What Does it Take to Start Your Own Food Business?

If you've been wondering if you should start your own food business in the Philippines, we can help.

As someone who grew up eating piles of scrambled eggs, I found omelettes brilliant. They use the exact same eggs except you could fill it with any kind of junk you can think of. I would stuff those yellow blankets with all sorts of food: potatoes, tomatoes, and spam.

My obsession with eggs ran with my obsession to sell them. Every night I'd imagine an egg bar where my fellow eggpeople could line up and do wonderful things to those eggs. If you play it safe, you can go for cheese and potatoes. If you’re unhinged, you can ask for chocolate. “We will do your eggs however you want and nobody will judge you.” Dreams of my egg bar kept me awake at night. Lucky for me, I had no money to bring my idea to life. Spared me a world of pain.

And so that's probably the most primal thing you need to start your own food business: a burning desire. You must want it.

Now there's all sorts of wanting.

The worst kind is when you go to a buffet. You barge through the doors, salivate over the spread, and exhaust yourself gorging on all that food. You leave with self-loathing.

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In business, that kind of short-term wanting appears in a familiar form: money. When something looks shiny and profitable, you chase it down. Doesn't matter if it's bad for you. Shiny? You dive on to the concrete and worry about your injuries on the way down.

Another equally bad avatar of desire is status—you only want a food business because it looks cool. You can spot these folks with rich Instagram profiles. They'll tell you they're the CEO. But they won't tell you it's a 3-person company. To them, you should carry your business around like a luxury bag.

No doubt many people have built successful businesses chasing money and status. But ironically, those who can look past the short-term trappings make more money long-term.

But just wanting won't get you far too. It must want you too.

This sounds a bit like astrological hokey, like an ancient spirit choosing a host. But sometimes you can only do so much with what you're given.

This matters because you don't have a lot of control over the things you like. For instance, you like the color purple. Nobody taught you to like the color purple. You just know that you like it. The same goes with liking frogs, or rock music, or pancakes. Your wants get chosen for you most of the time.

Now when you start running a business, you also have to enjoy it too.

Some people think that you can just willpower your way to a business. Sure, but how long will you last? When good trainers give advice to inactive people who want to start their fitness journey, they start with: find something you like. Don't force yourself to play tennis when you're meant to dance.

Businesses wear their owners down like workouts. If you run out of gas and can't fill it back up, you're done. You'll be on your own. You don't get to have cheerleaders on call. So if you're doing something this hard and not enjoying the journey, you'll find yourself unable to move forward.

To enjoy and find fulfillment in something, think about:

  • Do you get lost and immersed doing it?
  • Do you daydream about it?
  • Are you willing to work weekends on it?
  • Does the actual work make you excited, not when you get validated for it?
  • Would you still do it if nobody else cared?

What want to see in yourself is some form of obsession, vocation, and a mission. Think about athletes. They work painfully hard, but it's also a form of play to them. You could think of it as playing hard—you enjoy the pain.

It's not always fun

There's a weird expectation that when you've found your thing, it's always going to be fun. "Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." Not true. You can dislike parts of a job that you love—that's okay. You just need to find yourself engaged and inspired *most* of the time, not all.

Unfortunately, you can't easily tell if this is right for you on your first attempt. You can think of this puzzle as a weird shoe that's morphing while you fit it. One moment it's a size eight, and a few minutes later it's a nine. Since you'll just end up in circles pondering over doing this or not: just jump in. You'll find answers while you do it.


Every person who wants to start a food business starts with only a daydream. For some, that dream kicks and screams. For others, it whispers. But whichever way that dream reaches out to you, you must listen. So if you’re here reading this course, you’re doing a great job listening to that voice.

I started my first home-based food business when I was around 21, in a cramped condo, as a one-person team. Since I sold in weekend markets, I can’t technically say it was home-based. But I ran most of it from home: on a household stove, with a household pan, while chopping vegetables on the dinner table—it would no longer fit on the kitchen counter.

It sucked that you couldn’t just “Grab” things in 2010—selling online required a bit more work. Every weekend meant that I had to haul heavy equipment to a hot tent and spend the entire day talking to customers. As someone who enjoys isolation playing video games, I found banter exhausting. And I had to do it all while maintaining a mechanical smile as my other eye watched the food.

Things have changed for the better. Back then I couldn’t bring food to customers without hiring a fleet of on-demand riders on payroll—I needed to go where they were. Communication was slow and unreliable. And I always needed some hired muscle to lug the equipment around. But Facebook, Instagram, Grab, and all sorts of new technology have made things so much easier. With grit and smarts, one or two people working from home can run an entire food business.

Okay sounds doable, but what if you’re not a chef?

I wasn’t anywhere close to a chef. I didn’t even graduate college. But I had the internet, some books, and an iron will that wouldn’t quit. (I also asked for help from chefs) I fumbled and lost a lot of money but things eventually worked out.

Turns out that running a business needs an entire different skillset from cooking. Having strong arms doesn't mean strong legs—you need to work them both. So when you run a business, you'll find yourself doing product development, marketing, finances, management, design, and a whole lot more. Cooking school won't teach you those.

Do you really not need to be a chef?

Chefs will be smarter and faster than you. They spent years in the kitchen, so you won't beat them with knife work or chemistry. But think about this: outside Michelin starred restaurants, how often do you go out of your way to ask for the chef's credentials? Customers don’t care about pedigree. They care about your product, service, and pricing. They care about how you made them feel. They care about whether their kids loved it. If you can make your customers happy, you’ll do well. PS. You still need to learn how to cook or get help from someone who does.

Today I run some restaurants (together with Pepper), so I’d like to think that I have a pretty wide perspective on how a food business can go from nothing to something. Since I’m guessing that you want to know everything, this course starts from nothing. I wrote this with the assumption that you’ve never set up your own business before. Just take it slowly and don’t be intimidated.

Since I can't stand academic text, I made a deliberate choice to write this as advice I’d give my younger self. And since I equally despise guru-speak, I made it a point to avoid pseudo-intellectual soundbites. What you’ll receive is a casual, realistic, and sobering picture of the journey ahead, told in a practical and (hopefully) entertaining way.

Starting your first business will often swing between thrilling and frustrating. I hope this course makes you feel less frustrated and more excited. You'll need to start to do your own work from here, so good luck!

PS. You'll need Pepper Plus to read most of the course. A subscription goes a long way for us—thanks for your support!

Post Contributors

Coming Soon

  • Do you need a Social Media Strategy?
  • How to Make Influencers say Yes
  • How to Send an Apology if you Screw Up
  • How to Hire your First Employee
  • How to Deal with Hard Customers
  • How to Prevent Burning Out
  • How to Know When to Quit

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