As a law student, Steve Benitez often needed to study late at night.
To fuel his energy during those late-night study sessions, he turned to drinking coffee. But after realizing that his passion and interest was in coffee, he then dropped out of law school and started his journey in the business world.
He traveled to the United States in order to learn more about how the coffee business works. His travels abroad made him more passionate about the culture of coffee, especially of Filipino coffee.
He met and became inspired by Bo, an American coffee roaster, whom he named his coffee shop after.
Bo’s Coffee: Proudly Filipino
In 1996, with a capital of Php 150,000, he opened his first kiosk in a six square meters space in Cebu City. During this time, the idea of a coffee shop had not yet reached the Philippines.
By 2015, it branched out to 75 stores nationwide and is still continuously growing, providing jobs to almost hundreds of Filipinos.
Bo’s Coffee supports local producers and communities. Almost all of their coffee beans are sourced from coffee plantations; some of it comes from Benguet, Bukidnon, Cordillera, Sultan Kudarat and the Mountain Provinces.
“I was looking for a purpose. I thought, what’s the significance of my stores? Why do we continue to grow? Is the measurement of growth always just more stores, profit, revenue? There has to some significance to the numbers, because you can be as big as you want but you end up just stressing yourself out.”
“If I have a deeper purpose and meaning, it gives me a reason to wake up every morning. I can say that I’m building this because it benefits people all the way down at the grassroots level,” he said to Esquire.
With Steve’s leadership, the brand now is one of the largest specialty coffee stores in the country.
“We want to focus on our growth in the Philippines first. And then, three years down the line, or by the time we hit 200 stores, we’ll spread out to other areas abroad where there are Filipino communities,” he said to Entrepreneur.
The Business As An Empowerment To Entrepreneurs
Bo’s Coffee provides empowerment to social entrepreneurs and companies in order for them to grow along with the brand.
“We deal with social entrepreneurs who build and sustain communities. We procure from them—we call it social procurement—and they manage their communities.”
“We support them not only by procurement but also in other aspects such as such financial intelligence and farming, advising them on how to increase yields, how to improve quality.”
In May 2016, during the 64th International Selection Panel of Endeavor, Steve Benitez was selected as a high-impact entrepreneur.
Endeavor is a global non-profit that selects, mentors and supports entrepreneurs. Steve was selected because of his passion for supporting local communities, and execute business models.
“Endeavor, for me, has been instrumental in making me think bigger. I would aim for a certain size and they would challenge me. Why limit yourself to a certain size? Why not think bigger? Why not take it from 200 to 500 stores?”
“They provide the tools to take us there. It provides mentorships, access to markets, access to funds, access to key people. They matched me with mentors who can help me with what I think I should be working on. That’s what Endeavor has done for me.”
“Endeavor’s mission of supporting an ecosystem of entrepreneurs aligns with my own personal goals of using business not only to do well but also to do good,” he said to Business Mirror.
Featured Image Credits: Inside Retail Philippines, Sunstar