THE RESTAURATEUR WHO GETS THINGS DONE
[NOTE: This piece was originally written in 2009. A brief update follows at the end.]
Jerald Em comes from a family that had already been established in the handicrafts industry since 1986, with its JC JEMS International Export Inc. Jerald decided to use that business as a springboard to put up his own trading firm, JE Enterprises, that dealt with home décor, gift items, and corporate give-aways. In March 2006, he dipped into his savings and commissioned his parents’ handicraft workers to manufacture his products. He then began marketing and selling these items by joining bazaars all across the city. He also rented a space at Home Depot in order to sell his products. Jerald’s early clients included the quick service corporation Chowking, and airline companies like KLM and Air France. But business was often brisk during the last quarter of the year, when he produced Christmas decors and the bulk of his corporate give-aways. Soon, it became obvious that it was a seasonal business so Jerald decided to explore other products and services that could be sources of income for the rest of the year. Hiring an artist, he landed contracts to decorate department stores and malls such as SM Megamall and Market!Market! for their yearly themed events, like Valentine’s Day, Graduation, Easter, Summer, and School Opening. While his interior designer-artist did the concept, Jerald himself handled production and marketing. With these developments, he was able to diversify his sources of revenue and realized his return on investment soon enough.
After graduation in June 2007, Jerald felt the urge to start another business, while still maintaining JE Enterprises. This time, he was interested in the food industry and wanted to team up with familiar partners – namely his younger brothers Jonathan and Jay – in setting up a restaurant. Jonathan was a chef with five years’ solid restaurant experience both in Makati and New York while Jay’s expertise was in marketing. A close friend who knew of Jerald’s dream tipped him about an available commercial space in a Mandaluyong City condominium. Excitedly, the brothers looked for the place and submitted their proposal for a high-end deli attached to a grocery. The property developer of the condominium suggested they relocate instead to another property of the same developer at Fort Bonifacio, which would be a more ideal site for the deli. Acting on that suggestion, the brothers opened their food enterprise in that emerging global city, naming it Paul Calvin’s Deli.
Jerald took the helm as Chief Operating Officer with Jonathan as Head Chef and Jay as Catering Manager. It was appropriate that there were three of them managing the business since it was actually composed of three main parts: the bakeshop, which opened in September; the restaurant which began operations on November 9, and the catering business which started accepting jobs on November 27. The bakeshop soon became a premier supplier of breads, cakes and pastries to several leading hospitals.
Paul Calvin’s Deli was providing baked products to doctors, hospital staff, visitors, and most of all, patients – even supplying strictly regulated diet-food for diabetics and other special-need groups of patients. The restaurant began to distinguish itself in the area with its weekday breakfast and lunch buffets. It prided itself as a healthy deli with an emphasis on more fresh ingredients and less sausages. It even featured healthy novelty desserts such as malunggay cake, squash cake, the ‘betamax’ – a carrot concoction, and a banana-and-carrot cake. The catering business relied more on servicing corporate meetings and doing food deliveries. It was a boost that Paul Calvin’s Deli also had a catering venue where companies could hold their events.
The early months were an uphill struggle for the young enterprise. Although the units of condominium they were staying in were 90 % sold, the building was only 30 % occupied because most of the overseas-based unit owners bought them as investments. Hence, the brothers were hard-pressed to fan out into the other buildings in the Fort in order to search for customers. They launched on an aggressive marketing campaign – going to offices, doing presentations, giving out complimentary and holiday gifts, putting up tarpaulins, sending corporate mailers, advertising on the internet, and distributing fliers. They adopted a value-for-money strategy, combining improved food appearance, taste, and quality with competitive pricing, going up against their rivals in the high-end restaurant-cafe bracket in their area.
Jerald, in the meantime, was juggling several hats as COO, purchaser, operations manager, and commissary-in-charge. As COO, he had to orchestrate the functioning of the three units of Paul Calvin to produce the over-all service and the convenient and relaxing dining experience that he and his brothers had envisioned. He realized that he had to work very hard to really get things done. He developed systems and ways of doing things in the restaurant. He has had a steep learning curve, getting to know how to manage and deal with people. “I learned the truth behind the saying ‘inspect what you expect’. I learned that to remember all that I had to do and to follow up all who had tasks to do, I had to often jot things down and carry a planner wherever I go. I instructed my staff to do this, too and I find that things are better resolved this way. Another note of experience acquired along the way, was to create checklists for most operations and services. I remember a painful scenario during an event held outside the restaurant when essential things were forgotten because of a lack of a checklist. I decided that this should never happen again.”
Jerald also grew in his role as THE problem-solver, adopting a hands-on approach to the daily battles and challenges he encountered in the task of running the business. Shuttling back and forth from The Fort to the commissary located at Taytay, Rizal around two or three times a week, he is in-charge of another food venture there. The commissary is located in a compound called Sweet Harmony Gardens, which contains a two-storey building. The ground floor houses the commissary while the second floor is a ballroom which is rented out for events. Two businesses are already runningin the compound: a catering business and a bakeshop, which both opened in February 2009. The clients of these businesses are found among the companies and residents of subdivisions in the area surrounding the commissary compound in Taytay. Jerald finds his hands full indeed managing the commissary and businesses in Taytay almost half of the week, as well as wearing his principal hats at Paul Calvin Deli during the other half of the week.
Jerald attributes his balancing act to his get-things-done attitude, as well as deep spiritual beliefs. He instituted a practice of gathering his whole workforce at 8:00 am every morning to say prayers and to offer their work to God, and rotates the role of prayer leader among all the staff members. “Everything you do, commit to God and plans will succeed.” His faith also sustains him when difficulties come and when there are ‘people problems’. “Working in a family corporation has its advantages but you cannot avoid the resentments and wranglings that happen once in a while. But these things happen in every family business.”
This busy young man is forging ahead, carrying out his dream business. But being young has never been a hindrance to him. “If you have the right heart and attitude in doing the job, you’ll make it.” And with a can- do attitude, great partners, and a grounded as well as inspired philosophy, he is well on his way to doing just that.
“If you have the right heart and attitude in doing the job, you’ll make it.” Not to mention a can- do attitude, great brother-partners, and a grounded as well as inspired philosophy.
- Strategic planning can never be substituted. If you plan, you will definitely do much better.
- Pay attention to accounting details because they are a potent tool for managing costs and expenses.
- Inspect and supervise but at a certain point, learn to delegate, too. In this way, you do more things and other people learn to work.
- Miracles happen. Prayer always works!
(Jerald Em finished his BS Entrepreneurship at the Entrepreneurs School of Asia in 2007).
UPDATE [April 2016]
Although Paul Calvin’s Deli at BGC was closed to focus on the company’s catering service, Jerald is as busy as ever, if not even busier. In addition to the catering, which has thrived, the brand was also extended by starting a bakery venture, which has also grown and won quite a number of awards from various organizations since 2009.
In addition to the main branch at Sweet Harmony Gardens Compound in Taytay, Paul Calvin’s Bakery now manages and supplies the bakeries at:
- SM Hypermarket Taytay
- SM Hypermarket Cainta
- SM Hypermarket Jazz, Makati
- SM Hypermarket FTI, Taguig
Jerald became a proud father in April 2016.