It took as a good few months before we could tackle our next venture to micro business. The timing was not right. We officially closed down our breakfast business around mid-September, 2015. Christmas is nearing, so we just planned to re-visit the business venture by 2016. We now know the stress of putting up a business, at the break of sunlight that is. And while we did lose in that first business venture, I think we learned a few things: People despite being cheap, still want quality food, and most of our customers buy by the bunch.
It was a good start, tiring, but great overall. We got to see what our target market really is, it is just the income stream of our chosen niche is too low for us to give our 2 cents worth. We need to find a separate business. This time, something that would at least be worth the effort that we put in.
The Elderly Couple Gave The Idea!
While we did sell breakfast in front of our apartment at first, there is another couple selling grilled skewers / barbecue beside our store during the afternoon. We of course, do not mind much about their business, as we’re not directly competing at them. In fact, we are good friends with the couple. They are seniors, probably aged around 70s. They asked us why is it that we stopped selling, and gave our reason. That’s when they offered us something that could probably jump start us again. They said “we will be moving out soon, before the end of the year. If you want, you could sell barbecue as we leave”. Marge told the family of that idea. We said why not? They might be back after a couple of months, but it’s still worth a shot to see if it’s profitable.
The couple who sells barbecue (right). A stolen shot to be honest.
The downside of this is that it took them some time before they left. If I remember correctly, they left around mid October. It took us a few weeks of waiting then before we could act. While waiting, especially on the weeks before they officially leave, we already made plans. We will start like the typical sidewalk grill: Barbecue (pork skewers), Isaw (chicken and pork intestine), Betamax (chicken / pork blood), and we added pork skin to the fray. No problem with the materials; we could still use the tables that we previously bought. All we need to purchase is a grill which we could use for it.
As we lost a bit of money from the first venture, a small purchase of a grill is very welcome. We have around 1,600 PHP left which we planned to use as starting capital for the micro business. The couple left without saying a word at us. It took us a few more days to realize, and to make sure, that they already moved out. We figured that it was already our chance. We started to open shop for the new business venture, a small grill to start.
The Start of The New Micro Business
We opened at around 3:00 PM. Typically, barbecue stands open at around 4:00 PM, just in time to be between snacks and dinner, then stay open until around 10:00 PM. We planned to have a full hour head start and close as early as 8:00 PM. Originally, we were not planning to go overtime, as it already takes the full day to prepare the skewers before setting up shop. Better quality skewers is what we aim for, so even the intestines are meticulously cleaned despite market sellers claiming they were already cleaned.
Surely we did our homework. We are well aware that there are 5 other barbecue sellers in our street, and we need to compete well. Did the math, and were able to deduct some of the prices to a good price point, lower than our competitors. The nearest competitor from our place sells pork skewers for 17 apiece; we got it down to 15 each and a longer skewer too.
At The End Of The First Day
Our first day went well. Chicken Isaw got sold out quite fast, so does the Betamax. We got a few sticks of pork skewers left, and so does the pork skin. The next couple of days were of similar standing, so we believe we are doing quite well. The barbecue store is a good approach, but we still cannot say so immediately. We do not want to jinx it of course, what we first want is that people should be able to recognize us for those skewers. We did that before on our breakfast business, we want to do it again here.
Our breakfast regulars did help, were the first ones to try our skewers, until some passersby try to get a taste of them. We usually want to close shop as early as 7:30, but some would still buy at the last minute. Not wanting to miss a sale, we of course, oblige. Still, we are just on par with our competitors who sell the same stocks we have. One competitor even has a long table now with multiple varieties for skewers. I want to reach that point, and to reach that, we need to have an edge.
Thinking of an Edge
A few months before, there is a good barbecue store a few blocks away from our place that we tried. It tasted good, and we saw that there is some type of sauce that they brush in to the skewers before handing off to customers. That’s when I recalled “That is what I think we’ve been missing, an edge, and a special something to our food”. The first weekend of our barbecue business, I mentioned this to Marge, saying we need to make something that will give us an edge against our competitors here. Something they cannot copy. Exclusive to us and customers know about it.
I did some research; unending research on what ways could make skewers taste better. Look around for recipes or hidden gems that could be a potential hit in our area. I saw a curious ingredient, looks promising. I did look at some videos and it seems that ordinary people love it. One caveat, it’s not readily available in the Philippines. There is only one solution, try to make my own ingredient.
Research and Experiment Made Our Sauce
It took a bit more of researching, and then made a sample. Being in the business scene, I would not of course divulge what I made, but at first I thought it was a failure. I tried a taste as soon as I finished up making it and it felt too salty for my taste. I initially thought that this will not cut it. My mom tasted it as well, and told me she find it salty as well. Of course, I began to think that it’s a fail, but, what if we try it in a skewer?
I took some, bought one skewer from Marge – yes, I pay for what I take, even if it’s my own business – and brushed a little bit on the top. I was a bit careful as I am afraid it might come off strong, and took a bite….
It was great!
I needed to make sure of course, brushed the entirety of it and have everyone take a bite out of it. My mom, conscious about the saltiness, mentioned that it’s still a bit salty. Marge however, felt that it was just fine. I think I just needed to make small measurement changes in my thought of recipe. I did that the next day, and it went perfect! Now all we have to do is to market this. Wait, we already have the business up, why don’t we just let our customers judge it themselves?
I made a small batch, and planned on selling it the following day. We tested it out on pork skewers, so we planned on putting it in those pork skewers alone. The first customer came in, and we said to try the skewer with our trial sauce. No reaction after taking a bite. This went on to a couple more customers, until a kid, asked us what is that we were putting in the pork skewers. She wanted to try as well, so even if she just bought a hotdog stick, we obliged. She went nuts after tasting it and enjoyed her hotdog stick even more.
A couple more days, and we were regularly putting in the special sauce that we made. The kids love it, adults ask about it. It has now been a regular addition to all our skewers, funny because a kid discovered it can be used to all our skewers, not us! Some of course, just stay with no reaction after tasting it, but still go back the day after, getting another round of our sticks. I believe everyone gave it a positive reaction, and our sales got better. Thus our secret sauce becoming popular, and is currently a part of our business.