FIC’s Isabel Celdran Koa shares how her passion project helped her reinvigorate a 22-year-old family business and how she deals with work-life balance.
For many, the idea of juggling two jobs can sound incredibly challenging. And doing it while also raising young kids seems close to impossible. However, this is the reality for many working moms, like Isabel Celdran Koa, Business Development Manager of The Food People Inc. Apart from working with the family business, she also runs her own clothing label. We talked to the thriving ‘mompreneur’ about how she manages to pull it all off.
For the past two years since she joined the company as Business Development Manager, Isabel Celdran Koa has been tasked to revitalize the Fruits In Ice Cream (FIC) brand image for The Food People Inc. The 22-year-old business is the company behind the hugely popular local premium ice cream brand. But Isabel, who graduated from Parsons in New York, didn’t always see herself working in a desk job. “Over the years, I’ve realized I’m more of an entrepreneur rather than a fixed 9 to 5 [worker] because I like the creative side of the business.” That’s why FIC has been the perfect fit for her.
“Everyday, it’s a new challenge,” Isabel says. “Kaya hindi nakakasawa.”
Like many successful ventures, The Food People Inc. got its start when the founding members left a multinational corporation’s export department as it underwent restructuring. The former co-workers (and UP alumni) that founded the company behind FIC are Jose Celdran (Isabel’s father), Edgar Garcia, Rosalinda Custodio, and Vivien Ongkiko.
This bump in the road ended up becoming just the push the group needed to start their own company. Celdran is at the helm as President and majority shareholder, Garcia as head of operations, Custodio as head of R&D, and Ongkiko as Marketing Director. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the business is thriving. Isabel is on board as Business Development Manager. Her brother Joe, fresh off a Penn State University ice cream course, has just joined too. The future of this 22-year-old business is looking brighter than ever.
When Isabel joined the company, it already had two decades worth of marketing and brand experience under its belt. But despite its captive base of customers, Isabel knew the company would benefit from a brand refresh. “We had to think about capturing the millennials and thinking about the future,” she says.
Although she knew what was needed, her initial challenge was creating a pitch that would win over the managing partners’ approval. In order to help her persuade them, Isabel did a complete brand audit of FIC to see which areas could be improved. Ultimately, the audit told Isabel what she already knew. FIC needed to improve its online presence and reach younger customers.
“How do we remind people that we are the pioneers in the premium ice cream business? And how do we stay pioneers?” Isabel says these were some of the challenges the company’s partners wanted to address.
Luckily, Isabel had already established her own passion project a year before joining FIC with the fashion label Mode de Vie (MDV). She designs classic pieces with a modern twist.
At the start, she made gowns to order. This was a business she inherited from her mother. But Isabel quickly realized she could streamline the business by starting an online shop. She reached out to a friend to partner with. Her friend handled the administrative side of the business while she focused on the designs. For them, starting their shop on Instagram was a no-brainer.
“We didn’t want to have to worry about paying rent for space, inventory getting lost, or hiring merchandisers,” she says.
Since those early days, Mode de Vie has earned impressive 15,000+ followers. The business has tripled its staff in the last three years as well.
“Since I’ve been doing my passion project longer than working with FIC, I’m basing my experience in growing MDV’s following to my work with FIC.”
Thanks to Isabel’s efforts to increase the brand’s online presence, FIC became the first local ice cream brand with its own online shop. Customers can choose from a wide selection of 36 mouth-watering flavors that can be delivered through karton.ph.
Apart from online delivery, Isabel says that Globe’s M2M Fleet Management System has also helped them maintain the quality of their products by allowing them to monitor the entire delivery process, from cold storage to transport to distribution. “The integrity of ice cream product is highly dependent on cold chain management. Now that we have integrated Globe myBusiness M2M Fleet Management System in our cold chain management, we can easily check for any fluctuation of the temperature during the delivery. This is especially helpful in resolving product quality claims in case of “melting” because the data will show if the problem occurred at our end or elsewhere after delivery,” she shares.
Another part of the brand refresh was creating new product lines that cater to different palates and the growing market of health-conscious consumers. Today, FIC boasts four product lines: Premium Ice Cream, Pinoy Sorbetes, FIC Frozen Custard, and the latest, FIC Balance, which offers sugar-free and vegan variants.
“By creating separate categories for them, we’re able to market each one better and emphasize the qualities of each,” Isabel says.
Today, FIC has taken on a decidedly more fun and youthful brand image while still staying true to its original core values and loyal customer base. Isabel’s learnings from running her passion project have helped her bring a fresh, new perspective to an already established brand.
Though she may make it look easy, Isabel admits it’s sometimes a struggle. Like many Filipino women, Isabel tries to achieve work-life balance with her two jobs and raising two young children. She shares that this was easier before she started working with The Food People, Inc.
“It’s really all about time management and knowing your priorities,” she says.
Isabel advises other working moms like her to take it a day at a time. She also hopes that, with the passing of the Telecommuting Act in June (which allows employees in the private sector to work from home) she’ll be able to spend more time with her kids.
As for advice to those in the same field as her, she advocates getting out in the field and meeting and talking to customers. “Reading articles is different from seeing and experiencing how things work in real life.” When you pour your heart into the career you love, you too can find ways to make it work with your passion projects and family life.
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