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Marriage blooms with business in this Sweet CORNer

Management of business usually deprives entrepreneurs of quality time with their family. Not for this couple, who have learned that together, they can accomplish tasks faster and more effectively so they can spare more time for their children.
By James Humarang |

“We don’t have the monopoly of good ideas in this world,” said 42-year-old Voltaire ‘Bong’ Magpayo, owner of food cart franchise Sweet CORNer. For him and his wife Cholly, “Two heads are definitely better than one.” The husband-and-wife tandem has made their marriage a significant factor of their successful venture.

“Accept the fact that you can’t do everything by yourself,” asserted the 37-year-old Cholly. The couple has been managing their business together since Day 1. They have been proving that busy entrepreneurs could still find time for the family.

Despite their busy schedule, they accompany and fetch their children to school together every single day. Their kids come first before their business commitments. Together, they start and end each day as a duo. It is not surprising then that they manage to easily juggle family life and business demands as a formidable tandem.

Sweet start

The love story of the Magpayos started in 1996 when Bong was assigned for temporary relocation by his former employer to General Santos City in South Cotabato. A common friend introduced them to each other in 1998. By 1999, Bong and Cholly tied the knot and started building a family of their own.

In 2000, their firstborn son came into their lives. The then budding family stayed in GenSan for another three years. The couple decided that it was time to move to Manila in 2003 to find greener pastures. That was when Bong got his managerial job at the Philippine Tourism Authority.

Logically, the Magpayos thought they needed to generate more income to support their growing family. Already thinking about starting their own business, Bong and Cholly were held back by lack of capital. Within three years, they made ends meet so they could save for seed money for a small startup.

2005 was a turning point as the Magpayos finally got their hands into a small business, using their P300,000 savings. Their first venture was a franchise of the food cart ‘Kuya Chito’s Takuyaki.’ That endeavor paid off and within a short period, they were able to open three franchised locations: in SM Megamall, SM Valenzuela, and St. Francis Square.

Going through the crossroads

About three years after, the couple almost decided to give up their business, when sales of their Takuyaki stores started to decline. At one point, their bank account thinned out and almost ran out of cash. When just about P17,000 was left in their savings, they had to consider changing their business plan---possibly giving up entrepreneurship for a while so Bong could find another career opportunity somewhere else.

All systems were set when they saw a ‘sign’ that led them to where they are now. During an appointment with Bong’s dentist, the couple somehow got the idea to give franchising another try. That was when they devised a business plan to put up a startup that would eventually roll out as an attractive business opportunity to other entrepreneurs.

The birth of Sweet CORNer

In 2009, the couple developed a business they could call their own, using the food cart model they had been familiar with. That was when Sweet CORNer was born. The startup was not spared from initial challenges, though. At the onset, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Intellectual Property Office rejected the application for ‘Sweet CORNer’ trade name for one simple reason: it supposedly sounded ‘very common.’

But the Magpayos had the gut feeling that the name would be the best their business could possibly take. They processed the application online and got the approval. They operated their first Sweet CORNer stall along with their Takuyaki stores.

In 2010, for an unknown reason, Takuyaki decided not to renew the couple’s franchise contract. That was somehow a blessing in disguise, although the couple admits that they still felt sorry for the severed ties. It was an opportunity to focus on Sweet CORNer. Today, anyone would agree that it was destined to happen. Now with 80 stores, mostly franchised, Sweet CORNer has become one of the most promising franchise business opportunities.

The secret to success

So what could be the secret to Sweet CORNer’s success? No doubt, it is the power tandem. Bong and Cholly have become partners not just in life but also in business. “We know several couples, each spouse having his/her own career. For us, we have proven that p’wede pala magtulungan.”

Every decision at home and in the business has to be properly deliberated together by them. And just like all other couple, they are not spared from occasional disagreements. “I’m the more moody type,” Bong admitted. And Cholly knows how to break the ice when silence is getting in between them after an argument. Their two kids also know how to help their parents patch things up.

Just like in business, Bong and Cholly couldn’t be any happier for their growing family. Their two sons, one in Grade 8 and the other in Grade 2, are looking forward to soon welcome their newest sibling. Cholly is again on the family way, but that doesn’t stop her from doing her hands-on responsibilities in the business, except that this time, she is more careful because she already had two miscarriages because of her usually tedious and stressful work habits.

Unsinkable business

The couple is still on call, 24/7 especially when their staff and franchisors are dealing with challenging situations, wherein their guidance is very much needed. This is despite the leeway they provide to every franchisee. The Magpayos want to be of help in every step of the way so that when any of their franchisees eventually decide to put up their own business, they can draw inspiration and guidance from how Sweet CORNer made it.

The family regularly goes to Antipolo every Sunday to hear the mass. They are devotees of Our Lady of Peace and Voyage, which they cite partly for the ‘unsinkable’ business they have despite the occasional rough patches along the way.

Will the couple grow old together managing Sweet CORNer? “Of course, we will not take a back seat,” declared Bong. He added, “The business gave us good life. We’ll continue to take care of it.”


Sweet CORNer is open for franchising. For inquiries, open its directory listing here

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