In life as in business, adaptability is the name of the game. One person who lives out this adage is Angie Mead King who has worn numerous hats throughout her life. At the moment, she is a race driver, beekeeper, farmer, vlogger, entrepreneur, and environmentalist. She also currently manages three Victoria Court branches, which she inherited from her late father, Archimedes “Archie” King. Seven other branches are run by her brother Atticus.
Pride Month is a very meaningful time to celebrate changes and transitions for Angie, who publicly came out as a trans woman in 2016. The 42-year-old hotelier took to social media Sunday to announce major changes in the Victoria Court branches she’s managing—the Pasay, Buendia, and Malate branches. They will now assume the name Hotel AVA.
“We want a name that’s easy to make a logo with and easy to remember,” Angie tells ANCX. “You cannot screw up pronouncing it whether you speak English or Filipino. Also, we felt that AVA has a classy ring to it. Nice, short and sweet.” Last weekend, she gave her Instagram followers a first look at Hotel AVA’s logo design, which strikingly resembles a masquerade mask. “It has a hint of mystery,” she offers.
Just like the iconic Victoria Court logo of a woman with a finger on her closed mouth, telling the world to shush.
Angie and Atticus
The Victoria Court brand has been around for over 30 years. Angie’s move to rebrand her share of the hotels effectively allows her to freely follow her own vision for the business.
“[My brother and I] are very different in our management styles,” Angie tells ANCX. “Even with [staff] uniform, me and my brother are very different. He likes his team to be formal-looking—clean haircut, no tattoos, no piercings, clean shave,” she says. “Kami we allow long hair, tattoos. I just tell my people to basically look presentable and not disheveled. They can look artistic but approachable. I allow individualism in that sense.”
By distinguishing her properties with a new brand, she also no longer needs to worry patrons might get confused over promos that apply only to Atticus’s branches or her branches. “With the rebranding, management is easier, and we’ll avoid arguments.”
With the change in name comes operational changes. From employees’ basic salary—P16,808 plus P700 rice allowance—to their paid leaves. Women are entitled to 75 days of paid maternity leave, on top of the government-mandated 105 days (totaling six months). Male employees can enjoy up to 83 days of paternity leave on top of the government-mandated seven days (three months in all).
Work days are reduced from five days to four days for back office, and five days for operations. Employees get their 13th month pay in June and 14th month pay in November. Regular employees have healthcare plans. All employees enjoy free meals and free coffee.
Angie being a nature lover, she will also instill energy-saving and earth-friendly policies like minimizing single-use plastics in Hotel Ava. She will also invest heavily in solar panels. The target is to generate a power output of about 435kWp (kilowatts peak) from the current 140kWp production. “This will produce roughly 535,000 kWh a year and will offset roughly 371 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year,” she wrote on her posts last weekend.
To add to these, wall planters will be installed in all three Hotel Ava properties “to help increase the thermal insulation and refresh the air in our environment.” Roofing will be equipped with rainwater collecting systems to augment the needs of the wall plants. The plant enthusiast is also building a tower farm that should allow her and her team to grow pesticide-free vegetables.
The King history
To hear Angie say it, managing separate brands isn’t exactly a new concept in the King business. It was also essentially the solution their father Archie and their uncle Wyden adapted back in the mid-1980s when they inherited the business from their father Angelo King.
Angelo King first ventured in the motel business in 1970, naming it Anito Lodge. In 1973, he opened a second motel in Pasig and named it Vinta Lodge. Business expanded in the years that followed, with Angelo’s sons Archie and Wyden driving the company’s growth in 1984.
They soon opened Akasya Lodge, Anahaw, with Anito Royale entering the scene in 1985, this last one paving the way for the introduction of “VIP” rooms.
When the patriarch Angelo decided to go on semi-retirement, Archie got half of the properties and decided to rebrand the lodges as Victoria Court. According to its website, “the 38-room property in Pasig, was the most innovative and the classiest motel of its time because of its first class amenities—bigger rooms and thematic atmosphere.”
“My father decided to have a separate brand because he didn’t want to fight with his brother,” shares Angie. “So [my brother and I] are sort of following that move na we’re also going our separate ways.” She and the older Atticus had previously decided to divide the management duties of the motels’ branches geographically, but it was only now that Angie decided to rebrand her outlets.
Angie King has been planning to rebrand her motels since two years ago but she felt the timing wasn’t right, plus she and her team didn’t find it easy to let go of that beloved Victoria Court brand—which they naturally have an emotional attachment to. “It was very difficult for me to convince my management team to let go [of the brand],” she recalls.
Then Covid hit the business in 2020, pushing Angie to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life. “My thinking then was that if any of my employees get severely ill due to Covid, the company would not be able to cover the cost of treatment and hospitalization. It will drain the company’s resources,” she recalls to ANCX. She decided to shut down the entire business and retrench everyone—all 360 employees including herself.
During the latter part of 2020, Angie got messages from her team saying they are willing to return to work—even to sign a waiver that the company would not be liable if ever they contract the Covid virus.
She knew they would be facing uncertainties along the way but she took the risk. “We’re not sure if the market is going to stay open, if we’re going to get any guests, if the government would implement a lockdown again. It’s basically on trial operation,” she recalls.
Her employees agreed to be rehired with a 50% salary cut and zero benefits. They went back to business during the latter part of 2020 and thankfully only had to deal with mild Covid cases among the staff. Employees who tested positive were provided a free room and were taken care of at Victoria Court.
Business above usual
As Filipinos began to ease into the ‘new normal,’ Angie and her team started to think about the planned rebranding. The pandemic and the company shutdown allowed her to rethink and reassess business decisions.
“People want to spend more time with their families, and we realized it’s actually possible to work from home,” she shares.
They were able to get rid of unnecessary expenditures. “We ask ourselves: Do we need this? Do we need that? Can the operations staff do a five-day work week instead of six? Can the office staff do a four-day workweek and work from home on the fifth day? All these we were able to figure out when we reopened,” says the hotelier.
Streamlining the organization—from 360 to 183 employees—simplified workflows and processes. “Now it’s easier to increase the staff benefits,” she says. This also allowed her to give back to the people who helped her run her businesses over the past 16 years. She mentions one such loyal employee who had worked for their family for 27 years. “When we rehired, he applied again,” she says.
Angie says she’s optimistic business will be better in the coming months and the rebranding will allow her and her team to achieve new goals and milestones.
She said it best in her social media post: “Throughout the years of my life I have always been about change. Whether its internal forces within me or external pressures beyond me, I made sure I moved with the flow and adapted to the times. The pandemic has made me rethink how I operate my business, treat my employees and what impact I have to the community. I didn’t want to just go back to business as usual.”