"A hobby and a side hustle that turned out to be a serious business."
This is how Mr. Jonathan Oquias describes his journey to being an entrepreneur. Mr. Oquias is a resident of Brgy. Gabas, Baybay City, Leyte and works at the Visayas State University as a gardener and maintenance staff in one of the University's offices for eight years. Since his salary is insufficient to sustain his family's needs, Mr. Oquias decided to do side hustles for additional income. He started by selling eggs, “penoy”, and “balut”. The business was going well until the coronavirus outbreak last 2020 hit and dramatically affected his livelihood. But instead of letting the situation get into him, he decided to utilize the resources available to get through day by day. He started making vinegar - that is supposedly for his balut and penoy, in bulk and using only the materials available in his backyard.
Oquias worked hard in advertising his "hayang na suka" (spicy vinegar) through social media to gather customers. He also gave samples to some of his relatives and friends for them to taste. After his first production of only 10 liters, production volume slowly increased and has been continually increasing until today. This proved that his vinegar has something special as he claims. Indeed, word-of-mouth became one of his most potent forms of marketing.
As a result of his continuous efforts in selling and posting his products esp. on the internet, his posts eventually came across the Negosyo Center VSU Baybay page last February 2022. He was then invited and agreed to attend the Pack Pinas Virtual Webinar. Last March 2022, Mr. Oquias finally decided to register his business, named IONA'S FOOD PRODUCTS, and from then on, the interventions of the Department of Trade and Industry for Mr. Oquias continued.
Mr. Oquias has been regularly visiting the Negosyo Center VSU and asking for inputs on product development and marketing. He has been very open recommendations given to him. His product's appearance improved from being placed in a used gallon or 1.5L bottle to having properly sealed bottles.
In coordination with Negosyo Center Baybay, the OTOP Hub, and Pasalubong Center focal persons, Mr. Oquias was fortunately allowed to display IONA'S SUKA and IONA'S CHILI GARLIC OIL at the OTOP Hub in Brgy. Cogon, Baybay City, and at VSU Technomart and Pasalubong Center. Since then, he has produced 20-30 liters of vinegar and 10-15 jars of chili garlic oil to supply client orders.
IONA'S FOOD PRODUCTS was one of the MSMEs assisted through the Assessment, Consultation, and Triage (A.C.T) with Product Development for Processed Food MSMEs with a webinar on Basic Photography Skills. Through this activity, Mr. Oquias was given free labeling and logo designs. When he got the final label designs, he immediately used these as he released the subsequent batches of vinegar and chili garlic oil. As he said, "mas nidaghan ang nipalit ug nahalin tung naa nay nindot nga sticker. Murag na enganyo ang customers kay nindot na pagka package. Naa na sad ko mga resellers" (My sales definitely increased when I used the new label designs. I guess the customers find my products attractive. I even gained resellers since then."
Mr. Oquias is now producing 60 liters of IONA'S PREMIUM SUKA, and 20 jars of IONA'S CHILI GARLIC OIL. He targets making 100 liters of vinegar weekly to provide more supplies and reach a broader market for his products.
As Mr. Oquias said when asked about his plans, "gusto nako molambo pa gyud ako negosyo, mao nga moapil gyud ko ug mga training ug seminar puhon arun mo improve pa ko isip negosyante ug ang ako negosyo" (I want my business to grow even more, that is why I will participate if there will be any seminars or trainings soon so that I will be able improve myself as an entrepreneur and improve my business.)
Mr. Oquias' attitude and mindset towards business-making have taken him greatly closer to becoming a successful entrepreneur. His positivity and creativity helped a lot in reaching this far. He proved to us that the taste of success does not always have to be sweet. Sometimes it can be sour and spicy but is surely flavourful.
By: BC Florde Mae C. Nuñez / NC Visayas State University