Biz

BEN­JAMIN’S BuSI­NESS vEN­TuRES

YES! (Philippines) - - Hello! -

It’s not enough for Ben­jamin Alves to be one of GMA’s ma­jor male stars. The Guam-raised ac­tor-poet, whose real name is Ben­jamin Quiambao Sap­ida and whose nick­name is Ben, is also turning his pas­sions into suc­cess­ful busi­nesses, with the help of some of his most trusted friends. And he’s re­ally get­ting good at it.

Phat Boys

In 2013, Ben met for­mer Philippine Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion player and model La­mont Wa­ters in church. The fol­low­ing year, they turned into busi­ness part­ners. To­gether with singer Jan­jay Co­quilla, they cre­ated Phat Boys hand­crafted ice cream sand­wiches.

The idea was born out of the three men’s love for desserts.

“We all have our sweet tooth,” Ben tells YES! Mag­a­zine. “If we’re not eat­ing Phat Boys, we’re eat­ing some­thing else that’s sweet. I think that’s the oxy­moron, e. It’s be­cause when we were sell­ing it… I mean, just to, you know, show our cus­tomers, like, you can eat sweets, too, but text by bam v. abel­lon in­ter­view & shoot pro­duc­tion by jocelyn valle pho­tos by kurt al­varez you can, you know, try to live a lit­tle bit longer, so you have to work out a lit­tle bit…

“We’re unashamed, we’re un­apolo­getic with how we eat, e. Well, you know, we also work out to­gether, play bas­ket­ball to­gether, so you can cheat pala.”

La­mont ex­plains that var­i­ous names came up for the prod­uct that they had in mind, but none of them seemed right for what they wanted to build. In the end, they de­cided to go for one that was true to their char­ac­ter.

“We just started dis­cussing,” La­mont says, “and, funny, amongst all of us, we al­ways say if you eat desserts or eat some­thing not so healthy, we’d say ‘Let’s get our fat boys on.’ So it was kind of some­thing we said, we just in­cor­po­rated it into our busi­ness.”

Ben ad­mits that their net­work of friends and fam­ily helped pro­pel their busi­ness to what it is now. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have to pay their dues, too.

Their prod­uct was for­mally launched dur­ing an event for Sta­tus Mag­a­zine at the Whites­pace Manila event place in Makati City. “We were one of their food stands,” La­mont re­calls. “And that’s kinda our jump. And then Ben­jamin Alves and busi­ness part­ner La­mont Wa­ters pose in front of their Phat Boys stall (top photo). Ben also shows his ice-cream­sand­wich-mak­ing skills to the YES! team (above).

In his personal life, Ben is plan­ning to learn more about his other pas­sion: lit­er­a­ture. “Next year, gusto ko mag-aral ulit. I just emailed my pro­fes­sor. I was very in­spired by Rocco: he got his mas­ter’s. So I’m try­ing to find a way to do that. For an English de­gree, it’s very hard. We have one here at Ate­neo, but you have to be in class, which is hard for us. So I’m try­ing to find one which is on­line. I wanna get a mas­ter’s de­gree in English, cre­ative anal­y­sis sig­uro. I think it’s time.”

Rocco is Ben’s fel­low Ka­puso star, Rocco Na­cino, who grad­u­ated cum laude with a mas­ter’s de­gree in nurs­ing last Novem­ber 2017.

from there, that’s when we all got to­gether, started talk­ing about how to try to do this, and then go to mar­ket. That’s when we re­ally got in­volved, and Ben helped with a lot of stuff, as far as man­ning the booth, some of the ideas, names that are ap­pe­tiz­ing, mar­ket­ing.”

They then started sell­ing at the Gour­mand Mar­ket, a week­end mar­ket that, at that time, had only re­cently opened at the Boni­fa­cio Global City com­plex, Taguig City.

“We were do­ing the fair, wala pa kam­ing store front, wala pa kam­ing booth,” Ben says. “We didn’t even have a sup­plier for ice cream. So, lit­er­ally, we had to go to Cash and Carry Mall. Kami ’yong bibili sa umaga bago mag­bukas ’yong Gour­mand Mar­ket. Noth­ing fancy, noth­ing you know. It was some­thing that my friends and I came up with. We all brain­stormed, and then, there it is. And those guys are my fam­ily, those guys are my good friends. So, I’m re­ally blessed to be around peo­ple na they have great ideas that I kind of, you know, lean to­wards.”

The hard work paid off, even­tu­ally. The team now has ten dif­fer­ent fla­vors of ice cream and three dif­fer­ent types of cook­ies, plus they’ve added more top­pings. But a ma­jor milestone hap­pened some­time in Jan­uary 2017, when they fi­nally had their per­ma­nent site at The Yard Un­der­ground food park in Pasig City.

Busi­ness is good, to say the least. They are plan­ning to have a branch in the south, such as in Ala­bang, Muntinlupa City. They have also catered for wed­dings, par­ties, and chil­dren’s par­ties.

And they are ex­pect­ing things to get bet­ter as the sum­mer ap­proaches. Ben laughs: “The sum­mer’s com­ing, March is com­ing. It’s the best way for the sum­mer bod­ies to meet ice cream.”

Be­sides, Ben adds, if one wants to take some calo­ries in, he or she might as well make the most of it: “Kasi kami, if we’re gonna have a cookie, it must be worth it, kesa mag-diet ka pa nang kaunti. If we’re gonna have ice cream, that’s the best ice cream, ’cause magdi-dessert ka na rin, e.”

