‘Green’ entrepreneurs flourishing in Cebu

‘Green’ entrepreneurs flourishing in Cebu

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SLOWLY but surely, green entrepreneurs are making waves in the country. The emergence of establishments such as farm-to-table restaurants and organic farms, the increased in quantity of organic vegetables in supermarkets and the establishment of several wellness centers are manifestations that Filipinos are open to pursue a green lifestyle.

In Cebu enterprising business buddies Julie Vergara and Vivien Co saw the opportunity in pursuing green entrepreneurship by establishing Pili&Pino, using only coconut sugar for pancake syrup and coconut.  Vergara and Co said they seized the opportunity because of the abundance of coconut in the country and demand for products that promote a healthy lifestyle. Aside from copra, other byproducts of coconut are  virgin-coconut oil, coconut sugar and other value-added products.

“Being young mothers, we want to develop healthy products for our children that they can grow up with,” Vergara said.

“We also want to cater to the needs of diabetics by providing them with a healthy alternative in coconut sugar,” Co added.

Vergara and Co also concocted tamarind jams, dulce de leche and assorted fruit jellies using coconut sugar. Coconut sugar comes from the flowers of the coconut tree. It is known to have a lower glycemic index than regular cane sugar and, thus, is safe for diabetics.

“Julie and I will emphasize the healthy living aspect of our business. We know that many people who have diabetes are looking for ways to pursue a healthy lifestyle. We believe Pili&Pino can be one of the best options for them,” Co said. 

Meanwhile, Johann Young and wife Meyan Lim-Young were also inspired to go into green entrepreneurship. They open a stall at the Banilad Town Center Food Market every weekend. A chef by profession, Johann and his wife decided to open a business together to give her more time to prepare her for motherhood. “I want to concentrate on my new role as a mother. And being an entrepreneur, I would have more time to prepare for it,” said Meyan, who used to work as a marketing executive in a major company.

“We wanted to have a business that Johann and I will be happy with… as a couple,” Meyan said.

Although they pursue different lifestyles, the two managed to find a middle ground in ECHOstore. Although Johann is a carnivore while Meyan is a vegetarian, the couple thought ECHOstore was a wonderful concept because it promotes home and beauty products to healthy snacks like those of Pili&Pino.

In June they started talking to the ECHOstore founders to award them the Cebu license. The couple finalized the deal in September and worked on the preparations for their ECHOstore, ECHOmarket and ECHOcafé concept to be opened in January 2015.

This month they put up an ECHOstore stall in the Banilad Town Center (BTC), where Johann manages the Food Store every weekend. The BTC is a thriving place during weekends with vendors selling organic produce and homemade specialties.

The couple said going green is a timely concept because Cebu now has a growing market for healthy and natural food, beauty products and fresh organic fruits and vegetables.

“We know ECHOstore will be a business we will both love as a couple. We like the philosophy of the founders and we believe in enjoying the business while living a healthy lifestyle,” Meyan said.

Johann echoed: “I like all the food in the ECHOcafé and, as a chef, I know we can also serve these dishes in Cebu and gain a healthy following. I know Cebu is ripe for such a concept as the ECHOstore. This is why we got a license of ECHOstore immediately.”

Asked what advice they can give to aspiring entrepreneurs, the Youngs said diversification is the key and not putting all your eggs in one basket. 

Left to Right: ECHOstore founders Reena Francisco and Jeannie Javelosa (leftmost and rightmost) flank Johann and Meyan Lim-Young as new licensees of ECHOstore in Cebu City.