Financial Adviser: 5 Business Lessons Everyone Can Learn from Nonoy Quimbo, Founder and CEO of Novellino Wines

The story of how Novellino became the country’s dominant wine brand.

In the world of business, success stories often involve individuals who face adversity head-on and emerge triumphant through sheer determination and ingenuity.

Vicente “Nonoy” Quimbo's tale is no exception. A seasoned corporate executive turned entrepreneur, Quimbo's journey showcases the power of resilience and the ability to transform challenges into opportunities.

Quimbo had already established himself as a successful corporate executive, having worked as an expatriate in various countries. His career began with prominent roles as the consumer marketing head for Pepsi Cola, where he gained valuable insights into the intricacies of the beverage industry, and later with the consumer products group of Novartis.

However, in 1992, Quimbo faced a major setback when Novartis sold the business unit he was handling to their competitor. As a result, Quimbo found himself laid off at the age of 42 searching for new opportunities in an uncertain job market.

Determined to bounce back, Quimbo explored various avenues for his next venture. Inspired by his experience in the cola bottling production, he recognized the potential in supplying grape concentrates for the production of wine beverages.

Quimbo believed that he could leverage his expertise to create high-quality, locally made wine products for the mass market. Initially, he attempted to sell his idea to large beverage companies but failed to generate any interest. However, his fortunes changed when he came across Metro Pacific.

At the time, Metro Pacific was venturing into the beverage market, and they saw the value in Quimbo's proposal and agreed to invest in his venture. With Metro Pacific's support, Quimbo became the supplier of grape juice concentrates for the wine manufacturing process.


The partnership initially flourished, but unforeseen circumstances would once again test Quimbo's resilience. Metro Pacific divested its consumer business, resulting in the termination of Quimbo's supply contract.

Undeterred by this setback, Quimbo refused to give up on his vision. With no other options at hand, he made a bold decision—to purchase the equipment from Metro Pacific and venture into the wine production business himself. Thus, in 1999, Novellino was born.

Novellino quickly gained traction and emerged as a market leader within a few years. Quimbo's commitment to quality and strategic marketing efforts played a crucial role in establishing Novellino as the number one local wine brand in the Philippines today, capturing an impressive 40 percent market share.

Quimbo's commitment to producing high-quality wine products, coupled with strategic decision-making, helped propelled Novellino to the forefront of the industry.

How did Quimbo's determination and resilience play a part in overcoming the challenges he faced? What lessons can aspiring entrepreneurs learn from Quimbo's journey of success despite obstacles?

Here are the five business lessons every entrepreneur can learn from Nonoy Quimbo, founder and CEO of Novellino Wines:


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1| Know how to embrace risks by transitioning from a corporate career to entrepreneurship

Many people find themselves trapped in corporate roles that may not align with their true passions and purpose in life. By transitioning to entrepreneurship, you will have the opportunity to pursue your passion, turn your ideas and interests into a fulfilling career.

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Quimbo faced the fear of uncertainty when he stepped into entrepreneurship. He took the calculated risk of starting his own business despite the challenges and potential setbacks that lay ahead. The shift from a taking secure corporate job to the uncertainties of starting a business allowed him to build resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. This journey enabled him to unlock his full potential and shape his own success story.

“I come from a consumer products background,” he says. “I started my career with P&G, my first job from college, then a bunch of us from P&G joined our former marketing director of P&G to become the head of Pepsi in the Philippines, so, you know, tinangay kami.

“There were just a few of us and that got me into bottling and then my boss at Pepsi left the company to join the consumer products group of Novartis that handled Ovaltine and a few other specialty products in the US.

“I've always been in consumer products, and through both Pepsi and Novartis, I have moved to different countries. So I said, there has to be a point in my life where I can literally get out of a parang an imprisonment of corporate life.

“I mean, not that I was doing badly. Being an expat, I was enjoying the good life, but it's always a passion to me to really strike on my own.

“The business that always intrigued me was the beverage business, consumer products specifically beverage, like how Pepsi does it because I had been with them for a while


“So sabi ko one day, I kept it at the back of my mind, you need a shakedown of your career so that you know you will redirect and that shake down happened when the business unit that I was running for Novartis was sold to another company.  

