Freddie dela Torre is just your average humble OF based in Dubai. As a struggling Service Engineer, he always felt under-compensated and discriminated against, despite his capacity and hardwork. That is, until he became a Pinoy Entrepreneur with a flourishing restaurant in Roxas, Palawan.
FREDDIE DELA TORRE
Non La Aromasit Restaurant
Please describe your business.
Non La Aromasit Restaurant, is situated at the very heart of Roxas, Palawan along the national highway. It welcomes guests into a contemporary Southeast Asian-style dining setting. The location is ideal for travelers and tourists from Puerto Princesa City en route to the world class tourist destinations of El Nido, Taytay, San Vicente and vice versa.
It has an indoor and outdoor dining facilities suited for different types of requirements. The finishing touch of the venue is crafted using locally available materials such as native wood, bamboo and rattan gently illuminated by simple yet elegant lighting. We have the deluxe Silica Hall, an air-conditioned hall, with a vibrant ambiance ideal for private dining and small business functions. There is a Main Hall which features an elegant dining set-up with locally crafted furnishings, as well as the balcon and the sleek gazebos encircling the garden overlooking the picturesque church and the carefully manicured garden for those who prefer to eat al fresco.
We offer wide array of authentic Vietnamese and classic Filipino cuisines. Vegetarian dishes, tropical drinks and shakes are also available. Everyone can experience fine dining at very reasonable price, all served with tender love and care.
Why did you establish your own business? Can you tell us when and how you started?
Being an OF for more than 10 years, I used to hate working so hard and not getting properly compensated. I have also experienced discrimination, and was not given the opportunity to show my capacity, even if I was more qualified for a certain position just because we belong to a third world country. I remember lots of sleepless nights thinking about my work, breaking my head on possible solutions to the problems arising every day.
So one time I asked myself, why don’t I start something to call my own? With my dedication to work as an OF, I thought, If I start my own, there is no reason why I should not succeed and prosper. That motivated me to open Non La Aromasit Restaurant in May 2008 with my sister and brother-in-law, who helped me with their expertise in the operations and management of a restaurant business. They where both working in the first Vietnamese restaurant in the Philippines in Puerto Princesa City, where they have been for more than 10 years but still their earning is only enough for daily household expenses and monthly bills payment.
So in 2007, my sister and brother-in-law resigned from their jobs and we finalized plans to open the business. With my modest savings we started procurement, construction, renovation and beautification of the area.
On May 13, 2008 our business officially opened. Unfortunately, five days before opening my company in Dubai asked me to return immediately to UAE for an emergency and I was not able to attend.
We started with a capital of PHP1M, including all expenses (procurement, construction, renovation, permits, kitchen equipments, kitchen wares and operating expenses). We were able to stretch our funds because the cost of labor in our town and the locally available materials was far cheaper compare to the big cities or in metro manila.
We are operating in a partnership system; I am in charge of the financial and technical aspect, my sister and brother-in-law take care of operations and management. Aside from them, we have six regular crew members working as kitchen helpers and waitresses.
What obstacles did you encounter?
I don’t remember any major obstacles in our business, there are some minor issues like government permits, but all this has been acquired prior to operation. Another thing, people in our town were not used to the concept of an a la carte restaurant – they are more familiar with seeing ready-to-eat food like in ordinary carinderias. So we had a lot of explaining to do in the beginning and made strategies to make our customers’ waiting time more comfortable. One of the things we have done is to put one table with lot of valuable reading materials – one of those is a complete one year edition of Illustrado Magazine – and we saw it work!
Where are you now? How far have you gone, what are the landmarks in your business so far?
Our business is still in its early stage, but we have already seen promising results, and great potential growth in the near future. We have also increased our staff due to greater demand. I am also proud to say that since we started operations, I never had to rescue the business financially as it was able to generate its own income to pay the salaries, as well as the lease for the land we occupied business. At this stage, we still have some minor things we need to fine tune, before we eventually expand. For me, an ideal restaurant is not only about the food, it must have good ambiance and a truly relaxing atmosphere as well.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, you can help a lot of people by providing jobs, especially in rural areas where there is only little opportunity. Secondly, you can do everything that you think will help grow your business and devote your full time as much as you like, without thinking that you are not properly compensated. Finally, it’s also good to be known and acknowledged in society. The only bad thing is that you have very little time for yourself and your family.
Would you encourage other Pinoys to go into business? What is your advice to budding Pinoy entrepreneurs?
Yes, I would encourage all the Pinoys especially OFs, to try to study the possibility of starting your own business in the Philippines. It is a good move to start while you are still working abroad so if there are any financial obstacles, you will not be affected directly because you will still have other sources of income and anytime you can rescue your business. That’s why I am still here working and waiting for another couple of years observing the situation. If I see that my business can already stand by itself after that period, then maybe it’s time for me to wave the UAE goodbye.
For budding Pinoy entrepreneurs, don’t be discouraged if sometimes you feel your business has become stagnant, don’t lose hope. Treat is a challenge for you to discover new possibilities to achieve growth. Business is a continued learning process and you should become more determined.
If more and more OFs became entrepreneurs in our country, the Philippines will be well off in no time. Let’s start right now my kababayans!