Sonny Agustin and his wife, Ann Lourdes, used to have a car rental business in Angeles City, Pampanga. They had a fleet of 20 cars, and because business was booming, most would be rented out on any given day. But there was great risk in this business.
"We didn't have drivers, so the customers themselves drove the cars," says Ann Lourdes about their business, which ran for two years. "It was too high-risk. Besides the threat of carjacking, some customers would return the car, but we'd discover the original car parts had been replaced. So I told my husband, 'Let's look for another business.'"
With Sonny concurring, the Agustins sold all but one of their cars, and moved back to Manila in 1997. They scouted for a business "na patok na patok [that is really good]," says Ann Lourdes. The couple found it in the most basic of necessities: water.
The Agustins opened a purified-water refilling station in October 1997 at St. Francis Village in Cainta, Rizal and called it Aquahealth. With residential clients making up 95 percent of their customers, the business averaged P300,000 in monthly sales, allowing the couple to easily recover, in less than a year, the P1 million they invested to put up the business.
Now, Aquahealth has 80 franchised outlets nationwide--not bad for a business the Agustins say they didn't plan on franchising at the start.
"We had our first franchise in March 1998. Our first franchisee was actually one of our regular customers," says Ann Lourdes, now president of Aquahealth. "Water is a necessity, so there's no risk at all. But we really did not think about franchising our business. My initial intention was just to recover from our financial loss from the car-rental business."
"At the start, I was the manager, and my husband was in charge of studying technologies for water purifying. Our initial capital included our store construction," she adds. "We experimented using various technologies. We failed at first, but we have perfected it already. We now have Department of Health (DoH) approval."
One of those technologies is producing alkaline ionized water, which the Agustins say is "healthier" than water treated using reverse osmosis, the process used by majority of the over 3,000 water-refilling stations in the country today.
"Most are using the old water treatment technology that produces the ordinary purified drinking water that is acidic and has no minerals," says Ann Lourdes.
"Alkaline-energized water is relatively new in the market, and there is a big opportunity for it to grow, create its own market and eventually creep into the market share of the old purified water, as more consumers become health conscious and aware of the healthful benefits of the water they drink," she says.
Aquahealth uses a process called silver ionization in which silver ions are introduced into the water, keeping the water free from disease-carrying bacteria while keeping all healthy minerals intact. The water is thus non-acidic, has more effective antioxidants, detoxifies the body and balances the body's pH levels, the Agustins say.
Every month, an accredited laboratory of the DoH does a microbiological analysis of the water sold in Aquahealth refilling stations, so "there is quality assurance," Ann Lourdes stresses.
Meanwhile, the Agustins have brought down the fee for an Aquahealth franchise from P750,000 to just P495,000. It covers the cost of the water purification equipment but not the cost of store renovation, says Ann Lourdes. Its value-added services, however, include support services, free maintenance and equipment upgrades, and a national marketing program.
With demand for cleaner and healthier drinking water still rising, the couple says Aquahealth is confident of carving a new niche with its alkaline-energized water. "We have not fully saturated the market with our new kind of water," Ann Lourdes says. Now that they're in the "business of making high-tech water," as their company slogan goes, the Agustins don't have to worry about high risks anymore.
To learn about taking a franchise, visit the online directory listing of Aquahealth here .