“ori” from “original” and “ent” from “enterprise.” The resulting acronym was, or course, “orient,” and the sisters decided to replace the word “original” in their proposed name with that acronym. The DTI promptly approved their business name application.
But the new name immediately posed an identity problem to the bakeshop and its products. “When we first put the ‘Orient’ name on our buko-pie boxes in 1990, people thought that it was a different brand,” says Soledad. “They were confused because they got so used to calling us by the name ‘The Original’. We therefore had to redesign the box to include the name ‘The Original’ [in response to] our customers’ [clamor].”
The Pahud sisters decided to retain the original plain box, but they made it thicker to ensure that the bottom did not become greasy and soggy. This was the case with the boxes of several copycat brands that had come out by then.