Singer and actress Rachel Alejandro and her sister, Chef Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck, are considered pioneers in the wellness industry.
Together, they launched The Sexy Chef in 2004 when diet delivery services were still unheard of in the country. Opening the business and juggling it with her commitments in the entertainment industry, however, came as an unexpected decision for Alejandro.
“When we first began, I wasn’t thinking of it as a business for myself. My intention was, first and foremost, for my sister Barni to have a reliable source of income,” revealed Alejandro. “At that time, she was my personal chef, making healthier versions of my everyday meals. I liked them so much that I wanted everyone else to have a taste.”
Introducing a novel concept
Investing in her sister’s talent meant having to introduce a new concept to the market and gaining the trust of potential clients. Alejandro’s initial strategy was simple: reach out to her friends in show business.
“We had a clear concept—if healthy eating was as easy as having delicious and nutritious meals delivered to you every day, then sticking to a diet would be less of a challenge,” she said. Their celebrity clients grasped the idea instantly, and found it easy to incorporate The Sexy Chef’s healthy-meals-on-wheels service into their lifestyle.
Soon, word of mouth spread and the new business, which was then focusing on the wildly popular South Beach Diet, got more attention from the media. “Doors opened left and right for us because I am in show biz,” recalled Alejandro. “But more than just our family name, I believe the brand gained credibility because our meal plans showed results.”
In a local market that associated dieting with bland and boring food, The Sexy Chef became the more exciting and effective alternative. But what the duo started as a small business operating out of their grandmother’s kitchen evolved into a trusted health food provider.
By 2010, the health-conscious lifestyle was becoming the new normal. For Alejandro, that signaled taking over more responsibilities in the company. “I officially became the marketing head—overseeing sales, customer care, and digital content for our marketing efforts [nearly six years ago].”
The Sexy Chef’s solution to the demands of the market is an expanded line-up of meal programs that cater to a wide range of needs—from vegan meals to guilt-free indulgences; calorie-controlled diets to blood type-based programs. “We have the most variety of diet plans and delivery packages in the country,” said Alejandro. “That’s because we keep our ears to the ground for diet and nutrition trends. Barni is constantly developing new dishes and we align ourselves with the most knowledgeable people in the industry, like our long-time partner Nadine Tengco, who is considered as the nutritionist to the stars. These keep our programs and meal packages from becoming stale,” she added.
Other opportunities for expansion have come in the form of hiring a team of nutrition specialists, cooks, and customer care specialists, offering catering services, conducting health talks and cooking demos, and launching two cookbooks under The Sexy Chef name.
“I’m grateful that despite how much the industry has changed in the past 11 years, we have remained relevant,” said Alejandro, noting that many other meal delivery services have come out of the woodwork in recent years. “Our business idea is definitely not an original one, but we figured out a way to bring it to a bigger audience, and make it effective and convenient for them.”
Anna is the managing editor of Yummy magazine. Follow her on Twitter, @annafelipev.
This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.