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Here Are What We Can All Learn About Entrepreneurship From This 30-Year-Old Businessman Who Revived The Froyo Trend In Manila

“You loved me at my darkest”—no, this line is not from some rom-com where one of the lead characters puts into words how much he or she appreciates his or her partner. Though, as you read through, you may realize it could very well be a subliminal reflection of how this young newly-married couple brightened each other’s life, and cheered up many people’s gloomy day in the process.

The sentence is actually the witty and intriguing tagline of BLK 513. “Darkest” because the unique brand is popular for the #DarkSkimFrozenYogurt, which is said to be Manila’s first activated charcoal-enhanced froyo. Sounds cool, yes? Wait till you see their Instagram-perfect products and stores!

 

BLK 513's froyo is made of US premium Greek yogurt and all-natural ingredients. Low-fat and low-calorie, it's made to be a healthy, gluten-free alternative to ice cream, what with its detoxifying and cleansing benefits.

 

BLK 513 Petite at Ayala Mall Cloverleaf

 

 

Finding one’s purpose

Kim Sy and his wife Abi Fernandez make the power couple behind BLK 513, alongside their partner, “Mr. Freeze” or “Ice King” Gerry Santos, who even gave a heartwarming message for them during their lavish Manila Cathedral-Conrad Manila wedding early this year. It’s not often that someone gets to deliver a speech at his business partners’ wedding, but this couple deserved to be credited for how hard they’ve worked thus far to tend to the needs of their growing “baby” (BLK 513).

They say behind every successful man is a woman. To Kim, Abi is the one who keeps him constantly motivated, the creative soul whose artistic touch complements his business acumen. But if you ask Abi, Kim is the one who gave her life meaning and a sense of purpose. She found her soulmate in him—the one who made her see life from a different perspective, the one who keeps her grounded and at the same time helps her soar, and the one who particularly shares her passion for food.  

Kim and Abi’s gastronomic adventures are actually what ignited this business idea. The two met in Singapore, where the culinary scene is rich and exciting. They met at a point in their lives when they were both searching for something more meaningful to take on and worth investing their time and effort in. Meeting each other allowed them to see a new purpose and direction in life, which they now pursue and head to together.

 

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With the month of June being the wedding season, check out the beautiful wedding of the couple behind BLK 513. The bride wore an intricate off-shoulder gown by Mak Tumang, while the groom donned a custom suit by JE&Co; the wedding wardrobe styling was beautifully executed by Jeff Galang. The ceremony was held in Manila Cathedral, followed by a reception at Conrad Manila that was catered by China Blue. The reception venue was dressed up by Zenas Pineda. Their Singapore-inspired wedding cake was by Penk Ching. | Photographs by Oak St. Studios (Jonathan Keh)

 

 

Setting a goal and achieving it

Kim is from a traditional Chinese family whose business is on manufacturing glass and steel. Not wanting to depend solely on his family’s business, Kim set out to achieve something for himself. He left Manila to work in Singapore, where he discovered an opportunity he can maximize in the food industry, and made it his mission to create a business he and his family can truly be proud of. 

Armed with drive and passion fuelled by his goal to innovate, Kim returned to Manila and started the groundwork for a business that would revive the froyo trend in the country and keep it relevant and cool for all ages.

“Creating the perfect recipe is the most crucial part of a start-up food concept,” says Kim, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of BLK 513. He acknowledges that innovation and imagination don’t always translate to good results; it’s a make or break situation. But once you make it, you can absolutely make it big.

This is why after stumbling upon a fun and fresh food concept, Kim stopped at nothing to make sure he delivers their offering the best way possible and sustains it by constantly being in touch with what the market wants. He says, “The industry is fuelled by demands from the market, so my company should have no shortage of activities that involve product research and development.”

Priding itself in offering “more than the usual frozen yogurt,” BLK 513 makes sure to give a fun snack experience to consumers by continuously developing and improving their lineups of toppings and sauces. Their marketing efforts are noteworthy, too, with well thought out, well produced and well curated content millennials and even their parents can appreciate.      

 

 

 

Pushing for continued success

BLK 513 was established three years ago, with a small yet attention-grabbing kiosk in SM Megamall. The brand has grown significantly since; today, the company has eight branches in different locations around Metro Manila: SM Megamall, SM City North EDSA, S Maison, Bonifacio High Street, Ayala Malls Cloverleaf, SM Southmall, Eastwood, and soon in U.P. Town—each offers something new and different for the consumers. Plans for expansion are also in place.

Young at 30, Kim’s managerial style revolves around his belief in creating a work environment that encourages employees to be creative and to think out of the box. Recently, their company moved to a new office, an old house renovated to become a cozy and comfy work space that mixes classic elements and contemporary design highlights. On one corner, a motivational statement is posted on the wall; “to win by creating something different,” it reads.  

For Kim, one secret to success is cultivating a collaborative relationship between him, his wife, their business partner, and their staff, in order to drive everyone in their team to more successful ventures. Treating each other like family in a place they can call their home outside their actual homes is an essential ingredient to keep everyone working towards the same goal.

 

 

 

Here are five lessons every aspiring entrepreneur can pick up from Kim’s business foray:

1. Strike while the iron is hot—or not. BLK 513 was launched at a time when the froyo trend in Manila was no longer at its peak. It was a risky move to start a business grounded on this concept, which was clearly past its prime. But then, when the demand for this cold snack dropped, Kim saw the void and found in it a business opportunity that would fill that gap. As a result, BLK 513 reminded ManileƱos of why they loved froyo in the first place, and gave them more reasons to love it even more now.  

 

2. Offering something different can be difficult, but the big difference you could create by doing so will make all the struggles worth it in the end. It’s not easy to start a business, that’s a given—more so in the food industry where competition is exceptionally stiff. From the get-go, Kim has made this their company’s mantra: “create something different.” Come to think of it, if you’ll only do what everyone else is doing, then doesn’t that make things even harder? Because then you’ll have to beat yourself up thinking of ways to differentiate yourself from others who are in the same business as yours, whereas if you “create something different,” you’ll essentially be only competing with yourself—at least, until someone else picks up on your concept and recreates it; even so, you’ll still be the pioneer in your field.

 

3. Unique product + superb social media marketing initiatives = success. Sure, when you have a great product to begin with, the product can speak for itself. Still, when you’re a start-up brand like BLK 513, it matters a lot these days to utilize resources like social media to spread the word about your business, your campaigns and promos, and your latest offerings.

 

 

 

4. Use your youth to your advantage. You’re young, and you have a lot of time on your hands. Go out and explore. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—they’re part of life. You can take risks, and if things don’t work out, you can always try again. Bring the vibrance of youth to your business.

 

5. Go big or go home. If you’re going to venture in a business half-heartedly, then might as well not do it at all. If you think you’ve chanced upon an idea that is worth investing in, invest in it with everything that you’ve got. The results may not always be to your liking, but if you fail, at least you tried—and that’s always better than not trying at all.

 

Photographs by Ron Mendoza, additional photos courtesy of BLK 513 and Abi Fernandez