A woman of influence

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Sunday, August 3, 2014


A WOMAN'S influence or “woman power” has increasingly made its presence felt in the local food industry. But one young woman’s presence has remained obscured even if her chain of restaurants is making waves and growing in number—five of which are company-owned and 11 franchises.

Nonetheless, without much fanfare and celebrity status, Aubrey Lim Borja has made quite a substantial contribution in making Dong Juan chain of restaurants one of the most sought-after gourmet destinations in Cebu. And just like any normal business woman, she is using ingenuity matched with hard work to keep ahead of the competition, stay afloat, and cultivate customer loyalty.

The restaurant that Aubrey and her husband John had carefully designed way back in 2007 started with an interesting concept. “We had quite a brainstorming as to what we are going to name our restaurant that would define exactly the concept—that of making food available at expensive restaurants affordable to the ordinary Juan dela Cruz,” Aubrey explained.

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“Then suddenly my husband came up with the name ‘Dong Juan,’ which was just perfect.”

If executive women face untold challenges in the corporate world, women in the restaurant business take even more heat, especially when they are on the road to success. Dilemmas about balancing family and business obligations can be frustrating since their work schedules can be grueling and unpredictable. But looking at Aubrey, with her unmade-up clear skin, simple clothes, and sans any jewelry, no one would have guessed she could be coping with such a dilemma. She looks as if she’s just fresh from college and could not possibly have three grown-up kids, ages 14, 12, and 11. Of which she let out an even more naïve laughter.

“I’m already 36 years old, but I got married when I was only 21. And, yes, it is not easy to be running a business like this and managing a family like mine. My husband and I knew what we were getting into, franchising outside of Cebu and then working on our goal for Dong Juan—making it an international brand. I sleep only about five hours. And I always have this fear that our children will not recognize us anymore,” Aubrey confided.

“This is why we have decided to let our children do home school. This way they will always be close to us. And we have to make a lot of sacrifices.”

Aubrey added, “I’m so lucky that my children listen to me, and they are very responsible. My eldest son can even cook for themselves now and they don’t like to go out which is good because they’re in Manila.”

A young mother like her still has old-fashioned ideas. She still believes that sparing the rod will spoil the children. Her children are her greatest source of happiness and her biggest wish is that her kids will grow to be good Christians. And there is no doubt about this. Already at this young age they are disciplined and well-behaved. One time when they were in Ayala, her oldest son told her, “Mommy, we’ve been going around here for hours already. When are we going to church?”

Something that really struck Aubrey. But this is not surprising knowing the kind of daughter that Aubrey is—obedient, responsible, simple and so natural. A young girl who will work her way to getting her first “jumper suit”, a woman who is sure of her goals, a sensible wife who complements her husband, and a mother who makes sure her presence is felt by her children.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 04, 2014.

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