While Kofka argues that “the whole is other or greater than the sum of the parts”, the true success of Sugbo Mercado Weekend Food Market – Cebu’s first, biggest and only weekend food market – is in each of its more than fifty individual vendors. I sat down with Anton Aldeguer, owner of one many of the market’s best sellers and runaway successes, Papa Churros, to know how it all happened.
Karlo: Why churros?
Anton: After six months of operating Hala Paella, the Spanish restaurant my grandfather and I own, I had a more complete view and better data to see which our fastest moving products were. One that stood out, besides Paella, of course, was our Churros.
Coming from an “entrepreneurial” family, so to speak, we are always on the lookout for new business ideas. Even when we go on vacations or just driving around our hometown, we are always looking for inspiration and ideas that we can maybe turn into a business. Seeing the potential our Churros had and also seeing something of a Churro-craze around the world, we acted on it quickly. It was also felt natural to do Churros given my heritage and to take off from my strengths in what’s already an existing line in Spanish food. It’s also my favorite dessert item.
Karlo: What’s behind the name?
Anton: With the decision to put up a churros brand, we had to innovate and come up with versions that were distinctly ours. We first came up with an extra-large churro we called the Big Papa. And so, Papa Churros was born. We also have the bite-sized versions, tasters if you will, the Churros Bites to round out the lineup with the regular churros.
Karlo: Why did you decide to start at Sugbo Mercado instead of putting up a brick-and-mortar or even a mall kiosk?
Anton: Lower setup costs, primarily. Since it was another startup, we had to build capital again to open a store. We figured Sugbo Mercado was the best place not just to open but to test the waters, too. Of course, first outlets are supremely critical to the brand. I really must say Sugbo Mercado is one of the best places to start a business and build capital for a standalone store. With the lower overhead, it makes it easier to study your market and easily make adjustments while you are still developing as a brand.
Karlo: Cebuano’s are known to be rather critical and even resistant to new concepts. What were your challenges?
Anton: Churros weren’t as popular here in Cebu as they were in other places. We still had to work on introducing it to Cebu and creating the love that fans of our product now has for us. I really gotta give it to them also for all the support at Sugbo Mercado.
Karlo: With lines snaking from your booth, I guess one other challenge is keeping up with the demand, huh?
Anton: *chuckles* We could only be thankful that we have that. Five months of that kind of response at Sugbo Mercado and we were finally ready for Ayala.
Karlo: Congratulations on your new outlet! You’re the first Sugbo Mercado success story with this expansion outside the food market.
Anton: Thanks, man!
Karlo: So what’s next for Papa Churros?
Anton: We plan to open 3-4 more outlets around Cebu within the year. Then hopefully we can look at some franchising opportunities.
Karlo: Anything message you want to put out to other budding young entrepreneurs out there?
Anton: I want everyone to know that it’s okay to be nervous when starting a business. That only means you really care about it and want it. It’s about channeling that nervous energy into pushing you, following through and making your ideas happen. Another thing is to keep your numbers close to you: from quantities of inventory and delivery to your sales. These are things you should know by heart. Your numbers and statistics will always be there not just to put things in perspective but to keep you from not losing sight of your trajectory and progress. It is a very concrete way of seeing your progress and potential as a brand.
Papa Churros is currently available at Sugbo Mercado Weekend Food Market,Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 5PM-1AM, and at UG Ayala Center-Cebu, daily during mall hours.