BENJAMIN’S BuSINESS vENTuRES
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.
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...