Q&A with Oryspa Founder Sherill Quintana on Branding Rice Bran

Sherill Quintana is the founder and president of Oryspa Spa Solutions, Inc., the leading maker of 100% natural rice bran based health and beauty products in the Philippines. It won the “Most Promising Franchise” at the 2015 Franchise Excellence Awards and the “ASEAN Business Awards for Excellence in Healthcare” at the ASEAN Business Summit at Vientiane, Laos last September 5, 2016. A multi-awarded entrepreneur, Sherill was named “ASEAN Woman Entrepreneur” in Hanoi, Vietnam and one of Go Negosyo’s “Most Inspiring Filipina”, both in 2016. She shares her insights on how she started Oryspa.

Q1: You started as a toll manufacturer. Please briefly share with us your business genesis.

A: Sixteen years ago, I was making candles in my kitchen and practicing aromatherapy to kill time when i had a difficult pregnancy. Wanting to stay home for my firstborn while earning my keeps, I didn’t know that that hobby made me into an accidental entrepreneur.

I never planned to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I was looking forward to going back to development work when my baby can already be partly taken care of by a nanny. But, I wasn’t able to find an available nanny. So with the help of a sturdy baby car seat, I brought my son with me to bazaars in Ateneo and Miriam College. Then and there, I realized that entrepreneurship is a good fit for mommies.

After 10 years and three more children, the business still had no projections and not much of a system. It had its ups and downs. I ran it like my household. Later on, I learned that most micro entrepreneurs like me were losing opportunities to build an empire and touch more lives by missing the business systems in place.

For several years, we became an indirect exporter and were supplying different spas in the country using virgin coconut oil, grape seed, almond oils as carrier oils. However, without a differentiating factor, my products tended to drown during price wars.

Q2: How did you discover the raw material rice bran (‘darak’) as key ingredient in your spa products?

A: In 2008, during one of the mandatory product development sessions with the Department of Trade and Industry, challenged to come up with a unique product, I turned down joining an overseas fair and went back to research. Faced in a crossroad if i’m going back to work or continue on my entrepreneurial journey, I stumbled upon rice bran. Locally known as “darak,” rice bran is a byproduct of rice production, which is usually fed to hogs. I came across a study on Japan’s rice wine, Sake production and a eureka moment dawned upon me on the side comments from the article: “the Japanese workers exposed to the bran being removed from the rice have fair and smooth skin”. It also helps that I am married to an agriculturist, who specialised in plant breeding and was adept to rice research. We both set up a research laboratory to start with the first 5 products which was later branded as ORYSPA. Being an aromatherapy enthusiast, running a decade old aromatherapy business, the concept can be materialised.

Q3: Your product is 100% Filipino using the brand ORYSPA. How did you face branding and positioning challenges since ‘darak’ is commonly fed to pigs here in the Philippines.

A: It was challenging to introduce Oryspa to the market. But like most pioneer products, along with high potential, you need to have intensive product awareness too. I reviewed client feedback and listened to consumer pulse regarding which products are in need. Studies show that there is an increasing consciousness about the carcinogenic effect of chemical-laden topical products and that alternative organic product prove to be more in demand in sustaining a healthy lifestyle. ORYSPA focused on offering products to address this. The brand was coined after the scientific name of rice Oryza sativa, the brand means rice for the spa like food for the soul, it promises spa experience anywhere anytime.

Q4: Despite advise by your consultant, you courageously want to be an international Filipino brand as part of your vision. You are now starting to export. Tell us the thought process behind this.

A: Exporting products before ORYSPA, i know that those strategies we had for almost a decade can never be applied with the new brand if i’m expecting different results. One thing went wrong before was I lack clarity of vision. Vision as part of brand’s DNA answers your where and why. Brand founders should be clear about this at the onset. Crucial to your brand journey is setting the direction and the map of where you want to go and why. My why is partly because i want to be known as a Filipino brand. Removing that, it’s like building a house with one post missing because my motivation lies in being known as a Filipino brand. I believe, that changing the culture of your business changes your game. It has always been fulfilling for me to build a home grown brand and making it ready for global trade. Like what i’ve shread at the recent WTO Public Forum, only with confidence that we have something to share that we can have inclusive gains and be part of the global chain in this borderless world.

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