“I was laid off from my job, and they did not pursue the other options that were available to me. It was not clear what my career direction would be after they sold the company I was running, so sabi ko, let’s look at my other options now.

“I said, this is maybe the time for me to go out my own and see what I can do. This was in 1992. I was 42 years old at the time, so sabi ko, this is the time to do it. 

“Of course, I had to be cautious because my kids were in elementary and high school and my desire was to see them in college. I was balancing between continuing to be safe, having a safe form of compensation by staying with my company. Whatever options there were during that time, or going on my own. So I decided to go on my own with my little bit of savings. Sabi ko bahala na, tingnan natin.

2| Know how to create value through business model innovation

Business model innovation allows companies to differentiate themselves from competitors by creating unique value propositions, customer experiences, and revenue models. It enables organizations to stay ahead in the market, attract customers, and maintain a competitive edge.

Quimbo applied business model innovation by leveraging the successful business model of the soft drink industry and applying it to the wine industry.

He recognized the similarities in the operational structure of the soft drink business, where bottlers were appointed in specific locations to handle operations, while branding played a significant role in marketing.

“I've always felt that the business model for soft drinks can be replicated in other businesses,” he says. “For example, Pepsi, they appoint a bottler in a certain location and during my time, I was running a group of bottlers in places like Colombia and Peru. In this role, the bottlers served as the operational arm of Pepsi and we would provide not so much the expertise because it was so easy to make it, but more of the branding, because you're selling the brand, that's where the value is.

“You make sure that they manage it well and, obviously, that is on the marketing side while the operational side is the simplest part. So I said that kind of business model can apply to other businesses.

“My thought was to use the same business model for wine. Sabi ko, let me try and replicate the business model for wine where you start with grape juice concentrate. Ang comparison dyan, cola concentrate, then you reconstitute, the only difference being is that you ferment, kasi wine requires a fermentation process. The most challenging part of Pepsi or Coke or any consumer product for that matter, is the marketing part, di ba?


“And then you do exactly what a bottling company would do: you find a bottler. And so I peddled the idea to different companies. I went to San Miguel, La Tondeña, Pepsi Cola, RFM—I met all of them. I broached the idea with the business model, may mga numero yan, and my job was to be the supplier of the concentrate, as Coke would be to supply the concentrate to San Miguel then.

“The first group that signed up was Metro Pacific Group. They said, ‘Oh, that's exciting, we're trying to build a beverage business.’ At that time, they had just put Wilkins water, so they thought wine might have been a good fit.

“Obviously my desire was to go with, you know, San Miguel and the big players in the beverage industry, but they were the first ones to sign up so sabi ko, ‘Sige, sama-sama tayo. This is a startup business anyway.’”

3| Know how to turn crisis into opportunity

When faced with a crisis, the ability to adapt and bounce back is essential. By transforming a crisis into an opportunity, individuals and businesses demonstrate resilience, showing that they can navigate through challenging circumstances to emerge stronger.

Quimbo faced a crisis when his supply contract was discontinued by his client. Despite difficulties in selling his idea to potential investors, Quimbo found an opportunity by offering to purchase the assets and equipment from Metro Pacific to produce the wines himself under his own brand.

“When they launched, they spent a lot of money to launch it, so syempre, ang expectation was immediately a big hit kaagad. Pero okay naman, they were selling and they were getting distribution. It’s a process eh.

“You try to get accounts to sign up, and while they were doing that, during the early stage, Coca-Cola bought Wilkins. They sold Wilkins at a very high value and they started to think how they could get out of the consumer products business.

“So the excitement of being in consumer products through the wine business they were trying to set up—parang Nawala. One year after, they decided to stop. After that, sabi ko, “Naku, nawalan ako ng hanapbuhay.”

“So I went around again and tried to sell the idea to the same people before. I told them that it’s available again but who would want to invest in a business that was being discontinued, di ba? Nahirapan ako magbenta ngayon, regardless of how good the idea was. Siguro nangibabaw sa isip nila, kung magandang negosyo yan hindi yan iiwanan ng Metro Pacific, di ba?

