In 2009, Kerwin Thomas Tansekiao was riding high as managing director of Jimini Foods Corporation. The Jimini Chicago Style Whole Pizza brand was the leading frozen-fresh pizza sold in major supermarkets and grocery stores. Pizza Pedrico's, its then 4-year-old 4-pizzas-in-a-box franchise concept, was on its way to become a national pizza franchise, already establishing its presence in key cities in Visayas and Mindanao.
But all of the successes he worked hard for in the past 10 years will almost be taken away in one fell swoop—“We got flooded,” said Tansekiao.
Facing the flood
In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana, also known as Tropical Storm Ondoy, hit the Philippines and became the most devastating tropical cyclone to hit Metro Manila, leaving $1.09 billion in damages and 747 fatalities in its wake.
Tansekiao's 10-year-old company was not exempt from the typhoon's fury—its office and commissary along G. Araneta Avenue, Quezon City got flooded severely, destroying millions of pesos worth in equipment and wiping out important documents in the process.
It is a huge blow for Tansekiao, as setting up these company infrastructure was an expensive and daunting task for him and his team. “We had to invest heavily in commissaries, depots, as well as own the major parts of the cold-chain process to ensure that we maintain our standards consistently across the different parts of the country—it was a daunting task for the team to set up,” Tansekiao recalled.
Worse, it endangered the lives of his employees, whether they were inside or outside the office when the flood hit.
Learning to trust God
Admittedly, Tansekiao has been a Born Again Christian for the past 27 years at this point, but it was the first time that he really found the need to look to God when it came to his business. “Being God-centered has always been a part of the company's mission and vision; but, I can say that it was the first time that I really put my faith and trust in God when it came to the business. Before, it was really just about me, about my leadership, and my net worth—I wasn't fully entrusting the business to God,” Tansekiao recalled.
The flood put everything in perspective for Tansekiao—will he hand over the reins of the company's rebuilding to God, or will he take control again? “I chose to trust God this time,” Tansekiao recalled, noting that he was fighting off the temptation to give up on the business altogether, as it was like building the business from scratch all over again.
Part of this trust entailed resuming operations as soon as possible, and taking out loans to rebuild the commissary and the equipment that got destroyed in the flood. “I didn't do that before—I was too proud to be in debt,” Tansekiao recalled. “But God assured me that the company will be profitable again and will be able to pay off that debt.”
Another prodding he got from God is to not give up on the business. “Don't give up—you may just be two feet, two years, or two days away from victory if you just pushed and not given up,” said Tansekiao.
After the flood
This victory is now a reality for Tansekiao as his cart franchise Pizza Pedrico's officially became a national brand in 2014—it now has more than 220 stores all over the Philippines, with an additional 945 satellite locations (which refers to counter-top options for existing stores, like convenience stores and school canteens, among others, that offer branded pizza products like Pizza Pedrico's and Jimini Chicago Style Whole Pizza to increase their product offerings and sales).
“Trusting God, surrendering our business to His total control, and giving it our very best all the time is the best thing we have ever done,” said Tansekiao.
In 2012, Jimini Foods Corp. introduced another food cart concept to the market—the pizza-by-the-slice food cart Santino's Supreme Slice, now a common fixture in major malls, and LRT and MRT stations. In two years, Santino's also became a national pizza brand, now with over 134 stores all over the Philippines.
“We always do things with passion for excellence. For us, we do what we do and we delight the customers because we see this as our offer of worship to God, and God deserves only the best,” said Tansekiao. “We continue to trust and entrust everything to God—He is the boss.”