Eugene O. Cebuala : “Family Businesses Are Double-Edged Swords”
An ex-salesman lets us in on the advantages and disadvantages of sharing entrepreneurial endeavors with your kin.
For more than 19 years now, Eugene O. Cebuala, general manager of Kiks Roasted Corn Coffee, has been an avid coffee drinker. “It’s as if my day’s incomplete without at least a cup of coffee. While I often get hyper acidic because of it, and the doctor has advised me to stay away from my favorite brew, I still can’t help myself,” he said.
And so, after a visit last year in Butuan where he saw his first encounter with a different kind of coffee-not from beans, but from corn-he also caught sight of promising agribusiness. After talking to the processor of the product and ironing out the rest of the details, Kiks was born.
Marketing and packaging
“Kiks Roasted Coffee is another addition to our line of products,” said Cebuala, “We also have an established fishcracker line and flavoured sampalok (available in mango and sweet chilli). Our processors from Butuan are responsible for the product itself, while we are more in charge of the packaging side.”
Corn coffee is not new. In fact, anybody who’s involved with this business could tell you producing coffee from corn is a very simple process: you take the corn, have it roasted then ground, and you have your finished product already. It’s a much undemanding course. The hard part: marketing the product, especially in the mainstream souk, where competition for alternative foodstuff has become stiff and stringent.
“The market has really evolved since we first went into the business 19 years ago. When I was young, acceptance of coffee was limited to those who have spare money to burn. Today, on the other hand, we have become witnesses to the birth of several coffee shops, both small and big timers. This has paved the way for other entrepreneurs like me, who are really into the product, to venture out into a business of our own,” continued Cebuala.
However, the public’s approval of corn coffee hasn’t established itself just yet. People are more drawn to coffee that comes from coffee beans. This is what Cebuala works hard on.
Entrepreneurs like him are given the difficult responsibility to introduce to an unspecified market an alternative product.
“On the other hand, it isn’t as hard, really. The market for alternative products, however segmented, exists. And partly because reception of coffee in general here in Metro Manila is good,” he added.
At present, they top off their handsome logo by further improving their packaging. “We want to serve a tertiary market through a pouch plastic. And because this is more affordable, production and price wise, such have been certified for a more massive majority.”
Benefits as highlights
Business has been steady since they first introduced their line of roasted corn coffee last October. According to Cebuala, for a start-up company, they’re actually doing well. The secret lies in their approach to their potential market.
“As much as possible, we would like to take mere baby steps. If it takes a good three, four years or so to fully educate the public, then we’d let it be. The market for corn coffee is not as receptive just yet. But I believe it will be, very soon,” he said.
As in charge of marketing and packaging, Cebuala begins their educating of the public by stressing its health benefits. According to him, corn is basically rich in fiber just like pineapple, thus enabling it to bring down cholesterol levels. Secondly, the corn they acquire from Butuan are organic, fertilizer and pesticide-free. Also, a hypertensive person could drink it. Because it’s more caffeine free compared to other types of coffee, it doesn’t distress and agitate the nervous system.
Another good thing about Kiks is that you don’t need a coffee maker to fully enjoy it. “It functions in three different ways. It can be served like instant coffee, it can be boiled in a kettle, or you can brew it in your coffee maker,” continued Cebuala.
At present, a 200mg bottle is being sold at Php85, the 110g at Php65. The price is competitive, considering a regular 110-gram bottle can already serve more or less 50 cups-less than Php2.00 per cup. Kiks Roasted Coffee is currently selling in leading supermarkets.
Business of the family
‘Kiks’ is Cebuala’s wife’s nickname. Kikay, as he calls her, is also the assistant manager. His 27-year-old son Mark is the sales manager, while Cynthia, 28, is the treasurer. It is safe to call them the Cebuala Corporation.
“My wife and I started the whole thing. My two children, even when they were still young, involved themselves in the production and bookkeeping. They were both exposed to the business in an early age. So after they graduated and ventured into their own careers, I encouraged them to work for the family business instead. After all, my business is their business,” said Cebuala.
Having your children work for you, according to him, is a double edged sword. If managed well, it can be an eventual lucrative inheritance. On the other hand, if managed poorly, children who weren’t exposed to the business early tend to neglect it easily.
“Luckily for me, I was able to brief my children early. They know the more minute details of our beginnings,” he continued, “Kiks started with a very small capital of Php150,000. When I first approached a bank for a loan, I was asked for a collateral, which I didn’t have. So I was forced to borrow money from friends.”
After nearly a year of producing corn coffee, Cebuala has learned that it’s most important to loom and set about by breaking the traditional mentality of the coffee market.
And by joining exhibitions to expose their new products and staying away from expensive modes of advertising, one can directly connect with potential customers, slowly but surely.
This has worked for them, apparently, since during the recent PhilFoodEx trade exhibit, they won their first award-’Best Breakfast Beverage’.
Cebuala is also rearing for the big time. Kiks Roasted Corn Coffee, which has a two-year shelf life and a Halal certification to boot, has the potential to do well in Muslim countries.
This can be done, he said, through ,local consolidators that make transactions easier for any budding entrepreneur. “Volume wise, you can’t project the regularity of orders through consolidators alone. And the volume, you can’t depend on it entirely. If you deal with them directly, however, getting feedback from the importers and sharing ideas with them will be effortless,” be said.
For the past 19 years, Cebuala, who started as a salesman for a chemical company, has learned a bundle. First, production should be consistent. Working closely with your delivery schedule is key. And that every business is risky.
Company Name: Kiks Products
Main Product: Kiks Roasted Corn Coffee
Other Products: Flavoured sampalok and fishcrackers
Initial capital: Php150,000
Bulk of the expenses: Production and Marketing
Production Capacity: one container a month
Biggest challenge: Stable collection of payments
Immediate plans: Distribute in Muslim territories
Lessons learned: You don’t necessarily have to spend much for your product to gain recognition. Learn what your proper market is and focus on that.
By Hans Audric B. Estialbo