Euclid Cezar started Famous Belgian Waffles in 2012 and has some 450 stores in less than 5 years. Euclid shares his insights about how to start, market and grow a business.
Q1: What made you start Famous Belgian Waffles?
A: Back in 2010 to 2012 we saw the increasing popularity of beverage products like milk tea, buko shake, other fruit shakes and coffee base drinks, on the other hand, there were no new food category in the market for quite some time, hence, I thought its about time to introduce a new snack category in the market.
Q2: Why waffles in sandwich-like form?
A: basically to make it a grab and go snack. You don’t need tables and chairs, spoons and forks, and it’s the most convenient way to consume the traditional Belgian waffles.
Q3: Other than having the right location, how did you market and promote Famous Belgian Waffles?
A: We opened more than a hundred outlets on our first year. By this time we were already present in key cities in the country. I think our rapid expansion created the initial awareness of the consumers nationwide. We also did some billboard ads in Edsa and C5. We also have some exposure in regular t.v shows in major broadcast and special TV shows like concerts, beauty pageants and sports events.
Q4: What were the challenges in your first year of operations?
A: We had a nice problem on our first year, and that is to accommodate demands from our franchise applicants. My wife and I didn’t expect our success and our organization especially the number of personnel were very limited. Hence, the initial challenge was forming the solid structure of our organization.
Q5: Now you have over 400 stores, what challenges do you experience?
A: We are still a growing company and also a work in progress. Hence, it is more on internal organization problems like recruiting the right person for the job, training and development of current officers. finance related challenges like development of competent audit and monitoring system. These challenges are very much under control with the help of consultants and the experts.
Q6: You have grown up fast and now into other concepts like Mares Mami. How does that provide synergy with your existing business?
A: The synergy of Mares with Famous Belgian Waffles plus our new concept GYRO V is the efficient use of company resources. Also each brands (Famous Belgian Waffles, Mares 24 Oras and Gyro V) has their own target market and I don’t consider each product as an alternative to one another. If the consumers inside the malls, offices, hospitals and schools want grab and go snacks, we have Famous Belgian Waffles products for them. If they need lunch or dinner meals, we have Gyro V’s products such as Doner Kebab Sandwich or Kebab over rice meals. If they are in common areas like transport stations, public markets, alleys in the Barangay or commercial in the community areas, we have snacks and meals from Mares 24 Oras like beef mami, pares, siomai, gulaman etc.
Q7: Before Famous Belgian Waffles, you were in ink refilling. While you were a pioneer, the company no longer exists. What lessons you learned from that experience were you able to apply in your current business?
A: Timing is very important. I pioneered the industry and offered the alternative ink refilling to the expensive new ink cartridges when the consumers had no choice but to buy expensive printer consumables. I enjoyed the maturity of the industry and got close to 100 franchisees during the same time I was still enrolled as a college student in San Beda College. I jumped off the ship/industry when I saw the printer manufacturers like Epson, HP and Canon were already introducing their own unlimited ink supply system. I saw this as very big threat to the ink refilling industry. True enough, this new technology from the printer manufacturer eventually “killed” the ink refilling industry.
Q8: How do you thin slice the feasibility of a new business opportunity?
A: As an entrepreneur, my opportunity-seeking practice and principle is always anchored on solving the problems of the underserved and unserved markets. I think it is easier to provide products that have automatic demands from these markets already.
Q9: You grew up with your parents working abroad. How did that influence your mindset?
A: It was very difficult especially during my adolescent years and not only for me but also to my siblings (I was the only son and youngest of the three). Those were the times that there was no internet, no cellphone yet, and oversees calls were so expensive. Both my parents were undocumented workers, that’s why they didn’t have the privilege to come home and they were in Japan for 13 straight years. I think the positive thing I got from this situation was to learn how to be very, very, very independent and responsible in your own actions (I guess both traits are ingredients of having high adversity quotient). I remember at the young age of 15, I developed my favorite mantra in life and it was “Problema ko, solve ko”. because I don’t wanna burden my parents further with worries.
Q10: You spent 11 years in college, but did not give up. How did you do it? What motivated you to finish school?
A: Actually its 11.5 years. Every new school year, I always tell myself that the finish line is near already and it is a waste of resources (money, time and effort) if I do not cross the line. I waited so long for it and it is ridiculous to stop. Lastly getting a college diploma is surely a right thing do in this life. Plus, it was a pleasant experience for me because school serves as my hibernation during the tough times I was already engaged in business with a lot of responsibilities on hand. I guess I also found comfort in school environment, as a matter of fact after 11.5 years in college, I immediately enrolled in Asian Institute of Management to take up my Masters degree in Entrepreneurship plus another 6 months for a certificate course in Yokohama Japan. After I finished my graduate studies, San Beda College invited me to teach in 2007 as part-time professor in Entrepreneurship and Marketing until I took a leave on 2014 because of Famous Belgian Waffles.