“That’s what I was faced with. I couldn't sell the idea, so I told Metro Pacific, ‘Naku, sayang naman yung na-invest ninyo,’ so I ended up telling them, ‘Ako na lang bibili sa inyo.’ But it wasn’t a business purchase, it was an asset purchase. I would buy the equipment.

“I told them, ‘Because you're disengaging, if you get one peso out of that whole thing, that's one peso on your bottom line. Forget about the write-off because you're writing it off anyway. Sabi ko, ‘give me a chance to find a way to give you a good value to the equipment that you'll be selling me.’


“So part of the deal that I had with Metro Pacific was not only that I would buy the assets and equipment, but I would also get their leftover inventory. So before we dismantled the equipment, we produced as many as we could using the concentrate and bottles.

“It so happened that na malapit na mag-Pasko nun, malakas ang wine sa Pasko ‘di ba? Over that period, we produced as much as we could, still using the production facility they had, and when naubos na yung production, my distributors were quite happy with how the market accepted our wine.

Sinabi ko sa kanila, ‘Are you ready now?’ Kasi naubos na yung inventory, and technically hindi na natin puede gamitin yung brand nila. Sabi nila, ‘sige, magandang negosyo pala ito. Nakakabenta tayo ng wine’ So they continued selling wine but this time, sarili ko ng brand. In fact, it's in my personal name. We developed the name Novellino.

“Yung sinabi ng Metro Pacific ayaw na namin sa wine business, natakot ako. Ano na mangyayari sa ‘kin? You know you have to go through those uncertainties. The issue is not how you react to it, but how you respond to it. When all of those things happened, I looked at my options and I decided to pursue the option that turned out to be profitable rather than disastrous.”

4| Know how to define and build a powerful brand

A strategic branding strategy enhances the perceived value of a product or service. It helps a brand communicate its unique value proposition effectively and differentiate itself from competitors.

A strong brand presence can make it difficult for competitors to replicate or surpass the emotional connection, customer loyalty, and brand equity that has been built over time.

Quimbo employed a strategic approach to build a strong brand for his wine business, Novellino. He carefully selected the name to convey novelty and an Italian connection. He built his branding strategy by creating a compelling story and adjusting the formulation to cater to Filipino tastes. He also increased its credibility by importing Italian wine under the Novellino brand, presenting it as a premium, aspirational product.

“When you do name generation, I've been through that in product development, you set guidelines, di ba? So ang guideline namin is that it should connote something new. A new kind of wine.

“It should connote something that has an Italian ring to it and European, and novel is new, di ba? Dagdagan mo ng ‘inno,’ and it sounds Italian na. That’s how it came out, so it’s scientifically developed. Pinag-isipan mabuti.

“Then it so happened na there’s a town in Italy called Novello, and there’s also an Italian football player na champion sa World Cup, ang apelyido is Novellino, pero coincidental lang yun.

“So we claimed we were inspired by the Italian team and that our winemaker came from a town called Novello. Alam mo naman puro kwento lang palagi yan. Nakahanap kami ng magandang kwento but, in reality, that’s the origin of the name.


“After this, the first thing we did, using the same winemaker that we had before, we tweaked the formulation. We made it sweeter because we felt that, yung hanap ng Pinoy e yung mas matamis pa.

“The other thing we did was to give it credibility. We brought in wine from Italy na ang brand name ay Novellino para sabihin na may Italian origin din. We contracted a winemaker in Italy to produce Novellino for us.

“Until a certain point, akala talaga ng tao imported ang Novellino. It’s all mind games, ‘di ba? Eh, pag-imported, magaling; pag local, pangit. But, in reality, mas mahirap gawin ang sweet wine.

Pero ayaw pa rin bumili ng Filipinos ng local products eh. We had to make panggap na imported, na eto maganda yung presentation. Kasi these are all from Italian equipment. However they make wine in Italy from packaging, even our bottles, lahat yan Italian.

