With a lit­tle help

Good Housekeeping (Philippines) - - Your Money - Visit steep­cof­fee­bags.com or fol­low @Steep­cof­fee­bags on Face­book and In­sta­gram for more in­for­ma­tion.

Like many en­trepreneurs, 22-year-old Justin Bere­ber found the in­spi­ra­tion to put up his own ven­ture, Steep Cof­fee Bags, af­ter dis­cov­er­ing a gap in the mar­ket he be­lieved he could fill. “It’s ba­si­cally ground cof­fee in a bag. So you pre­pare cof­fee like tea,” says Justin. “Sa house kasi, in­stant cof­fee lang kami. So when­ever I’d brew cof­fee, ap­ply­ing the old-school method of fil­ter­ing us­ing cheese­cloth, a rub­ber band, and a mug, it would take me ten min­utes to make one cup. As a re­sult, na-le-late ako sa of­fice. So one morn­ing, I thought, ‘What if I put ground cof­fee in a tea bag?’ If I had that prod­uct, na­paka-con­ve­nient na to brew cof­fee with­out in­vest­ing in fancy ma­chines.” Justin had worked up the per­fect busi­ness con­cept—and it was a noble one at that: More than see­ing it as just a ven­ture he could earn from, he en­vi­sioned it to be one that could sup­port local com­mu­ni­ties. All he had to do next was find the re­sources to make it hap­pen.

JUSTIN’S EUREKA MO­MENT TOOK PLACE IN 2014, back when he had a full-time job and hardly any funds to start a busi­ness. But such cir­cum­stances didn’t stop the young en­tre­pre­neur from seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity.

Af­ter play­ing with the con­cept in his head for months, Justin re­signed from his job and, us­ing P15,000 from his per­sonal sav­ings, de­vel­oped the first batch of cof­fee bags. “I came from hum­ble be­gin­nings, and cap­i­tal, for me, was re­ally the chal­lenge,” ex­plains Justin. “And I had an eight-to-five job. So the very big risk that I took was na­gre­sign ako sa job ko with­out know­ing kung saan ako kikita; zero in­come ako nu’n.”

Justin spent a whole year pro­to­typ­ing the prod­ucts un­til, in Septem­ber 2015, he for­mally in­tro­duced them to the mar­ket as Steep Cof­fee Bags. From his small cap­i­tal, Justin was able to sin­gle-hand­edly pro­duce an ini­tial in­ven­tory of 2,000 cof­fee bags, all made from local ground beans. “I bought raw ma­te­ri­als, ako pa yung nag-weigh, cut, and seal nu’ng tea bags,” he says. “I would even skip meals just so I could buy raw ma­te­ri­als, and have gas for my mo­tor­cy­cle.”

SCAL­ING THE BUSI­NESS

Justin started by sell­ing the cof­fee bags in bazaars and a cou­ple of re­tail­ers, us­ing his earn­ings to keep his in­ven­tory stocked. But many more stores would later carry the prod­ucts as the brand cap­tured a share of the cof­fee mar­ket.

Steep Cof­fee Bags were picked up by over 50 stores na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing pop­u­lar out­lets like SM Kul­tura and Echo­s­tore, sell­ing 100,000 cof­fee bags on av­er­age each month. It was a wel­come de­vel­op­ment for the busi­ness. To sat­isfy the de­mands of a grow­ing num­ber of mer­chants, Justin knew he had to ex­pand his prod­uct line and oper­a­tions as well. And to do this, he needed more funds.

In Septem­ber 2016, Justin turned to crowd­fund­ing, a type of fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­ity that pools small sums of money from a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als who wish to sup­port or fund a project. He launched a cam­paign through The Spark Project (thes­parkpro­ject. com), the same local on­line crowd­fund­ing plat­form that launched Gouache Bags, the start-up busi­ness Justin worked for in 2014.

The goal was to raise P50,000 for the de­vel­op­ment of new blends for Steep Cof­fee Bags, but the cam­paign sur­passed Justin’s ex­pec­ta­tions: Af­ter just a few months, he had raised P200,000, which al­lowed him to pur­chase raw ma­te­ri­als for prod­ucts, build his own pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Cainta, Rizal, and hire six un­der­priv­i­leged moth­ers from the neigh­bor­hood to work for the busi­ness full time.

Later on, this ex­pan­sion also al­lowed Justin to in­crease his pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity. He started ex­port­ing cof­fee bags to Aus­tralia in March 2017, in an ef­fort to fur­ther ex­pand the brand’s mar­ket, which Justin ad­mits is still not as big as he wishes it to be in the Philip­pines.

THE CROWD­FUND­ING AD­VAN­TAGE

Justin en­cour­ages other en­trepreneurs to con­sider crowd­fund­ing to help their busi­ness ideas come to life. “Be­sides rais­ing funds, it’s a good way to get val­i­da­tion for your project,” he says. In the case of Steep, Justin be­lieves it was the unique­ness of the prod­uct that won back­ers’ sup­port.

Crowd­fund­ing is also a good way to test the wa­ters. Says Justin, “You won’t have to pro­duce your prod­ucts first. Kasi crowd­fund­ing is like pre-or­der­ing: you have to take or­ders first be­fore you have to pro­duce them.”

It’s also a con­ve­nient way to get started on your en­trepreneurial dreams. Cre­at­ing a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign on an on­line plat­form like The Spark Project is about as easy as sign­ing up for an ac­count on so­cial me­dia. How­ever, pro­po­nents stress that it still re­quires a lot of hard work.

The cam­paign proper runs for only 30 to 45 days. Justin pre­pared for this by talk­ing to po­ten­tial back­ers three months ahead. “So para akong nag-crowd­fund for four months. It gave me enough time na man­li­gaw ng back­ers,” he says. Justin ex­plains that his first back­ers were fam­ily, friends, and fel­low en­trepreneurs. By the time the cam­paign was launched, word had al­ready spread about Steep Cof­fee Bags.

“Prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning are re­ally the keys to a suc­cess­ful cam­paign,” he adds.

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