Lousy turned extraordinary

A few weeks ago, I noticed a food stall flocked by shoppers and even employees of SM.  I can’t barely see what the stall was selling because of the crowd and really long lines.  I got so curious so as I moved to the upper floor I looked down to check what was selling like hotcakes in the middle of a weekend afternoon. To my surprise, it was unripe mangoes and bagoong sold in paper boxes.

The newest product to hit the local food cart industry is surprisingly the Philippine green mangoes and bagoong. Whoever thought of bringing manggang hilaw and bagoong to the food cart business must have surpassed criticisms and all forms of discouragement from other businessmen.

The challenge of generating real and feasible business ideas made me recall the days when I used to handle Business Plan subjects.  When our school first offered Business Plan subjects, I was one of the faculty members who were subjected under the baptism of fire. It was a period of experiments and adjustment for the entire school. As the subject professor, I was always the catch basin of all the rants and problems of the students. And did I mention that handling those subjects made me feel like I was enrolled to an expensive Fitness First weight loss program? I was shedding lbs every month. (Heck, can I be enrolled in this program again? The overweight me badly needs it.)

Students enrolled under Business Plan Writing are required to prepare and successfully defend a Business Plan.  As the subject professor, we are responsible for the initial screening of the student’s proposed business ideas. This made me remember an incident involved by a fellow faculty and a group who students who wanted to open a Tapsihan as their business venture. I overheard my colleague saying “Tapsihan lang ang gusto niyong maging business. I-b-business plan pa ba  natin yan?” (Your group only wanted to pursue an eatery that offers tapa (dried cured beef)? Do you think we have to prepare a business plan for such product?)

If another group of students told him that they wanted to open food stalls selling mangga ang bagoong in SM, he could have lost the last strand of his patience and fainted. Okay, I’m exaggerating 😀

If I would have been in that position, my response could have been the same. It’s just that I’ll do it in a more discrete and constructive tone. Okay, I’ll allow you to pursue that business only if you tell me what is the main difference of your tapa and mangganng hilaw, as against to what we normally purchase from the market. Is your tapa organically cultured and free of cholesterol? I would rather challenge my students to recreate a business that is so plain and ordinary.

The most feasible business idea will not necessarily pass the critique of business professors and experrts. Sometimes what is perceived as an ordinary and lousy business idea turns out to be a spectacular hit in the market. The ice scrambles we used to see in residential streets and oustide public schools follows the pattern of the manggang hilaw and bagoong. Who would ever thought that the cheap mixture of evaporated milk, artificial food color and some would say “dirty” crushed ice would soon cause long lines and other food cart owners to create their nothing new version.

I’m learning something from these ordinary and underestimated business ideas. Feasible businesses do not necessarily emerge from spectacular, unique and brilliant ideas. At the end of the day, it’s not the idea that would lead any business to its success. The secret key? CUSTOMERS! No matter how mediocre and lousy are your ideas and product offering, the customers would always save the day. As long as you are patronized and loved by customers then your underestimated ideas would soon turn to extraordinary profits and sales.

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