“When I thought of doing the wine business, there was nobody I talked to who thought that what I was doing was going to be successful. Sino nga bang bibili ng wine na gawa sa Pilipinas? But entrepreneurs see things that others don't see.

“Ako nakita yung wine as  a very aspirational product, so the question I asked myself is, if the wine is so aspirational, the wine is so appealing, why are very few people drinking it? That's the perspective and there are a number of reasons.

“One is they cannot appreciate the taste of wine, which is mapakla. May solution yan: e di gawin mong matamis. Second reason is they don’t know what price to pay. Punta ka sa wine shop. The range of prices could be anywhere from P300 to P5000 on wine. Ano bibilhin mo? Hindi alam ng tao, so we thought, ‘Ito dapat ang presyo ng wine.’

And the third reason is wine is not advertised as a consumer product. There is no brand of wine in the world that has more than one percent market share. In other words, there is no Coke or Pepsi in the world for wine. Di ba generally meron dominated ng major brands sa Pilipinas: Jollibee and McDonald's. Why is that?

“Because wine is not marketed as consumer product. So the third item we have to address is how do you market it as a consumer product, not as a parang cult following, like, ‘Tikman ko ito, tikman mo rin, masarap.’

“The Philippines is one of very few countries in the world where there is  a dominant wine brand. Kami ‘yun. Most people assume that a sweet wine is a cheap wine. Parang sweet equals cheap, dry equals expensive, ‘di ba?

“Kahit ayaw nila lasa, kahit mapakla yan, maraming pretend-pretend dyan, para pakita mo lang, di ba? But the reality is that sweet wines are more complicated to make than dry wines.

“It’s always been at the back of my mind na there are business models that I cannot understand. For example, bakit bumibili ang tao ng mga luxury goods; yung mga branded products. Hindi ko naiintidihan yun eh.


“In my case, marami rin hindi nakaka-intindi how wine can be successful in the Philippines, but I had the idea that this is the way to do it.”

5| Know how to instill family values that align with business

By incorporating family values, businesses can create a strong foundation built on trust, respect, and a commitment to ethical practices.

Family values emphasize collaboration, loyalty, and a focus on long-term sustainability rather than short-term gains. This approach fosters a positive work culture, enhances employee satisfaction, and promotes customer loyalty.

Quimbo’s business decisions with family values helps ensure that the company's actions are aligned with its core principles and contributes to the overall success and reputation of the business in the long run.

He also prioritized quality time and instilling the values passed on by his parents to his sons when they were growing up. Teaching children the importance of integrity, responsibility, teamwork, and perseverance prepares them to navigate challenges and make ethical choices. By combining practical knowledge with moral guidance, he equipped his sons with the tools they need to thrive in business while maintaining a strong sense of character and integrity.

“We like what we are doing,” he says. “We enjoy it. It’s like passion itself. We have constant improvements in what we do and all that we're expanding, and we make enough money to make our lives comfortable. And our employees—happy naman sila sa amin.

“I always believe in quality time. What allows quality time is quantity time. If you don't have quantity, you cannot have quality. So I spend a lot of time with my sons and drive them over to sports games, to music, and expose them to all sorts of different things.

“I also pass on the values na tinuro sa amin ng magulang namin. Sabi palagi ng tatay ko noon pa: you cannot make a child good by making him happy, but you can make him happy but making him good. Prioritize good before happy. If you follow that principle, everything else will follow. Do what you think is good, not what you think to make him happy, so it’s carried on.

“Money should never be a goal. It's a byproduct of doing a good job, so money is not the objective. It's what happens because things go well, when you've done a good job. You start with that principle, everything else will follow.

“For example, the way we run Novellino, we established core values. We check out our employees if they adhere to those core values and that’s one of those. Our objective is not to make more money for the company; our objective is to do a good job because if you do a good job, you will make more money.

“Dati kasi, do, have, be: if you do a job well, you can have the reward, and you can be the person that you want to be. Pero kami baligtad; be first. Be the right person muna, then do a good job, and you can have the reward.”


Henry Ong, RFP, is an entrepreneur, financial planning advocate and business advisor. Email Henry for business advice or follow him on Twitter @henryong888


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