For Strictly Business this week, we have an entrepreneur whose business concept revolves around a really Filipino staple. This business can now be found all over the archipelago, and there are more stores coming.
Meet Bienvenido M. Cruz Jr., or Benjo Cruz as many know him. Benjo finished two courses in college: B.S. Nursing in our Lady of Fatima and Banking and Finance at the University of the East.
Having finished two full courses in college, one would imagine that Benjo would end up in the corporate world. However, he probably was born to be an entrepreneur because he went the working route but earned and saved enough as an OFW to go back home and see how he can be in business for himself.
Lesson no. 1- know your market and study the needs and wants of that market. That is exactly what Benjo did. He did not plunge into the business just because he had some capital and there was a space waiting for him.
His market was decidedly the masa market, those who want a hot filling meal that does not cost an arm and a leg. The casual employees, PUV drivers, students and those who want value for their money comprise a big sector of our economy, and Benjo knew that. He also knew that perception plays a big part as far as the consumers are concerned.
There are quite a few ambulant vendors selling the lowly lugaw, but Benjo took his product several notches higher by first, bring his stores to the malls and second, showing them that having a satisfying, affordable meal can mean hygienic and healthy as well.
How did he start? How much capital did he need?
Benjo, the successful entrepreneur, is still single, and with no wife or children to support, his big family is what he has.
Lugaw Republic, Benjo relates, did not become successful overnight. At first, business was slow but as time went by, those who tasted his lugaw kept coming back. By word of mouth, his customers increased steadily. His mantra for his lugawan is Masarap, Mura, Malinis.
And of course there are still challenges that he meets even as his business has stabilized.
And because he has not faltered or gone easy in the way he conducts his business, he makes sure that his loyal customers, those who form the core of his business, always keep coming back.
Having started only in late 2005, Benjo has gone a long way for a franchisor.
Benjo’s franchisees must be really contended with how Lugaw Republic is doing because he has several of them with multiple stores. One, Benjo says, has 15 franchise stores. Of the 200 Lugaw Republic stores across the country, 70% of them are franchises.
Lugaw Republic offers the most basic: plain lugaw, goto, arros caldo, the street food known as kwek kwek, and tokwa’t baboy.
For now, Benjo says, his goal is to make Lugaw Republic the most successful food cart business in the country, and he has this advice to many out there.
If you are interested to be one of Benjo’s franchisees, he also has an advice.
And for those of you who have not tried his product, heed Benjo’s personal invite.
Everybody loves lugaw, so check out this week’s Strictly Business feature, Lugaw Republic.