He never expected it to lead to this. Joymar Olarte had zero experience in business when he started J & J Tasty Fried Chicken four years ago. He was a former merchandiser and tricycle driver. Now Joymar owns six fried chicken stores in Urdaneta and Villasis, Pangasinan. And everyday he sells as much as 400 kilos of his delicious fried chicken.
Just recently, the 29-year-old Pangasinense was chosen as one of the ten honorees at the 18th Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA). He was recognized for his being innovative, resilient, and hardworking—admirable qualities to possess especially in this pandemic.
He was picked by members of the business and financial community led by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno and Citi Philippines Chief Executive Officer Aftab Ahmed. Since its founding in 2002, the CMA has recognized more than 150 plus micro-entrepreneurs who continue to show determination in the businesses they established in their respective cities and provinces.
The fried chicken business happened because a tricycle passenger, who became a family friend, was kind enough to share with him a fried chicken recipe that would eventually be a hit in their area in Urdaneta. The friend is Inggo Baya, who hails from Zambales. He moved to Pangasinan to start his chicken business but eventually decided to return to his hometown. He offered his recipe to Joymar because he believed it had a potential for huge income. After all, there were no other stores selling affordable yet tasty fried chicken in their town.
Joymar initially didn’t pay much attention to the offer thinking Inggo’s chicken was nothing special. He changed his mind when his wife brought some of the chicken home.
He was told Inggo bought the recipe—and all the trade secrets of the fried chicken business—at P250,000. “Yung recipe na iyon ay ginagamit daw sa barko,” Joymar recalls Inggo telling him. With a startup capital of P2,300, which Joymar saved from his earnings as merchandiser and tricycle driver, he bought 20 kilos of fresh chicken. That amount gave birth to what would become the best-tasting and best-selling friend chicken in Urdaneta.
“On our first day of selling, nagulat kami kasi bandang 5PM ubos na ang tinda namin—kinulang sya,” Joymar recalls. “Then, yung napagbentahan namin, ibinili namin ulit ng manok at ibinenta namin kinabukasan. Hanggang sa nagtuluy-tuloy na sya.”
Joymar’s fried chicken sells for P10 (for the neck part) and P20 (for the leg, wing, thigh, and breast). They’re crispy and, as the name suggests, tasty. Each ingredient is carefully measured to make sure the taste remains consistent. Joymar says there’s no need for gravy or ketchup because it’s good as is and can compete with the fried chicken in major fast food chains.
“Ang palagi kong sinasabi sa mga customer namin, itong aming fried chicken ‘Patok sa panlasa, swak sa bulsa,’” he tells ANCX. “Kung magulang ka at mapadaan ka sa tindahan namin, tapos P50 lang ang pera mo, pwede mong maibili ng masarap na fried chicken ang pamilya mo.”
Joymar and his wife initially took turns tending to the business. Eventually, they decided to buy a rolling cart, so Joymar could go around town to sell from afternoon until midnight. In 2019, he thought it would be wiser to leave his day job and focus instead on growing the business.
Sustaining J & J was not without hardships, especially during the past year, says Joymar. Like other stores, they had to suspend operations for a couple of months. At that time, he resorted to reselling fresh chicken to make ends meet.
He loaned some money around January 2020 so they could open a sixth branch and buy vehicles they could use for the business—a Mitsubishi Xpander, three motorcycles, and a pickup. When the pandemic hit, he had a hard time paying the loan. He missed his payments for almost three months and was half a million in debt. “Dumating talaga sa point na walang wala na kami,” he recalls.
When the lockdown was lifted in their barangay around June this year, they restarted their business operations. That was when sales tripled. “Ibang hirap ang naranasan namin nitong pandemya, pero ito pa din ang maituturing na the best year para sa amin,” he says.
Joymar is thankful his employees stayed with him through the tough times. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga kasama ko kasi hindi nila ako iniwan. Kasama ko silang lumaban,” he says.
Joymar’s fried chicken business continues to flourish. With the earnings from his microenterprise, he was able to buy five tricycles, a 4x4 Suzuki multicab, a Mitsubishi L-300 and a 600-square meter lot. His long-term goal would be to open more outlets so he can help more people. “Hindi lang ako nagwo-work para sa sarili ko, kundi para din sa pamilya ko at mga kasama ko, para hindi habambuhay silang nagwo-work para sa akin,” says Joymar. “Ang usapan namin, pag tumagal sila sa amin ng ten years, bibigyan ko sila ng isang outlet. Kanila na yun,” he says.
To those planning their own businesses, Joymar has this piece of advice. “Marami kayong pagdadaanan na pagsubok,” he warns. “Pero laban lang tayo, kasi wala pang nalulugi na nagtitiwala kay Lord.”
Photos courtesy of Joymar Olarte