"Look at the number of people going into that mall!" I told my husband, Angel.
We were traveling along one of the highways in one of the new cities of Mindanao. We have not seen my brother-in-law for years and since we were in the area, we thought of dropping by his clinic.
He is a medical doctor, a specialist in internal medicine. Because his wife was a resident of a nearby city, he chose to set up his practice there, instead of Zamboanga City
It was a small city and there was only one mall there.
If there is anything we needed, chances are, that is the only place we can find it. It contained the best stores in the locality.
It had the biggest grocery store.
We have been driving for half a day already. It was time to stretch. It was time to refill.
We decided to stop and grab something to eat and drink.
"Look, sweet corn!" I cried with excitement.
All malls have sweet corn, but in this little mall, the sweet corn looked so attractive! They looked plump and juicy!
We could have been just hungry, but those corns sure looked like the best corn that we have ever seen.
"Please buy me two!" I begged Angel.
"Cheese flavor or Butter with salt?" He asked.
"Of course, butter with salt." I was already salivating.
Two for me and two for him.
It was a pig out time!
"Let's sit on one of those benches! " I suggested, pointing towards the small food court.
We sat down. Each of us took out our sweet corn. One each at first.
We bit into those grains of corn, as each one oozed with sweet, warm juice that exploded in our mouths.
Little did we know, that those ears of sweet corn would lead us into a new adventure, a thrilling experience.
As we enjoyed our corn in silence, my eyes darted to different directions.
I could not help but notice the people who were going to and fro in that mall.
"Ah, look at all the lovely people." My brain started to sing my thoughts to the tune of the Beatles' song, Eleanor Rigby.
"Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?"
I continued to ask myself as I continued to chew on the corn bits: "Why are there so many people? Where do they come from? Where are they going? "
And then, as I continued to observe in fascination, my eyes met that of Angel's.
He also saw what I saw.
He also thought what I thought.
"So many people!" I said between bites.
He nodded, still eating his corn.
"Let's go around," I said.
"After this." He pointed to his corn.
We continued to eat our corn. Faster now.
We no longer enjoyed our corn. We had to eat them all up as fast as we can.
Going around was the only thought we had.
Finding the answer to our questions was what was more important now.
The excitement about the corn faded away. Another thrill now engulfed us!
We ate up our corn like there was no tomorrow. It was like a race to the finish line.
After we took our last bite, we stood up and went on our mission.
Hand in hand, we combed each square foot of the mall.
To our delight, there was no jewelry store in the whole mall!
This place can use a branch here!
We did a mental count: eight out of ten of the people in the mall were women.
This included the sales clerks, merchandisers, delivery personnel, and baggers.
Women whose ages are 25 and up.
Mothers. Working women. Grandmothers.
They were our target market!
Most of them were wearing jewelry.
A huge opportunity!
"Identify new store locations." This was one of the strategies we identified in our last planning session. We looked around in our city. We combed the malls and the market areas. But, we did not find any.
We never considered a store location outside Zamboanga City.
Now, one was staring at us in our face.
We did not come to that city or that mall to look for new frontiers.
We were plain hungry. We only needed to get out of the car.
And now, this.
"This must be God's plan for us." We thought.
We looked towards one of the mall entrances. Beside it was an exit door as well.
This was the entrance that most people used. This was the entrance where the jeepneys would drop off and pick up passengers.
Most of the people came in through this. Almost everyone left through this exit as well.
I walked to a spot near the entrance and planted both my feet on the ground.
"I want this spot," I told Angel.
He is not saying much. It is not like him. It was strange.
We stood on the spot like a crazy couple. From that spot, we looked around. We looked at the flow of people again.
"Is this a good decision?" I debated with myself.
His words interrupted my thoughts.
"Let us visit the leasing manager!" Angel said.
And we did. We held hands again, took the escalator and went upstairs.
"Oh, yes! We have kiosks available for rent." The lovely Leasing Manager replied.
We asked for the price and the terms of the lease. They were very reasonable.
We submitted our letter of intent and set off to visit my brother-in-law.
Back in the hotel, we connected to the office via wifi and gave instructions to our management team. We instructed them to make a complete business plan for this location.
"Identify how things will change, if we expand to a remote location. Each one of you has to identify how the expansion will impact your department. Project the need for people, systems, financing and present all these in a time table, or a Gantt chart." I ordered.
When we got back after our trip, we sat down and looked at the projections and plans. We saw that it would work, and so we went ahead with it.
This become one of our first stores in that part of Mindanao. Many more stores followed suit.
Without that experience of visiting my brother-in-law, we could have stayed small. We could have expanded in only one city.
Because we kept our options open, we found gems where we did not think of looking.
So, if you want to grow your business, do consider growing it by expanding to a new location.
The first store might be a challenge, but the others will be easy.
Grow your business, Pinoy! It's your time, Pinoy!