JOEL Binamira did not intend to start a lechon business. “It just happened by chance,” said the founder of Zubuchon.

“The idea really was to revive the taste of lechon 30 years ago,” he said.

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Binamira said he missed the taste of lechon that his grandmother used to prepare when he was younger.

“We wanted to restore the lechon that is made the old-fashioned and traditional way where one uses bamboo and natural ingredients. A kind of lechon making where there are no shortcuts,” Binamira said.

Experiments

He said about 15 pigs were cooked during the six months of experimentation.

“Then when we got it right, that’s the time we made ‘Zubuchon’ available to friends. Then through word of mouth, Zubuchon became popular,” he said.

“We were featured in television shows both foreign and local, magazines and local papers and that’s when we decided to make our lechon commercially available because we got a lot of inquiries after those exposures,” Binamira said.

Zubu was the designation for the island of Cebu from the old Spanish and Portuguese maps of the Philippine archipelago. “Zubuchon is the crew’s brand name for our unique style of lechon,” he said.

About half a million was invested for the business, which started operating in the last quarter of 2008. The company generated about P200,000 in revenues during the first month of operations.

Binamira, who also maintains a food blog called Market Manila, said Zubuchon is about doing things the old fashioned way.

“We carefully select our pigs from folks who generally raise them in their back yards, not from large commercial piggeries. We often “fatten up” our pigs for several days or weeks before they are slaughtered. We use only the freshest and often homegrown organic lemongrass, green onions, siling labuyo or peppers, local sea salt, and other herbs and spices and olive oil.

“We prepare and cook the pig by hand, with no mechanized systems at all. We cook the pigs on natural bamboo poles over charcoal purchased from small-scale manufacturers in the highland towns of the province,” he said.

Prices for a whole lechon range from P3,200 to P7,000 while lechon cuts are sold at P450 per kilo. “Prices may be quite a bit higher compared to others, but our edge is the quality of our product,” he said.

Zubuchon maintains a retail outlet in Banilad Town Center and Mactan International Airport, near the departure lounge.

While Binamira’s lechon business is slowly gaining popularity, he said he owes the success of the business to his employees.

Employees

“We are a new player in the business. I must say that more than the quality of product we have, the success of the business can be attributed to the company’s hardworking employees,” Binamira said.

He said it is usually his eight employees who do most of the work in the business as he often travels to Manila to attend to other family businesses.

“That’s why I owe a lot to them what Zubuchon is today,” he said.

When asked what his advice is for those who want to start a business, Binamira said one should not only invest in terms of raising capital but also in having the right product.

“Zubuchon is still a small player in the business and with the presence of big companies, what we did is we prepared the right product for the market. Many small businesses fail because they only think of profit. It may take a while to get back what you have invested but producing a quality and right product is what makes consumers come back. And you’ll naturally make profit along the way,” he said.

With lechon as one of the all-time favorite Filipino fare, Binamira is projecting selling 30 pigs per week for this December. “When it’s usually peak months, we hire part-time employees to help us cater to the orders of our customers,” Binamira said.