Book & Bor­ders Café

In 2013, Ben be­came one of the en­dorsers of the Blue Wa­ter Day Spa fam­ily, owned by the Simisims. Two years later, in 2015, he was in­vited by Kris­tine Simisim and the fam­ily ma­tri­arch, Mary Simisim, to be­come an en­dorser again for their new project, a book-themed cof­fee shop named Book & Bor­ders Café. The fam­ily also in­vited It’s Show­time host Karylle to be an en­dorser.

Ben thought of the of­fer, and de­cided to try his hand at some­thing else. “Sabi ko, puwe­deng ano na lang, in­stead of get­ting paid, can I just be a part­ner? Kasi I find there’s more value for that.”

The Simisims agreed. Karylle also be­came a part-owner. “Gano’n sina Ms. Mary, e, sina Ms. Kris­tine. They’re very nice, su­per nice. Imag­ine, with Blue Wa­ter, I was with them even be­fore I

was, you know, re­ally launched in GMA. They al­ready put their trust in me. Parang that re­la­tion­ship has grown also, and I hope I’ve rep­re­sented them that way also. We just shot our cam­paign for Blue Wa­ter for next year. And even if there comes a time that they find some­one else for it, I think the re­la­tion­ship we have will still be there… It’s more of them trust­ing us.”

Book and Bor­ders now has four branches: on To­mas Mo­rato Av­enue, Que­zon City; in McKin­ley Hill, Taguig City; in the East­wood City com­plex, Que­zon City; and at the Araneta Cen­ter, Que­zon City.

Kris­tine Simisim, who’s present dur­ing the YES! in­ter­view with Ben, says the café is a fit­ting busi­ness for the ac­tor, who is a book lover. In case you haven’t heard, the Ka­puso hunk grad­u­ated summa cum laude with a de­gree in English Lit­er­a­ture from the Univer­sity of Guam.

Ben says that he and Kris­tine have the same taste in books. They also have the same goals: to make peo­ple feel com­fort­able in­side the café.

“The in­te­ri­ors are dif­fer­ent,” Ben points out. “The one in McKin­ley is a lot warmer. We tried to get the vibe of the place, the lo­ca­tion. To­mas Mo­rato, it’s lively, maram­ing ilaw. When you go to the one in East­wood, it’s more toned down. You won’t see the col­or­ful chairs there. Kasi ’yan ’yong gin­gawa ko when I was in col­lege. I wish we had a place like this in col­lege.”

He adds: “If you wanna be able to read a book, you can do it here. If you don’t have a book that you brought, or you know, may dalawang oras ka na bakante, you pass by here, pick a book, not nec­es­sar­ily the one that you brought. Kung hindi planado, you can come here and re­lax, use the Wi-Fi, or you can spend the whole day here study­ing.”

There are other ac­tiv­i­ties that hap­pen in the café on some days— cor­po­rate events, game nights, acous­tic nights, to name a few.

be­ing an en­trepreneur

With th­ese two busi­nesses grow­ing re­ally fast, Ben has learned a thing or two about be­ing an en­trepreneur.

“It’s al­ways nice to have ways of in­come, you know. Even if you’re so blessed in show­biz, to work around, to earn a lot from days of work at tap­ing, it’s still a pay­check-to-pay­check ba­sis, e. Ba­si­cally, if you stop work­ing, you don’t get paid. Even though you have so much money in the bank, you’re just one day away from be­ing sick, di ba? God for­bid.

“And if your in­come is based on you work­ing ev­ery day, then that’s not good. If meron ka na­man palang nasave nang kaunti, you should put it some­where else, where you don’t have to work and it still grows.

“I’ve learned that you should make your money grow. When I was grow­ing up, I never had money in the bank. I didn’t have a bank ac­count un­til af­ter col­lege. So, and even then, dur­ing my first few years sa show­biz, I never saw that kind of money in my life. So I was over­whelmed. You’re spend­ing it, you’re find­ing things to buy. So when you have the means, you en­joy them. But then, af­ter a while, you re­al­ize na it doesn’t mat­ter how much you earn, e. Let’s say you’re earn­ing a mil­lion, but if you’re spend­ing up to that mil­lion, then wala din.” He is also learn­ing the value of trust. “Sabi, di ba, you should never mix busi­ness with friend­ship or fam­ily? I’ve been very blessed na that hasn’t been the case.”

As in show busi­ness, the suc­cess of his food and restau­rant busi­nesses is not de­pen­dent on a cer­tain for­mula. Some­times, a lot of it has to do with gut feel and faith in the peo­ple you work with.

“It’s a risk,” Ben em­pha­sizes. “But ’yon nga, e. Be­cause you be­lieve in them, you trust their vi­sion, so okey ka lang. Kasi peo­ple have this thing: ‘I trust you, I sup­port you, here’s the money.’ And when that money doesn’t grow, parang na­ga­galit ka. If you’re will­ing to put the money, then you’re will­ing to lose it. If ev­ery busi­ness plan was guar­an­teed, then ev­ery­body will be a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man.”

Read­ing a book is some­thing that Ben often does dur­ing his free time. “I’ve al­ways been into the clas­sics,” he re­veals. “Pag fa­vorite au­thors, sig­uro po­ets. More on po­ets… Robert Frost. I re­ally like the con­tem­po­rary ones. Lang Leav is very good also....

Dishes served at Books & Bor­ders Café: (clock­wise, from top left) Buf­falo Wings, Fried Tuyo with Kesong Puti Pasta, Grilled Ham Moz­zarella, Choco­late Milk­shake, and Matcha Green Tea Cheese­cake. Ben tells us that his fa­vorite food at the café is the...

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