Like many entrepreneurs, Hans Clifford Yao wanted to get into the food business. So when he got the chance to meet with Singaporean food operators looking for partners in the Philippines, he didn’t hesitate.
But a business consultant advised him against the plan. As president of the Adrenaline Group of Companies, distributor of luxury goods brand Porsche Design and children's apparel line Petit Bateau, Yao has already established himself in fashion retail and he was told that joining the food bandwagon might not be the best move for him.
But Yao didn't come home from his Singapore business trip empty-handed. During the visit, he learned about stationery and paper goods brand The Paper Stone, which distributed products that are “cute, colorful and very creative.” Still, he says, “It never occurred to me to bring home a stationery brand.”
Yao did further research before signing on to be the brand's master franchise owner in the Philippines. This involved, of all things, talking with the business' target market: teenagers. “My cousins, who were still in college, were among the people I talked to,” he recalls.
Even in the age of touchscreens, Yao recognized the clamor for a return to pen and paper, especially with the growing number of calligraphy enthusiasts in the country. “Writing with pen and paper is still a different experience, and I want to make sure that the younger generation would still be able to experience that in a fun and creative way,” he says.
Yao was given creative freedom in bringing the brand to the Philippines. For instance, he introduced the brand in a kiosk format here, which was not done in Singapore, to attract more franchisees. And while all of the stock designs still come from Singapore, Yao is coming up with uniquely Filipino themes that would further distinguish the brand’s products from the competition.
So far, the risk Yao took seems to be paying off—since opening the first store in December 2014, The Paper Stone has found a steady following among students and arts and crafts enthusiasts. “The longer I’ve been operating The Paper Stone, the more thankful I am that I didn’t go with food,” he says.
The Paper Stone has four company-owned outlets in Alabang Town Center, SM North EDSA, UP Town Center, SM Megamall and Araneta Gateway Mall with two franchised outlets in SM Seaside, Cebu and Ayala Nuvali, Laguna.
As an added bonus, Yao has also waived royalty fees. “For those who want to go back to the basics of writing, and those who enjoy fun, quirky and creative products—the brand and its products are all about that,” he says. “We’re looking for franchisees who share those ideals, too.”
Total investment: Php 585,000 to Php 750,000 for a kiosk;
Php 2.9 million for an in-line store
Contract term: 3 years, renewable
Inclusions: License to use trademark, name, and logo; site selection and evaluation assistance; store design and construction assistance; operations manual; training; initial inventory and supplies; local store marketing assistance, among others.
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph.