This guest post is part of the #BehindTheBiz series. It features creative Filipinos who started a business during the pandemic, whether out of necessity or just pure passion.
With restaurant establishments restrictions still implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery is likely the main source of sales growth for the majority of food businesses in the Philippines.
Thank you to delivery apps like Grab, Food Panda, and Angkas, Filipinos have continued access to their favourite meals from their favourite fast-food chains and restaurants.
While foot traffic has become a big challenge for food establishments, the steep incline in the demand for food deliveries is also making way for home cooks to start their own food business using their own kitchen.
If you want to know how to start your own food business at home, this #BehindTheBiz feature is for you.
1. Hi Kiyomi! Welcome to #BehindTheBiz, tell us about you, and what business did you start during the pandemic?
My name is Kiyomi Tsuneki. I’m Japanese/Filipino. I was born in Kobe Japan. I lived there until 2000. I fell in love with cooking and baking when I was a kid. I’ve always spent my time in the kitchen with my parents. And joined a cooking club through grade school and high school.
When I immigrated to the Philippines I decided to take culinary at the Center for Culinary Arts. Since then I’ve never stopped cooking.
My cousin Joshua and I were inspired by so many quarantine food trends made famous on social media during the pandemic.
To make extra income and take advantage of the increased demand for food delivery, we started the food online business, Obento by 清 Kiyo. We sell Obent=お弁当, which is authentic Japanese style packed meals and more.
2. What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was a full time worker for our family businesses. One is a resto bar in Mandaluyong. And the other is a fiberglass manufacturing company, which exports to Japan.
Working in the resto-bar and export industry, the lockdown caused us a huge impact on our income. I personally lost my source of income since the port was closed and resto-bars are expected to be among the last entertainment venues to be allowed to reopen as the government seeks to control the spread of COVID-19.
The inspiration started with simple cravings for homemade Obento which I used to eat during lunchtime in school prepared by my parents back in Japan. And also from the Obento sold at Teishoku restaurants, Konbini (convenience store) and train stations in Japan.
3. Take us through the process of designing/prototyping/sourcing/manufacturing your product or service.
We start by purchasing the ingredients from suppliers of Japanese food products and local markets. Then we do the production of products in our kitchen such as marinating, portioning etc. After confirmation of orders, we prepare the food, place it in a sturdy container and hand it to the delivery rider service.
4. Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We run ads on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
We use constructive feedback from our clients to improve our products and service. When they give us positive reviews, I asked our clients’ permission if I could screenshot and post it on our social media accounts for the testimonials of our products.
We believe that happy clients will return and tell their family and friends it will lead to word of mouth advertisement.
5. How are you today and what does the future look like?
We are doing well, our business is slowly growing.
We are grateful to have support from my family and friends.
We are planning to add more new products since I have a lot of lists of dishes I want to include in our menu, so as of now we are focusing on R&D (research & development) of the products.
6. Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We learned to set small goals daily. It is tempting to try to do everything at once, but the more you can narrow your focus and do things at a time will lead to better results.
7. What platform or tools do you use for your business?
We are using Facebook, Instagram, Vibers and Gmail.
8. Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to start a business during these challenging times?
Have a plan and select the right focus. Focus on what you can do best and improve it. Being interested is not enough, you need to commit.
If you’re truly focused and dedicated to the idea, you’ll do anything you can to get it started. While trying may result in failure and it’s ok. You can learn, adapt and start again with renewed confidence.
We’re all experiencing a lot of intense emotions such as anxiety, fear and hopelessness during this crisis but I learned that the more you’re able to find inner calm, the better able you are to make decisions and lead your business.