“This all feels like a dream,” Rosiell de Leon said in Filipino, five years since she and her husband, Rudy, set up Bianca’s Ice Candy.
Nowadays, the couple is busy talking to clients, handling operations, and overseeing the construction of their new factory in Antipolo, Rizal.
In 2011, the de Leons were only praying for someone to buy the ice they froze at home, sold at P3 each to make ends meet. Their capital was only P20, less than a dollar’s worth.
The move was born out of necessity after Rudy lost his job, keeping the young family of four on toes on what to do next.
But like how most success stories play out, little did they know, the setback was only the beginning of what would be a multimillionaire business that will capture the hearts of many.
How P20 started it all
The day they sold ice, the couple earned P300 ($6.42), pooling enough capital to start their ice candy business. The couple started with one flavor, fruit salad, a favorite of their youngest child, Bianca.
“When Nica was enrolled in a public school, she asked us to bring our product there because they had limited snack choices,” Rudy told Entrepreneur.com.ph.
This earned the couple their first school client which meant servicing the entire school population which could tally to almost a thousand. A few months in, the schools they served had multiplied, eventually covering the entire city of Antipolo and some neighboring cities.
“We’re currently servicing 136 schools to date, in Antipolo, Pasig City, some schools in Rizal, and the entire Quezon City,” Rudy added.
The couple has focused on servicing public schools alone, banking on volume orders for revenues.
This meant the couple’s weekdays are always swamped with more work simply to cater to all of their clients’ orders.
“Before, we still had to worry on our market since every time the rainy season came, ice candy is not really a good business. But today, we have to look for ways on how to multiply operations just to fill the needs of our clients,” Rosiell said.
As of July, their two facilities in Antipolo (one of which is the same place they sold their homemade ice), houses 194 freezers. From Mondays to Fridays, the facilities churn out 60,000 pieces of ice candy a day, now with 24 variants, all delivered to public schools they cater to.
Rudy said each freezer’s inventory earns at least P1,200 ($25.68) a day, even when they only sell each product for P3 ($0.064) a piece.
Rosiell—who still remembers how she and her husband used to manually prepare each ice candy—admitted that their everyday reality still feels overwhelming at times.
“Can you imagine, all we had was P20. We really just had to continue our lives then…. I never thought an ice candy business will be our bread and butter,” Rosiell said.
From tapping the help of sari-sari (variety) stores; carinderias (canteens); and street vendors, Bianca’s Ice Candy has upgraded their delivery services now that they are equipped with three frozen trucks, a far cry from the tricycle Rudy used to have to deliver their products.
More than a family business
Their success is indeed phenomenal that even PLDT Inc. took notice.
The de Leons’ story has piqued the interest of many, including PLDT Smart SME Nation, the telecom giant’s business solutions provider. For its Make It Big campaign, the couple was awarded as one of its ambassadors for encapsulating every micro, small and medium enterprise’s dream: making it big.
“Among all of our ambassadors, Bianca’s [story] is the most relatable. [They] started with something no one else was doing, it’s inspiring in a lot of ways. I just love the idea of them, P20—it’s something that is readily available to people and to say that you can start from that small and build something big,” PLDT SME Nation Marketing Communications Lead Joshua P. Aquino told Entrepreneur.com.ph.
As the small-time business transitions to the big leagues, PLDT SME Nation is offering some of its services, like broadband service and mart tracker for delivery services to help them keep up with the growing demand for their products.
But their success is not without challenges.
Rosiell and Rudy admit there is greater pressure to deliver, now that they have multiple clients to think of. Not to mention, the employees and their families depending on the business.
“Our journey wasn’t easy. We went through a lot of failures and setbacks. We also had bad investments. We’re probably successful to the eyes of others, but for us, we still have much to do since it’s not only our family who depend on us but the families of our employees as well,” Rudy said.
The expansion of operations gave the couple an opportunity to give back to some members of their community. Bianca’s Ice Candy currently employs 19 full-time employees which is seen to more than double by the time the company opens their new factory in Antipolo this coming August.
“We’re looking at producing 500,000 pieces of ice candy a day when that opens, covering the entire National Capital Region,” Rudy said.
“Our motto right now is really for employees to be happy with their work, in that way, we can help their families too.”
Elyssa Christine Lopez is Entrepreneur.com.ph's staff writer. Follow her on Twitter@elyssalopz.