CEBU’S dining scene, like the city itself, has become a melting pot influenced by the influx of guests from all over the world.
Many entrepreneurs have taken inspiration from the culinary offerings in Asia and from the west, influenced by their travels abroad. And they are bringing these influences back home through food, allowing locals to experience the best dishes even without leaving Cebu.
At the forefront of providing themed-dining experiences is the Pages family led by its founder Bunny Pages, whose family now handles 17 brands, mostly in food. The latest addition is Summer Frozen Delights, which recently opened in Ayala Center Cebu.
With 15 years of experience in the business industry, powered by hard work, passion and a big heart to help his fellow Cebuanos improve, this self-made entrepreneur was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
What was your first job?
My first job was with Mobil Oil Philippines as a marketing representative right after finishing chemical engineering at the University of San Carlos.
Who inspired you to get into business?
Dr. Norberto Quisumbing, the founder of Norkis Trading. Twenty-two years ago I came across an issue of The Executive Digest Magazine where he was on the cover. I got inspired reading his story and I made a decision to meet him.
I got my chance at a social event months later at the Cebu Plaza Hotel (now Marco Polo). It was good that I gathered enough courage to introduce myself to him. He didn’t disappoint and we’ve been close friends ever since. He is an amazing entrepreneur - so humble yet so inspiring.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
Not too long after I retired from the life insurance industry in 1996. When several businesses just fell into place quite easily, I knew that being an entrepreneur was something I was meant to be.
First, we opened My Playroom Kids Care Center in SM City Cebu; Thirsty Juices & Shakes came next; then, Play House Children Center. Mooon Cafe was our entry to the restaurant business, followed by Lantaw and so on with the rest of our brands.
The next thing we knew, our fresh juice and restaurant business was already substantial and making an impact on the market place.
Every business opportunity that comes to me, I pray like this: “Lord, if this is for me, please make it easy. If it’s not, please make it difficult.” Even up to today, I still listen to what He says and I follow.
Why did you pick this type of business or industry?
I didn’t pick our businesses; they picked me. Everything is a blessing from above.
After I became my own boss in March 1996 at age 49, I merely opened myself to what the universe had in store for me.
Unbelievably, the businesses just kept on falling into my family’s lap, one after another. I didn’t plan it this way; everything was just given. However, it took over 20 years to be where we are today. You can’t rush the good things in your life.
Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?
I’m always on training - 24/7, every minute of the day. I read a lot. I constantly think of new ways to better myself and our businesses. Learning from people, things and situations is a hobby.
But my best training came from sales. The 25 years I spent selling in the oil and life insurance industries prepared me well to be in business for myself.
From the life insurance industry, I learned that it’s more important to focus on your mission (to help families) and less on your commission. From books, I learned that the purpose of a business is not profits but to create more satisfied customers. These two mindsets drive everything we do in our companies today.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
I’ve failed many times because I always welcome new ideas. Luckily, the mistakes that I’ve made aren’t fatal but only learning experiences.
To me, success is more of a journey than a destination. However, two business failures come to mind: a tire repair business that failed due to collection problems and the Shawarma carts that we’ve had to close because we miscalculated our food cost at the onset.
As an entrepreneur, I live by two mantras: first, “be curious and not suspicious” and second, “don’t stop.” “Don’t even think of stopping until you get there, but don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is.” This last one is from Phil Knight, the founder of Nike.