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Financial Adviser: 5 Ways How Paco Magsaysay Made Carmen’s Best the Number One Premium Ice Cream in the Philippines

Ten years after it was founded, Carmen’s Best is the most recognized local brand for premium ice cream in the country.
IMAGE CARMENSBEST.COM
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Francisco “Paco” Magsaysay was working in the family business when his father, former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr, who just retired from politics, asked him to help sell the excess milk production from their dairy farm.

Paco Magsaysay, who grew up in the US and who graduated with a degree in marketing, tried to distribute the company's milk products to resorts and high-end recreation centers, only to realize later that demand for fresh milk was not big enough.

Wanting to avoid wasting the oversupply of milk, one day, while baking brownies and cookies for his children, Magsaysay came up with the idea of using the unsold milk products to produce homemade ice cream.

Equipped with a small machine with the support of his helpers at home, Magsaysay started making his own ice cream and selling it from his garage in Ayala Alabang.

The artisanal ice cream business, which Magsaysay would name after his only daughter, Carmen, became a hit in the neighborhood.

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It did not take long before people from other places like Quezon City and Makati, because of social media and word of mouth referrals, would come to Alabang just to buy his ice cream

Although business was growing, it was not an easy journey for Magsaysay. He was a single parent after being separated and had been diagnosed with cancer.

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Despite this burden, Magsaysay persisted with his goal of expanding the business by distributing his ice cream products in up-market stores and supermarkets in Metro Manila, while undergoing treatment in the US.

Today, 10 years after founding the business, Magsaysay has made Carmen’s Best as the most recognized local brand for premium ice cream in the country.

Magsaysay, who has been in remission for years, is also planning to go global with the opening of the first Carmen’s Best ice cream store in Singapore recently.

How did Magsaysay manage to grow his startup business amidst growing competition in the ice cream industry? What were his business values and how did it help overcome his challenges?

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Photo by CARMENSBEST.COM.

Here are the five business lessons every entrepreneur can learn from the founder of Carmen’s Best, Paco Magsaysay:

1| Do what you love to achieve your goals

There is a saying that if you do what you love, you will never work for a day in your life.

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It is true that if you are passionate with what you do, you will be more motivated to reach your full potential and inspire others to do the same.

“You have to understand yourself,” says Magsaysay. “Know your strength and weaknesses. It’s all about understanding yourself. You know what you are good at.

“Baking was not new to me. I never took a baking class in my life, but I enjoy doing it. I enjoy baking cookies for my kids, baking brownies, baking fudge. So, when the time came for me to make ice cream it was very similar to baking.

“I wanted to make an ice cream the way I wanted to eat it, meaning, I will use the best ingredients with no shortcuts because I am going to eat it. I was the market. I chose the flavors that I liked, the flavors that I grew up with and that’s how we started.

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“I didn’t expect this business will define me as a person. I just put my heart and soul into it, and when people tried it, they said this guy must be making this out of love. It was not like I was just doing to this to make money.”

2| Build your product to stand out in a crowded market

Developing a quality product is about building a reputation that consistently exceeds customer expectations.

“If you understand yourself, you will also understand your product,” he says. “If I offer my product to all groceries like what the other brands are doing, I may compromise the quality of my product. While I am not after the biggest market share, I am after being the best ice cream.

“Because at the end of the day it’s our quality that makes us grow. We can’t play around with quality because when people realize that, we may start losing customers.

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“So, we are always under the guns to really give the best quality because we are known for that and people pay for it. That’s what at stake for us.”

3| Differentiate your product with premium pricing

If you can demonstrate your product has more value than your competitors, you can convince your customers that your product is worth every peso.

“Sometimes people will ask, ‘Why is your ice cream so expensive?’ Well that’s because it’s not cheap to make this ice cream. And when people tried it, they would say, ‘Wow, it’s expensive but it’s worth it.

“So, for me to differentiate myself from the market, I really have to come up with a superior product. At that time when we launched in 2011, I was the only one there at the super premium category and I owned that category.”

Photo by CARMENSBEST.COM.
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4| Keep your product authentic and honest

Being true to your brand allows you to connect with your customers and build loyalty that leads to long-term success. Customers do not only want value for their money; they also want values that they can identify with your product.

“The profit of ice cream is about pumping a lot of air,” Magsaysay says. “If you make it melt and see what happens, it goes down really fast. It’s not by weight but by volume and its very light because it’s not dense at all. Those are the things that the ice cream industry doesn’t want people to learn. It’s really all a lot of air, But ours is not.

“Local ice cream use mellorine, which is a vegetable fat. In other countries if you use mellorine fat, you can’t even call it ice cream. You have to call it frozen dessert because it’s no longer ice cream. It’s not dairy anymore. Can you imagine your fat is oil? That’s why our ice cream is different because we use dairy fat.

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“You know the fact that I named it after my only daughter means that I will never compromise the quality of my product,” he adds. “And it’s so tied to me that I cannot make this thing fail. I mean, I have to make this work because if it fails, I also fail.

“When I say I am giving you the best quality, I’m really giving you the best quality so I can talk to my customers and I can look at them in the eye and they know I’m not telling them a lie.”

5| Leave a lasting legacy that matters

Building a legacy keeps you focused on the big picture. Your long-term goal will help you form your values that will affect your choices in the future.

“In life you just have to take what is given to you,” he says. “You may be lucky in business but not in your personal life. You’ll never know what you are going to get but you just have to go and do it. You can’t just keep on crying about it or complaining about it. You just have to go with what you have and that’s it. Live each day at a time because you’ll never know.

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“It’s not about the car you drive, the watch you have and the house. No, it’s not about that. For me my legacy is ice cream. People will always remember me as the ice cream guy. They are not going to remember me as a politician. They remember my Lolo as a great president, my dad as a senator, and me for my ice cream.”

Henry Ong, RFP, is president of Business Sense Financial Advisors. For business advice, e-mail the author at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @henryong888. 

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