A Laguna-based millennial abandoned her plan to work as a physical therapist in the United States two years ago to stay with her family and start a restaurant business.
Jary Rie Eliseo Olivares decided to put up a cafe in a property owned by her father along Pacita Ave., a hectic stretch in the industrial town of San Pedro.
“I opened the first restaurant on May 15, 2016. I was 25 then. That was the year I was supposed to go to the States. I was supposed to get my license. But my dad kept on asking me to stay in the country and open a business instead. It was the same script everyday until I said ‘fine’ I will try it. He was very happy,” says Olivares, whose father is into real estate.
Her initial investment was P1 million, which she borrowed from her parents. Little did she know that she would recoup the capital after a few months and would reuse it to expand the business until she now owns six cafes and restaurants at the age of 27.
“I was afraid when I was starting WGM Café because of the expenses. I estimated that I would spend more than P100,000 each month for salary of my employees, electricity, water and rent. How could I raise that kind of money? But my father said ‘just go on with it and you will see’. Then I saw that I could earn from it, and even have some savings,” says Olivares, the eldest among the four Olivares siblings who are mostly in the field of Medicine.
Olivares, who lives in Cabuyao, runs six restaurants under the brands WGM Café and Pizzeria, Oppa Samgyeopsal and Jeju Bingsu in the towns of San Pedro, Biñan, San Pedro and Cabuyao.
“I consider my six restaurants as my children,” says Olivares, who is still unmarried. She oversees more than 30 employees who are also mostly millennials.
“My mom helps, and my dad who is into real estate development advises,” says Olivares, whose business acumen developed early at a young age of 10 when she sold ice candy and ‘gulaman’ drinks at a vacant lot near her home.
She says running a restaurant involves a lot of responsibilities, like overseeing her staff, dealing with customers, managing the cash flow and personally attending to every problem.
“When I opened my first restaurant, I was the one who bought the stocks and served as the cashier. We had no table numbers then. I thought I could easily remember all the customers by their face. But on the first day, there were so many customers I could not recall all of them. That was a learning experience,” says Olivares.
“There were also times that I had to lock the door because we had so many orders,” she says. “We had to close for one day to brainstorm and find out how to resolve the problems.”
“The first few weeks were challenging and became a learning experience. I was so tired being a cashier and stocks buyer. I lost weight then. When I got to know the crew better, I trusted one to become a cashier,” she says.
“That’s how you do it. There were so many businesses that had to close shop because of mismanagement. You have to focus, especially in the restaurant business where a lot could happen,” says Olivares.
With the success of her first WGM Cafe in Pacita, she opened a second branch in Biñan five months later. “I was pushed by my dad to branch out. He told me to take advantage of opportunities while the business is earning,” she says.
WGM Cafe is known for its bestseller drinks including Manhattan Ice Blended which is made of dark chocolate and ice cream and Mt. Fuji frappe a mix of vanilla, toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate.
WGM Cafe now has three branches in Pacita, Biñan and Cabuyao. WGM Cafe was recently recognized as the “Most Trendy Cafe” in Laguna.
A trip to Seoul last year also encouraged Olivares to put up a Korean restaurant—Oppa Samgyeopsal which offers K-Pop vibe aside from sumptuous Korean dishes. Oppa received various awards such as “Most Authentic Korean Restaurant” in Laguna. Her latest restaurant is Jeju.
Olivares now thinks about opening WGM Café to franchising in order to expand the brand outside Laguna province.
“I enjoy running the business. I don’t consider it a burden. Although it is stressful, it is worth it. I think it is the right field for me, and not Medicine,” says Olivares, who studied Physical Therapy at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute in Cavite for five years and passed the US board exam.
She says the secret behind the rapid expansion is that she took advantage of the opportunities in the booming restaurant business in Laguna province. “I invest the money immediately. My liquidity goes to branching out,” she says.
“My restaurants are near villages and schools,” says Olivares, to point out the importance of location in attracting customers. Each store has an average size of 80 to 100 square meters, except for the first WGM Cafe which is larger because of its events area at the second floor.
Olivares says aside from opening more restaurants, she is also interested in going to the spa business. Her ideas of relaxation, after all, include eating out and going to the spa and gym.
Olivares advises her fellow millennials not to be afraid to establish their own business. “I would advise young entrepreneurs to be fearless. There are a lot of challenges to starting up your own business, but then you should start it to make it happen. It could not just be all ideas in your head. Proper reviewing and researching are important in business, but then the most important part is execution. So you have to execute it,” she says.
“You can start small, like a stall or foodcart whichever is comfortable for you, and eventually you can put up a store if you want,” says Olivares.
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