COVID-19 survivor opens humble coffee shop amid pandemic, expands to 15 branches in a year


Despite the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a 25-year-old woman from Makati City decided to pursue her dream of launching her own coffee shop.

At the height of the health crisis, Anna Herman Magalona thought of a business venture which involves products that can be consumed on a day-to-day basis, with employees who are either working from home or in the field as a target market.

“Everything was very uncertain in those days. I personally felt that uncertainty. So I used that uncertainty as a motivation to make something, to build something that would catch me if anything fails in my career,” she recalled.

With an initial capital of P6,000, Magalona started her to-go coffee business But First, Coffee, handling all the planning and experimentation inside a condominium she’s renting.

However, after a few weeks since she started the venture, Magalona was forced to halt the operations of her home-based business after testing positive for COVID-19 in Sept.

“So naudlot ‘yung operations ko [and] I was quarantined for two weeks. During these two weeks, I felt so restless. Sabi ko when I go out of here, I need to grow the business. Sayang ‘yung opportunities kasi kahit paano meron na kaming returning costumers and then we are already seeing the potential [of the business],” Magalona recalled.

After recovering from the dreaded virus in Oct., Magalona decided to rent a small place near her condo to continue her business. She also invested more in marketing, offering free delivery to customers, and running ads on social media.

In order to focus more on her business, Magalona, a project manager in a software company, decided to resign from her job when she opened the fourth branch of her coffee shop business in BF Homes, Parañaque.

And in a span of one year, Magalona’s coffee shop business expanded and now has 15 branches nationwide.

According to Magalona, she now earns P15,000- P20,000 per branch in a day, adding that they started franchising her business in March 2021.

“Nung nasa Makati pa lang, di ba naki co-lease ako, may isang staff ng kiosk din na lumapit sa’kin, ‘Hi open ka ba sa franchise?’ ‘Hi sorry bago pa lang di ko pa alam gagawin. Maybe I can offer partnership with you.’ After two weeks, naka-formulate kami ng partnership sa location niya which is in Molino, which is our second shop,” she said.

“May ka-officemate din ako na who showed interest din in partnering that is our third branch in Imus,” she added.

As a coffee lover, Magalona said she enjoys the process of crafting the perfect blend for her customers. She, however, admitted that she had a hard time finding the right market.

“It was hard at first because ‘yung families are the one and friends ‘yun lang ‘yung nagsu-suport sa’yo and after a few more days. wala na. It’s hard to gain new customers,” Magalona said.

Among the 15 branches of her coffee shop, she owns five of them. The rest were franchised by other entrepreneurs.

“Hindi pa rin siya nag-sink in. Gusto ko lang talaga ng side hustle na makaka-compensate ‘yung at least similar lang ng sinsahod ko sa company ko. Just in case nga na mawala ‘yung work ko because of the pandemic,” she said.

Magalona’s business franchise costs around P170,000, excluding the expenses for the construction of the stall. The small business eventually became a corporation with around 35 employees.

Currently, Magalona aims to open more branches nationwide and plans bring her business in her hometown in Bacolod.

Janelle Lorzano
Janelle Lorzano
Janelle Lorzano likes long walks on the seaside and listening to people about their lives. When she isn't writing, she travels and discover new places.