Lester Yu, with a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from De La Salle University and University of the Philippines, started his career in the world of banking.
Countless possibilities it may be, but he never imagined ending up in the business industry.
“Being an entrepreneur was not my dream. But this is where my path ended,” he said.
After banking, he tried venturing into businesses like kitchenware, toys, gold trading, jewelry, and cellphone load cards. But after numerous tries and failures, he eventually shifted into the food and beverages business.
Observing a gap on affordable fresh fruit products, Yu introduced a fruit shake that caters to customers who want to drink fresh fruit juice at a cheaper price.
Also, in 2002, he observed that there was a growing trend in fitness and healthy living. This trend allowed him to determine whether or not his business was a viable one.
And it was—now he is reaping the fruits of his labor.
Fruitas: From 2002 To Present
Fruitas was born in 2002 with Yu’s vision of a healthy beverage that even middle-class customers can afford.
Lester Yu saw that there were no available fresh fruit shakes aside from the ones being served in high-end places like Makati and Ortigas.
“Back then, our concept of a store selling healthy drinks was new to the masa market. There were other stores back then, but their target market was high-end, so much different from ours,” he said to Inquirer.net.
Also, wanting to cater to the starting trend of healthy living in the Philippines, Fruitas Group of Companies (FGC) opened its first branch—Fruitas Fresh From Babot’s Farm—at SM Manila, which proved to be a strategic location.
“At 27 years old, I found myself starting Fruitas with no connections and financial backers,” he shared to Entrepreneur.
He used his savings to start the business. Unable to afford staff, he really had to be hands-on on everything in the shop—from driving to deliver fruits, managing the kiosk and working as a store service crew.
“I filled in for employees who were absent. All profits I’ve gained went back to the company.”
Nobody expected that a single stand serving fresh fruit shakes could boom into a thriving business of more than 800 stores nationwide.
“My way of doing business is not scientific. When I see a trend, I start small and pilot test it as soon as possible. I stay away from analysis paralysis. Timing is critical and it’s better to get the first mover advantage,” he said to Josiahgo.
To date, FGC has become a household name in the fresh beverages and food industry, with over 20 brands running more than 800 stores nationwide and providing jobs to 2,000 employees.
From the first outlet that only served an average of 100 cups per day, Fruitas is now serving millions of customers.
“Innovation makes a company remain relevant.”
Yu, in the growth of his company, realized that one way of keeping the business progressing was to offer a wider variety of product choices that are created according to the changing market trend.
“We welcome and seek out innovations with a keen and perspective eye. The market is large and increasing and has changing tastes and preferences. As long as there is a demand, we’d like to cater to it. Innovation helps us grow our business.”
“Entrepreneurs have to be committed to the tasks at hand and know your motivation.”
As a result, his company now runs several brands—Fruitas, Buko ni Fruitas, Black Pearl, Fruitas Ice Candy, Buko Loco, De Original Jamaican Pattie Shop, Friends Fries, The Mango Farm, Tea-Rex, Fruitas House of Desserts, Fancie, Juice Avenue, Jammin’ Jamaica, Johnn Lemon, Shou Hand-Pulled Noodles and Whippie.
Training for Fruitas employees is also held regularly to ensure that the kind of service they give to customers is of quality.
“We are patterning our employees after the employees of big companies, like McDonald’s. Kung kaya nila gawin, hindi rin imposible na gawin sa ating negosyo.”
Yu also shared that the success of the company doesn’t let him forget that he owes it all to his customers throughout the years.
“Our company has grown strong throughout the years, and it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our loyal customers who have been patronizing our products since we opened here in SM Manila.”
“We remember starting out slow back then but we are glad to have endured and thrived in the business before healthy lifestyle became a trend.”
Looking Back and Giving Back
Yu said that the company’s main focus in expanding comes from the desire to help fellow Filipinos.
And so, he sponsored scholarships and feeding program in order to help the Filipino community, especially those who have little.
Aside from that, he also makes it a must not to discriminate physically disabled citizens in the company’s hiring process.
Fruitas hires hearing-impaired persons and even senior citizens. Moreover, the company makes sure to aid local farmers by getting ingredients and products from them.
“Having the resources and power to help people in need is what motivates me to keep on going forward, to keep on dreaming big,” he said.
Featured Image Credit: Josiahgo, Fruitas