Here’s a new and thriving business that could influence the eating habits of many Filipinos and the way a business venture is conceived—a demonstration that good intentions are an effective starting point in doing business. Herein lies the business principle “heart before profit”. It is this thought that had propelled Mary Jean “Jean” Netario Cruz to launch her new venture called “Soup of the Day,” or SOD, a kiosk which promotes and sells affordable soup of various kinds. Jean believes that a practical business may be a launching pad to do outreach programs, and is determined to prove this. The SOD has two kiosks already established in Antipolo City.

Humble beginnings

Raised by hardworking parents in a simple life, Jean is a no-nonsense entrepreneur. At a young age, she learned how to farm, although one might not expect it, “like planting ornamental plants and vegetables, and climbing trees and running around freely during breaks.” During her grade school days, she was already driven by the desire to learn and at the same time support her parents. So come harvest time, she would take the choicest crops from their farm, put them in a basket and sell them around the neighborhood. Among her siblings, she was the only one with the guts to do that. Her entrepreneurial spirit never waned; she was always able to come up with new ideas for alternative sources of income. In high school, she created artworks personalized with songs and poems as requested by her schoolmates and made money out of it, but she was never distracted, as she still graduated at the top of her class. In college, she introduced fancy and elegant hair pins, brocades, and jewelry crafts, and got her siblings and friends involved in production. She created prototype designs, had these replicated in thousands, and entered into trade with Chinese owners of big shops in Divisoria, supplying them items regularly for some time. This early, she tasted success and shared her profit with those who had helped her out. Jean was intent on pursuing her business but never compromised her college studies; and she finished it through determination, generosity, guts, and talent.Jean completed a degree in Accountancy at the Philippine School of Business Administration. For five years, she worked for A Brown Company, Inc. From there, she learned the basics of large-scale competitive business. Too restless to be employed and follow orders from a boss, she eventually quit and decided to put up her own company called Fastbooks, Inc., a consultancy business which provides computerized accounting services, point of sale software and technical assistance in financial management systems. She has a roster of clients to sustain her company and she’s also busy with undertakings of their neighborhood association or her associates’ ventures. Deep inside, however, she had always felt compelled to do something extraordinary to help the less fortunate, but nothing like dole-out projects.


The birth of SOD
The thought of venturing into the soup business stemmed from practical experiences, seeing mothers worry about their children’s snacks and diet and having attended various celebrations or events. Jean thought of creating soup dishes that are not only nutritious but also easy to make–soups that her kids Nico and Julia can enjoy as well as promote to their classmates and friends. During informal gatherings with friends and work associates, Jean began to serve soup as an entrée course that preceded fine dining at home and during parties. Her treat proved suitable to people with a fast-paced life and light diners. Soon enough, friends and neighbors started placing orders for her soup dishes which have now become an indispensable feature of dining events. Experience has shown that Jean’s soups are no longer a small treat, as oftentimes they turn out to be a delicious meal on their own. Her loyal customers have kept growing, ranging from friends to guests who are delighted with the taste and concept of her soup dishes. Indeed SOD attests that charity begins at home.Seeing such a positive response, Jean convinced her husband Engr. Julius Cruz to help put up the capital to establish a soup kiosk in Antipolo to test the market. In December 2007, she entered the competitive field and built her first kiosk in Budgetlane Antipolo; after two weeks, she put up another outlet at the grocerylane of Cherry Foodarama. The third kiosk will be in operation this March.A number of prospective investors who find the Soup of the Day business concept interesting and promising is increasing each day!  Calls and e-mails from all over the world, she started to receive.  As she believes that the business is too early to franchise, she is considering of a  joint venture as not to burden the investor of the entire risk.


Comes SOD
The SOD kiosks offer four flavored and excellent soup dishes:
 
Chicky Veggie- macaroni soup with chicken, vegetables, herbs and other seasonings in light creamy base
Beefy Mushroom
- beef and a wide selection of mushrooms, herbs and other seasonings in thick creamy base
Seafood Chowder
- shrimp, clams, crab, squid, potato, cheese, vegetables, herbs and other seasonings in thick creamy base
Squash Soup
- baked buttercup squash, shrimp, fresh cocomilk, malunggay leaves and other vegetables, herbs and other seasonings

In every soup, you will notice that Jean mixes vegetables that the dish becomes a complete meals enough to sustain oneself with vitamins and minerals. No additives and preservatives. Likewise, Jean added a salad dish,  sandwiches and lemon grass coolers to the food choices in her kiosks. Customers always had positive remarks about the goodness of the food and inquired on the location of other outlets. While these developments were happening so fast, Jean organized her commissary team but continued to handle the marketing aspects. After school, her kids would assist in tending the kiosks and became her models and promoters for free! To expand her coverage, Jean began visiting major malls like SM,  Ayala Malls, Rustans and Shopwise and held “food tasting” sessions with leasing managers and key officers, who gave unanimous approval of her kiosk’s feasibility. Meetings have been initiated to explore possibilities of putting up outlets, franchising, and even setting up partnerships. In the meantime, the two kiosks generated extra funds for her to launch her free soup feeding event—the part that she’s more excited about. Among her first “beneficiaries”  are the beneficiaries of the medical mission in Cottonwoods Hts held last December 2007. Another outreach program is scheduled on March 7, 2008 for the Gawad Talino students, an outreach program of Morning Dew Montessori where her son Nico is a volunteer teaching children and adults to read. With the profits from SOD, Jean dreams of providing free soup meals during medical missions or be involved in feeding programs of any humanitarian organization.


