JUST like other struggling tourism-related establishments, the hotel where Arnold Seron works had to implement a flexible work arrangement because of the pandemic.
"Since pandemic man, skeleton (workforce sa) among trabaho. Kailangan nako mangita og paraan para makapanginabuhi og dugang (Our management had to implement a skeleton workforce policy due to the pandemic. I needed to find ways to sustain our family)," Arnold said.
The company he worked for applied for government assistance for their employees and Arnold was among the beneficiaries of P6,000 financial assistance. It was this cash aid that opened a new opportunity for Arnold.
Arnold and his wife saw the opportunity to start a coffee business with the financial assistance they received. The decision to start a coffee business was also due to the rising popularity of bottled cold brew.
"Mao tong among gigamit ni misis. Gi-try namo nga, why not kung pwede ba nato siya magamit para ma-rolling nato kay wala man jud ta'y capital. Testingan nato ning P6,000 kung asa ni siya dapit maka abot (We used the financial assistance to start our business because we did not have the capital to start one. We wanted to see what we can do with the P6,000)," Arnold said.
However, he was having second thoughts before he could start his business.
"Nagduha-duha pud ko kay basin maka sab-an ko sa akong amo. Nananghid sa ko og tarong sa iyaha if pwede ba nang mag sideline (I was having second thoughts because they might reprimand me at work. I went to see my employer and asked them formally if I am allowed to have a sideline)," Arnold said.
He said his employer was very understanding and gave permission for him to start Grind Coffee.
In May 2020, Grind Coffee was born.
However, they did not immediately start with a mobile coffee shop because movement restrictions then were still quite strict.
"Katong May, nigawas na dapat siya but nahadlok ko nga basi dakpon ko. Nagapangita pa ko unsaon (We were supposed to start our mobile coffee shop in May but we were scared because we might get caught. We have to think for now how to go about it)," he said.
He and his wife opted instead to start by selling cold brew online.
Using the financial assistance, Arnold bought 1 kilogram of ground coffee from Kapwenoz's Biboy Plaza. He also bought 10 pieces of bottles. At home, he used two French Press to prepare the cold brew.
"Nagabaligya ra mi og cold brew... Since naa man ko'y motor, mao tong ginagamit nako para maka-deliver (We started selling cold brew. Since I have a motor, I deliver the cold brew to our clients)," Arnold said.
Their first clients were his wife's co-teachers. Happy with their coffee, the teachers continue to order. From what started as 10 bottles, they added 10 more to cater to the increasing demand.
It was only in October 2020 when Arnold and his wife decided to start with their mobile coffee shop along Roxas St. Arnold borrowed the car of his father-in-law to transport his things and use it as an extension of his mobile coffee shop.
Grind Coffee first set up its shop along the road. Arnold recalled that they only had three customers during their first day and ended up closing the shop early.
One of their customers, who regularly jogs in the area, also suggested that they set up shop at the parking space in front of the university in the area.
Steadily, they started to see more customers dropping by their mobile coffee shop. He said the more he explains or informs his customers about specialty coffee, the more they become interested in it.
A regular customer, who is one tenants of the university, also allowed Arnold to set up the mobile coffee at this parking space.
Aside from those jogging or biking in the morning, Grind Coffee is also being visited by those working in the banks in the area.
"Around 8:30 a.m. kay mudagsa sila. Halos ilang ordered is brewed coffee and drip (They mostly come at around 8:30 a.m. Most of them would order brewed coffee)," Arnold said.
With a growing business, Arnold also invested some of the earnings to improve his mobile coffee shop. One of those is a side cart that he can attach to his motorcycle.
"Gihapak na pud namo didto sa cart para makita na pud sa tao sir nga kanang wala nasayang iyang gipalit nga kape. Bisan barato siya and good quality nga kape na ilang ginapalit sa amua, makita nila nga naay improvement pud (We invested some of our earnings in the cart because we also want to show to our customers that we are also improving ourselves)," Arnold said.
Aside from sustaining their family, Arnold hopes that his small shop would allow more Dabawenyos to appreciate a good cup of specialty coffee.
"Nakadecide ko mag pop-up og mobile bar para pud sa mga Dabawenyo na ma-introduce pud nato ang third wave na affordable lang (I decided that we start a mobile bar to introduce Dabawenyos to third-wave coffee that is affordable)," Arnold said.
He said he wants his customer to get a taste and experience a good cup of specialty coffee like those brewed from Mt. Apo coffee beans. Through Grind Coffee, Arnold hopes more will gain appreciation towards the complexities of specialty coffee.
From P6,000, Arnold and his wife helped one another to build their small business to sustain them and their three children amid the pandemic. They started from selling bottles of cold brew and then moving on to have a pop-up along Roxas Ave. with a few small tables and the car of Arnold's father-in-law.
Their hard work, determination, and sound decisions allowed them to slowly invest in things that would allow them to improve their mobile coffee shop.