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Food businesses on P20,000 or less (Part 2)

Even with a small initial investment, eight entrepreneurs were able to grow their packaged food products ventures into thriving businesses. Learn how you, too can start your food biz on P20,000 or less (Part 2)
By Mishell Malabaguio, Marie Ann Fajardo, Roderick Abad, Ma. Sigrid Dugeno-Lo, Jimbo Owen Gulle, Cindy Escobin |

In Part 1, we showed how Jarvis Crispy Kangkong and C&C Foods proved that even as the domestic market for packaged food is dominated by big players, going into this line of food business still makes good business sense. Here, we continue featuring ventures that have been able to grow their small investments into profitable businesses.



Whenever husband and wife Manolet and Connie Gonzalez went camping or did outdoor sports during weekends, they would always include homemade daing (dried fish) in olive oil among their food provisions. They had acquired the recipe for the delicacy and would regularly bottle it for their own use.


"During one such weekend outing in 1989, our friends and their balikbayan visitors got to try the delicacy and they liked it very much," Manolet recalls. The balikbayans in particular were so delighted by its taste that they gave the couple orders for the product right then and there.



That incident made Connie realize that there was a market for the delicacy, so she decided to make homemade bottled tuyo and daing in bigger quantities. She recalls spending no more than P5,000 for the ingredients of her bottled products, which she prepared right in her own kitchen. She priced both products at P90 per bottle and initially sold them to close friends.


Two years later, in 1991, the couple started selling their products in bazaars, and before long, they got invitations from deli owners to supply their stores with the products. In 1994, when several supermarket chains also expressed interest in the products, the couple decided to put up a company to do the business. Calling it Connie\\\'s Kitchen, they formally registered it with the Securities and Exchange Commission and obtained the necessary permits from the Bureau of Food and Drugs.


Whatever the couple earned from the business after that, they would reinvest it in more raw materials so they could produce enough stock for the next bazaar. In this way, Connie\\\'s Kitchen grew from a home-based enterprise into a full-fledged one.



By 2000, Connie\\\'s Kitchen had put up its own manufacturing plant and has since expanded its product lines to cheeses, sauces, and spreads. Among these new products is Pinoy puttanesca, a product inspired by the Italian puttanesca sauce; it uses daing instead of anchovies.


The company currently supplies upscale outlets at the Alabang Town Center, SM Megamall, Tiendesitas, Greenhills, and the NAIA Centennial Terminal. About 30 to 40 percent of the customers of Connie\\\'s Kitchen are balikbayans and their relatives, who buy the products for shipping to their loved ones abroad.


Connie says a major challenge they faced in the business--one that they had successfully hurdled--was to make the products last up to two years without using artificial preservatives. The Gonzalez couple says that such is the loyalty of Connie\\\'s Kitchen\\\'s regular customers that they continue to patronize its products although prices have doubled since the business started.

Manolet and Connie Gonzalez of Connie\\\'s Kitchen give the following four pointers on how to do the gourmet delicacy business:

  • Start small. Stay within your means, reinvest earnings in new products, and never take out big loans. Don\\\'t mind it if they call you "too mom-and-pop." Says Manolet: "In our case, we waited until the business became stable before moving out of our house and building our production facility."
  • Build on initial acceptance. "Develop a product that\\\'s already accepted or popular among your friends or family," advises Connie. "If it\\\'s different and unique, then it would be a big plus. And you must maintain the quality so you can gain loyal customers."
  • Continue developing new products. You need to come up with new products to better cope with seasonal changes. Along this line, Connie\\\'s Kitchen introduced its Picante brand of bottled gourmet sardines in October this year.
  • Be in touch with your customers. Cultivate relationships with your customers to get a better feel of your markets. "Our regular customers make personal orders and even make it a point to let us know whenever we run out of stock in the supermarkets," says Manolet.

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