A glance at the maker
The above prospects continue to inspire this lady of talent who can strike a good and lasting impression on anyone in an instant. There’s so much of heart to be discovered in her. Here’s a glimpse of some of her links and inspirations. Unknown to most, Jean’s dreams have already found a link in one remote place in Mindanao—the island inhabited by non-Muslim and non-Christian peoples called the lumads or the indigenous peoples. Back in January 2006, Jean got to know the Bukidnon Daraghuyan tribe, one of the indigenous communities inhabiting and protecting the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in the northern Mindanao region. After receiving an invitation from a friend managing the non-government organization assisting the tribe, she went there to do a simple budgeting workshop with the tribal council and the youth as part of their preparation in their ancestral domain management plan. The north-south divide faded as Jean was well received by the community with a pamalàs (welcome) ritual, and the struggle with language seemed trifle, as the people tried their best to communicate with her in Tagalog. Jean promised to come back and two years later, she returned. With support from Samdhana Institute, a week ago, Jean visited the tribe and this time was received in a heritage center located at the gateway of the natural park. Up on Olanguhon hill, Jean assisted in the landscaping of the tulugan tribal hall, a facility where the chieftains and tribal leaders gather. Her artistic energy and green thumb found their rightful avenue, and her warmth and kindness brought smiles to the mountain people who were grateful for her return, guidance and sacrifice. Parents and youth brought out all kinds of materials from the forests—from driftwoods, ferns and wild plants. All these were taken to the center where Jean introduced to them landscaping techniques through actual sense, where people could see, follow, suggest and improve as they got the hang of it. She’s also thrilled to expand people’s home gardens to contribute to their own food security. Hopefully, Jean can return a third time and get to see her imprints on the site. This latest visit made her more inspired to continue with SOD, to double its marketing promotions. Hopefully, with the prayers of tribe, too, it will achieve greater success not merely as a venture but more as means to achieve Jean’s dream to help and reach out to others.


The vision of SOD
 
“Soup of the Day” is a food concept with a VISION to become a renowned food business that serves soup with a HEART, creating an avenue for consumers to help the  NEEDY while enjoying the food. Its MISSION is to SERVE delicious, nutritious SUMPTUOUS soup made available and affordable for everyone to SHARE. Its corporate social responsibility is for SOD to serve 25,000 indigents at the end of its first year through the operations of its 12 kiosks.In sum, Jean’s is simply “creating a venue for the fortunate people to help the needy.” With this guiding principle, Jean wants to take SOD to its height and through Divine intervention hopes to accomplish something great in life. She feels guided as the people she meets in the course of promoting SOD freely relate to and resonate in her dreams and experiences. First-time satisfied customers are inviting her to put up outlets as far away as Batangas or Lucena City. She gets excited and inspired by responses of her customers from day to day. Jean continues to search for her own spot in areas where there’s high and low food traffic. The intricacies of food marketing can be overwhelming, but for now, her friends and neighbors continue to patronize her soup dishes as one can simply text or call to place an order. After visiting Bukidnon and Davao City (the latter for the first time), Jean aspires “to feed and teach” and to have the beneficiaries of SOD tend and manage their own outlet. For her, nothing beats the strategy of hands-on learning in business. She wants to contribute to addressing the poverty issue by helping sustain individual persons. Jean sees a lot of potential in the Filipino’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit and, being a learner at her own pace, tenacity and inspiration; she knows her dream can move others to do the same. She is open to joint venture schemes (e.g., organic farms, vegetarian groups) even with the tribes and is optimistic that collective learning journeys can drive people to do more good to one another.
So, Soup of the Day is right for everyone’s body and soul!


jean cruz
2/26/2008 14:42:38

Salamat Chy for a wonderful write up. I never thought you have captured me that well. Indeed, this helps in realizing that I am doing great and am proud!

I realized am being prepared to become a soup lady. Memories of the past flashed back while reading your article. Vividly, am enjoying the scene during elementary days when my home economics teacher Miss Libarada Masikip chose no one but me to be in charge of the soup kettle. I remember her telling my other classmates to be like me, distributing soup (solid and liquid part) evenly, thereby serving a lot!

At that early age, I realize that the passion to serve soup is already in me! In deed all of us, one way or another is being prepared for something big that is for us to decipher.

Experience, people, our desire and thoughts shape our lives. All we need to do is be excited on what every new day has to offer and incorporate it in our lives knowing it will do good for people other than ourselves.

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10/21/2010 01:07:59

Wonderful! I can't agree with you more. I benefit a lot from your blog. Very thanks! Have a good day.

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10/23/2010 01:49:35

Laugh more dissolve the trouble of the life, More happy to wash the fatigue, Work, More tolerant understanding others, And more optimistic face life setbacks,! More happy life. Desalination.

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