#DTIMalasakit Story from DTI-Region 1 (La Union)

Saila Ebreo Watanabe, a college undergraduate, a young mother of three boys, and an entrepreneur who started small is now making a big splash in the lemonade business .

In 2016, she was a home-based call center agent who always bought lemonade at the night market before her duty. During that time, she and her partner’s meager income was not enough to cover their expenses and debts.

When the Department of Foreign Affairs – La Union Office opened at Manna Mall, the couple took advantage of the opportunity to start a photocopying business. But still, bills exceeded their income. That was when she thought of establishing a fresh juice enterprise.

Before starting her fruity venture, she did her research online and through observation. She became aware of her competitors, learned lemonade processing trends and conducted product testing. At the onset, they operated at a loss. That challenged them to shake up their strategy and came up with their own version of a shaken lemonade drink instead of the usual squeezed recipe.

In December 2016, they finally launched “Lemon Hub by SunSai” at Manna Mall. They started small and simple — just a desk covered with tarpaulin business signage, two trays of display, the menu, jar, and of course, the shaker.

As the sales started to pick up, challenges also breezed in such as employee issues, among others. Opportunely, she became a Kapatid Mentor ME mentee in 2018. For her, coaching and mentoring is vital. It guided her especially during difficult times. One of the learnings she applied is workforce planning, compensation and benefits. Now, human resources policies are being implemented and a supervisor is assisting in the operations of their growing business.

Today, “Lemon Hub by SunSai” has expanded to seven branches reaching as far as Laoag, Abra, Vigan, Pangasinan and Tarlac. This home-grown enterprise also paved the way for the upcoming ventures, “Takoyaki Lab” and “Turks Shawarma” which will open in Bauang, La Union.

At the age of 28, she has inspired other people to engage in business through consultancy on franchising and created jobs among out of school youth in the province. As such, the Provincial Government of La Union recognized her as one of the Most Outstanding Entrepinoy in La Union during the Pammadayaw Conferment of Awards on March 1, 2019.

With her achievements, she is very grateful for the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the support of her partner in life. There is still a long way to go but she will forge ahead with her motto,“Tira! Awan amak!” (Go! No worries!). She said that the concoction of business success is a mix of risk-taking, optimism, passion and faith in God.♦

Published in Pilipino Mirror on 12 June 2019.