Everyone dreams of having a business to be in control of their career and destiny but Greg of Ecija Gourmet Filipino Delights said, "Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone but it's a paradox. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone but it's for the misfits, the smart, the privileged, the underprivileged, it's for the popular ones, it's for the forgotten ones, the lucky ones and the unlucky ones.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone but it's really for everyone. It's up to you to find yourself in that situation."
Meet Greg Rivera, 35 years old born and raised in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. An artist, musician, and works in private equity investments.
Q(ChoosePinoy): Tell us about your company Ecija.
A(Greg): Ecija is a branded premium frozen Filipino meat company. We're focused on selling Filipino meat products. Most meat companies that enter into longganisas or processed meat brands create foreign forms of sausages like Schubligs and Kielbasa, but Ecija, as a brand, wants to focus on Filipino meat.
Ecija started in 2020, but our family has been in the meat business since the early 2000's. Our family's product then had the opportunity to be available in local supermarkets and some select SM outlets, with it peaking around year 2006. Our challenge back then was that it got difficult to manage because it was pretty much my father running the business, and I was then a fresh grad, wanting to help with the family business, but also seeking professional growth. At this point, we had to scale down the operations, but still we had loyal customers looking for our products.
Q(ChoosePinoy): You mentioned that Ecija as a brand wanted to focus on Filipino style meats. Tell us why that was a conscious decision.
A(Greg): When you're in the supermarket, foreign sausages like Schubligs and the Kielbasas are usually always in the premium section. Longganisas have been kind of the forgotten food in such a way that people have gotten used to cheap longganisas everywhere, to the point where it has become sort of a cheap commodity. Very few are creating premium longganisas in the market, and that's what we want to happen as a brand : to elevate Filipino cuisine.
For longganisas in particular, people usually ask if it is Vigan, Lucban or Cabanatuan, but we wanted to simplify the concept of longganisas. We wanted it to be just either garlic or sweet. We wanted to avoid the regional branding as it can alienate other regions. Customers who may not have been to certain regions may not get the difference between the different types.
Q(ChoosePinoy): You shared that your family started the business back in the early 2000s, but Ecija Gourmet as a brand was just this year, 2020. What was it like starting a business during the pandemic?
A(Greg): Most of the back office work for Ecija started before the pandemic. A year or a year and a half prior to its launch, we've been doing the R&D, branding, design. It became difficult to produce the longganisas because of the pandemic so we also had to wait it out. But when the time came that we could resume production, I thought to myself that the market had become a level playing field. Everyone is online now, and I can easily start the business without the need for merchandisers or the traditional set up. So we got started.
As Winston Churchill said, never waste a good crisis.
Q(ChoosePinoy): What kind of challenges do you think you faced having picked an interesting time to launch a business?
A(Greg): Funding would be one. When you don't have enough funding, the problem doesn't start when you're at zero. It starts when you're nearing zero. When you begin realising that your strategies aren't the most optimal. You balance being brave and being prudent.
Second would be the competitive landscape. Given the pandemic, there are a lot of competitors out there. We're not just competing against other longganisa makers, but rather all kinds of food providers that are out there. The pandemic has levelled the playing field in such a way that anyone can practically set up an online presence for the type of food they are selling.
Q(ChoosePinoy): How has your business created opportunities created opportunities for others?
A(Greg): The goal is really to generate jobs, and the dream is to create meaningful jobs to those outside of Metro Manila. For me, my goal is to be able to hire people from Nueva Ecija, and really do transference of knowledge. Coming from Nueva Ecija, if you want to grow professionally, you need to find opportunities in Metro Manila or abroad. There are not a lot of opportunities available for professionals in the provinces.
Q(ChoosePinoy): If you were to share advice digging through your experiences, what kind of business advise would you give to somebody who's already started, and to someone who's trying to see if there are opportunities to be in business?
A(Greg): For those who aren't into entrepreneurship yet or haven't started yet, don't fall in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur, or at the prospect of making money or fantasising about rags to riches stories. Instead, you should fall in love with the prospect of finding yourself or finding your purpose. When you finally find something, what matters is accepting the consequences of what you decide to do. Be prepared for the difficulty that will happen. And in a competitive landscape, you need to find your true self, and differentiate your brand from the rest.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, but it's a paradox. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but it's for the misfits, the smart, the privileged, the underprivileged. It's for the popular ones, for the forgotten ones, the lucky ones, and the unlucky ones. It's not for everyone but it's really for everyone. It's up to you to find yourself in that situation.
For other entrepreneurs already doing their own thing, be an artist. Look at the over-all picture of your business. Focus on the details then take a step back again, and see how the details affect the over-all picture, fix details, and repeat the process. Constantly have that awareness of where you are in all aspects of your business, from people, resources, and how the details will affect your over-all business.
Constantly zoom in and out.
Find Ecija's Premium Longganisas on ChoosePinoy.com