Karlo Cruz’s father was a vendor in Blumentritt public market. When Karlo married his long-time girlfriend, Elisa, his father gifted Karlo with a small capital to start his own cassava cake business.
From starting a small store in their house, the couple expanded and opened branches in Novaliches, Fairview, Lagro, and San Jose Del Monte.
More than a decade after, Don Benito’s grew into a household name for cassava cake, pichi-pichi, and other kakanin. Their branches span all over the country to reach more customers. Karlo and Elisa share on Esquire some of their learnings to motivate other aspiring entrepreneurs.
4 business lessons from the owners of Don Benito’s:
1. Understand the market
It’s important to understand who your customers are and how they view your products. According to the couple, cassava cake is not often seen as a gift because it doesn’t look too presentable to give. So, they worked on their presentation and packaging.
Karlo explained, “The typical Filipino would usually take cassava for a snack but could not give it as a gift because it used to be unpresentable. But because we package our cassava cakes in a nice box, our customers can now buy our products as a gift.”
2. Innovate and Differentiate
Another important factor to consider is how to make your product unique but also marketable. You should find ways to innovate your product.
Karlo shared, “After our first year of operations, I decided to adjust the recipe of our cassava by adding macapuno and langka flavors. A few years later, we also developed personalized small cassava cakes and pichi-pichi.”
Don Benito’s is still looking for more products to elevate. Aside from the cassava cake, they also have flan, ube, nilupak, and other more products to come.
3. Focus on employee training
According to Karlo, investing and training your employees are important. He said they really spend to empowering their employees and making them feel they are part of the company.
“We try to empower our employees, especially those who are high school graduates by providing them free training and education with no strings attached,” Karlo said.
“We send them to TESDA, for example, to study bookkeeping and take care of their transportation and food allowance,” he added.
4. Balance work and family time
In the end, the successful couple reminded everyone that money is the scorecard in business, family is still the most important. Karlo said it’s essential to balance time for family and business.