They say “Necessity is the mother of invention,” right? Well, in my case, it’s also the cause of new beginnings. That’s because in our family, necessity has pushed us into a whole new world: entrepreneurship.
I suppose you’ve been seeing post about my husband’s new business, Shophouse Coffee Co., especially on Instagram. I mentioned it on my post about the L’Indochine x Make it Blissful gathering last November, where Ton launched his cold brew during my Journal Workshop.
We’d always planned to start a coffee business. In fact in 2011, we took up our first coffee appreciation course at the Philippine Barista Academy, which was before the trend of third wave coffee shops and businesses. When my younger brothers began to hang out with the coffee community, Ton and I were just at the sidelines, never fully plunging into things but always open to specialty coffee, its stories and complexities, its pleasures. In 2014, at the EDSA Beverage Design Studio where our Manila Coworking space used to be, I was exposed to specialty coffee each time I worked there or held an event there. My brother Kiddo put up El Union Coffee in San Juan, La Union, which we’d frequent during family vacations up north several times a year, and little by little Ton’s and my appreciation for specialty coffee grew. We’d talk to Kiddo about maybe starting something in Manila, but not really putting much effort into any plans. They’ll happen someday, we’d muse. All in good time.
When my husband lost his job in the latter part of last year, we were in a critical phase in our family. Undoubtedly the happiest of times, of course: We had a new baby daughter who arrived gently in January of last year (yay, prayer answered!). But it also meant we had another mouth to feed, another pediatrician’s ongoing bill to consider, and another future to look out for. And, with Vito racing towards the end of his preschool years, we had a lot to consider when looking ahead towards 2016.
And so, we were rather forced to begin.
I guess you could say we were forced to “make things blissful”, too. There was no job in sight for Ton to transition into, and there was this small business which was still in its incubation period, but we had to make it work and get.to.work! and fast.
Months before we began operations, we were still in the planning and preparing phase. We called the business “Shophouse Coffee Company” because the name resonated with the kind of lifestyle we are living, one that is home-centric but at the same time allows us both to make a living for our family. Ton has been working from home longer than I have — almost nine years, actually — and the dynamic has allowed us to really be hands-on in building our family. We just couldn’t imagine having it any other way.
Also, “shophouse” has a sentimental effect on Ton and me, since we spent our growing up years in Singapore (which is where we first met). We both share a love for the shophouse culture, too, and are fascinated by it. We loved the idea of work and home being in one place, so that we could grow our family while growing our business.
We got busy during the Christmas months with deliveries of our Christmas Totes. We had the totes made in a market nearby, and we were bottling for most of December! Yes, “we” because I also help out, but Ton is really on top of things. We hope to bring the cold brew to more places this new year, but in the meantime we have been working through deliveries. Weren’t the Christmas Totes pretty? They came with a helpful insert also on how to enjoy the cold brew coffee. Since the concept is relatively new to people here in Manila, a lot of customers asked, “Why ‘cold brew’? Isn’t coffee meant to be brewed in hot water?” So the insert explains the difference.
Please also read more about Kalsada Coffee, our suppliers and the makers of honestly-sourced specialty coffee in the Philippines: Kalsada Coffee
I’m quite proud of the product we’ve created. Actually, it’s Ton’s product, I’m just trying to be the supportive wife by getting the word out through this blog and helping out any way I can at home, especially when he has to brew. It’s brought a whole new dynamic to our family, this small business that works out of our tiny house. We’ve had to deal with our demons from time to time! But I asked Ton if he would have it any other way, and I was moved by his answer: “It’s worth it.”
When you are doing something you are passionate about, the early days of your business — the stress, the lack of sleep, the I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-I’m-doing moments, the empty pockets —: these are the “days you won’t forget”, our entrepreneur friends tell us. I’m told we’ll look back at our beginnings with warm feelings (no coffee puns intended). I remember Kiddo saying that there were days way back when El Union Coffee would sell one cup a day, and they’d be happy. I can honestly say I know the feeling, my husband knows the feeling, too! We were so happy with the first Viber we ever got for an order, haha!
Wherever this new business takes us is now all up to hard work and commitment. It’s like how this blog was built, or how anything valuable or meaningful is grown. It’s not easy, and daily we pray for provisions, bookings and orders, for our Viber line to buzz. We call people up, meet with potential partners, and are working on getting the word out there about our new “baby”. Kiddo said to me recently that there were days in El Union Coffee when he’d be joyful over selling just one cup after a whole day of operations. I know it’s these early days that are the rough edges of our dream to one day even open up our own coffee shop!
I’m sharing our beginnings with you because you might also feel like necessity is pushing you to start something. Maybe it’s an idea for a business that you’ve been sitting on for a while. Maybe it’s something on your bucket list that you need to check off. Maybe it’s a goal you’ve been priming yourself to go for but just haven’t hard the guts to pursue to the end.
Our friend Yeng Remulla advises, “Just start something.” (It’s the title of his book, Start Something.) And often the growth, the yield, the success, the bigger responsibilities and even the fulfilment of the dream will come.
So here’s to new beginnings! (And if you want to order coffee, just visit Shophouse Coffee Co. on Instagram or Viber 0998-990-0114. We will also be selling coffee at the #MakeItBlissful InstaMeet this January 23rd.