Thursday, November 15, 2007

Raking in the Dough

Right after Wilfredo "Bing" Royeca and Maria Carmela "Armie" Magtoto tied the knot in June of 1992, they immediately invested their wedding gift of forty thousand plus their savings of around twenty more in a bakery outlet at the old bus terminal of Gen. Santos City.

Bing's family has been in the bakeshop business for over twenty years in Gensan at that time and it was inevitable that he himself venture into it. But not after resigning from the NFA in Davao City and marrying Armie two years earlier who was then managing her family's furniture business in Gensan that he saw it fit to start their own Rolee Bakeshop outlet.

Luckily, their sixty square meter outlet with 5 workers was right smack in the middle of a high traffic area along the city's business district, Santiago Boulevard. Three months later, they opened their second branch at the Central Public Market.

The couple did not leave anything to chance and personally supervised the operations of their two outlets.

"With an old Toyota Tamaraw which I borrowed from my family, we personally did the purchasing of raw materials and helped in the delivery of our finished products to the two outlets," Bing says.

The newly-weds were sticklers for quality. According to Armie, "We made sure that we use the highest quality ingredients for our products available in the market. And we do not let our breads stay on the shelf for more than 24 hours including our flagship brand, the Rolee cream bread."

Armie who has Kapampangan roots even enrolled together with Bing at Asian Baking Institute in Manila, immersing themselves into discovering their own signature bread. She and Bing paid considerable attention to learning from other bakeshop outlets during their travels, tasting their bestsellers, hoping to ascertain what made them become such, and ultimately trying to produce their own versions.

The couple's efforts on R&D eventually paid off and from a product line of 20, Rolee's now boasts of 60 types of breads and pastries.

One current favorite is the La Crema with its soft-willowy crust and sweet-pastel filling. Armie recalls, "The first time we came out with it, our customers immediately liked it but were dismayed by the price. We had to come up with a solution where we made it a wee bit smaller but still we did not scrimp on our ingredients."

Just recently, they spun off the NATURA line of breads, for the health-conscious bread eaters. Bing, who visits the gym daily, considers this his baby.

"We're giving the consumers more reasons for patronizing our bakeshop. We want them to know that we value their health and well-being, hence this new line of baked goods. We never stop innovating; we never stop improving on our offerings to provide our clients more value for their money."

Armie, who has a degree on Master in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management to her name said that this desire to constantly give their clients the best also moved them to come up with a premium version of their successful cream bread to which Rolee was known for.

She explains, "When we felt it was time to upgrade our flagship product, we knew we had to increase its price because we will be using more expensive ingredients and better packaging."

They however did not want to abandon their old customers who were loyal buyers of the classic cream bread.

"Although we have come up with first-rate products, we decided to keep the old cream bread bestseller because this was how Rolee became known for. Besides, why fix it if it isn't broken?" Armie opines.

So now if you visit any of their outlets, you will notice the old reliable variety still sitting side by side with the more pricey upstarts on the shelves.

From a mere 5 employees in 1992, the couple now supervises over a hundred workers, some of whom have been with them for more than ten years.

According to Bing, "We consider our employees as family members. We want them to feel that whatever success we reap is all because of team work, because of the individual contribution of each member. This business is also theirs as much as it is ours."

Now on its 13th year, Bing and Armie consider this phase of their business as their "second wind".

With their two kids going off for college in the very near future, the couple is now getting ready for their eventual involvement in the family business but not before instituting more radical changes on their operations.

With 13 outlets including one franchise in Metro Manila and counting, they are now working on professionalizing the ranks of their workforce, hiring well-trained managers in the process. Simultaneously, a total upgrade of their Accounting and Inventory Systems will also be carried out.

"Our goal is to establish two additional outlets every year and the need to come up with more cohesive and fool-proof systems to better manage them is now on the pipeline," Bing explains.

"We could have actually built more outlets than we have now at a faster pace early on but we felt that this could get in the way of providing quality time for our children," he says.

That is why, in envisioning a future which requires minimal involvement from them in running the business, the couple couldn't help but smile at the prospect.

"We have been working so hard at it ever since we started. Although we have managed to balance our lives between our business and our kids, still it would be refreshing if we could delegate more and worry less," Armie adds.

Their advice for young entrepreneurs?

First, is to never sacrifice family on the course of earning a living. Despite what has been a busy lifestyle for the couple, they still had time to supervise their children's education. Their daughter and son are among the top of their classes at a school in General Santos.

Second, practice "delayed gratification" in handling your finances. If they couldn't afford it, Bing and Armie never purchased anything beyond what was in their savings even if it could be had on credit. They lived simply, only buying what they need for their business and their family.

Third, do what you can for your community. Bing is currently the President of the Rotary Club of General Santos City. He has devoted a lot of time in his incumbency in a series of projects to help out the less fortunate in the city. At the same time, Armie has ventured into a scheme for their bakery outlets which gives a percentage discount on purchases made by Senior Citizens. Both have also involved themselves in tourism-related affairs of the city government like the Tuna Festival.

"That is the least we could do bearing in mind the graces we have received from above. All of these were just loaned to us by our Maker and for anyone who wants to succeed in what he does, he should always be humbled and guided by the fact that to whomever much was given, much is also expected," Armie explains while husband Bing nods in agreement.

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