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Hero: This sausage venture saved a dying family biz

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The question of what to do when you are stuck in a sunset industry is probably one of the hardest to answer for any entrepreneur. [See 23 questions for aspiring entrepreneurs here]

Does one persist to the bitter end, or does one seek out new opportunities and start a news business? This was exactly the dilemma that Rose Lee faced when the advent of digital cameras and digital  photography threatened to wipe out her film developing business.

Rose and her husband Jason had owned a chain of film development centers, and for years business was good until about 2003, when digicams started to become popular.

Since they needed no film, digicams basically killed the film development industry, and Rose’s business was part of it.

Realizing this, the couple looked around for a replacement business.

Robert’s family owned a sausage factory that catered to institutional clients like hotels, ships and airlines.

Taking a cue from this venture, the couple then decided to start their own processed meat business, selling products like tocino and tapa.  [Learn how to make tocino here]

 However, faced with an oversupply of sausages, the Lees then decided to sell them in a trade fair they were participating in.

At the time, European sausages where largely unknown to Filipinos, and it was a challenge to get people to try the sausages.

“When we started, we literally had to chase people to offer them food samples,” recounts Lee.

The sausages proved a hit, outselling the other processed meats they were offering. They then decided to reduce their dependence on corporate clients, and proceeded to create their house brand in 2005.

The couple decided to name the brand Hero, aptly named for saving them from business ruin. They invested P4 million into this new brand, and then slowly closed their film developing stores to keep all their workers from being suddenly displaced. [See full directory of Hero here]

This process began in 2005 and ended last year.

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