Our Story: When In Baguio, How it came to be and our ambitious plan to shape the future of Baguio digitally.
The When In Baguio Brand started on January 21, 2016 as supposed to be an easy way to generate passive income, but in the contrary, would turn out to be the start of a complicated, stressful, and fulfilling journey. It was two old acquaintances who used to play the trumpet for the SLU Boy’s High Junior marching band and a couple of fruitful years with the SLU marching band. We both needed the scholarship as we came from simple middle class families. Huge shout out to our bandmasters Mrs. Marivic B. Macadaeg and Dean Macario G. Fronda for giving us the opportunity to be able to get our degrees. We were just your ordinary regular students in school, we were not even probably at the top 10 of our class rankings from high school to college. A simple story of two ordinary dreamers taking the extra leap of faith towards the unknown.
After a couple of years graduating we got a chance to meet again, can’t remember on who called who but one needed a venture and the other needed help getting clients. If memory serves right we met at Pizza Hut, SM City Baguio just after new year to be able to create a website for everything in Baguio. During that time blogging was the trend and at the forefront was the famous “When In Manila” (www.wheninmanila.com), a website and vast social media network to discover the Philippines. The idea was to ride the tide of popularity of When In Manila and grow the name When In Baguio as an entry point to re-discover Baguio, discover Benguet, and open doors for the Cordillera Region.
The first founder is John Clifford S. Gonzales, a graduate of BSIT at Saint Louis University, at that time was a thriving freelancer proficient in website development, graphic design, search engine optimization, and owns a few profitable enough websites. Mr. Gonzales initially served as the brains; of the operation doing graphic design, web development, as well as photo and video editing of content. The second founder is Mart Louis C. Fernando, a graduate of BS Pharmacy at Saint Louis University, at that time was a confused and trying hard educator, performing arts advocate, and someone who wants to get out of the rat race. Mr. Fernando initially served as the muscle of the operation doing the legwork, representation and client acquisition.
A funny story about our initial logo, Mr. Fernando asked his brother Micko Lester Fernando back then a graduating Architecture student to create a logo combining a lions head, pine tree, and zigzag road for P500. An amount that he still feels mad when we reminisce this memory up to this day. Haha!
Thankfully there was an event sponsored by Unionbank of the Philippines called Ureka Forum alongside with its consortium partners: Air21, AMTI, GeiserMaclang, PLDT, and Dragonpay. A massive on-boarding event to push e-commerce in the country and transition MSME’s from traditional spaces into the massive digital economy. While the event did not achieve the success that the organizers wanted, this was the first event that opened our brains towards the concept and elements of e-commerce in which would be an important piece moving forward.
We were fortunate enough to have been supported initially by Atty. Gerald Gonzales by allowing us to temporarily use his small allotted office space at the top floor of Pines Arcade at Session Road. This allowed us to have a small base of operations. We started getting a few paying clients little by little and started to be invited in local events.
This was also the year that we gained interest towards e-commerce, initially we wanted to help local artists sell their paintings online only to massively fail due to our lack of product and industry knowledge. Pasalubong delivery of known Baguio products was also in our hopes only to fail as well due to lack of online traffic and deep understanding of the elements and pieces needed for an e-commerce platform to succeed.
We decided to concentrate our energy in growing our reach solely on Facebook since this was the platform that we had gained initial success. Which would be a costly mistake in the future, what we should’ve done was to grow our reach parallel across various platforms and maximizing the strengths of each.
We started the year by painstakingly collating a lot of photos and videos about everything you can see or visit in Baguio. Diligently documenting and getting every bit of information, hundreds of photos and video clips filling our hard drives on every park or attraction in the City of Pines. We were also planning to open up a small food stall at our buildings food court.
November 5, 2018 a significant date that we will never forget. This was the day that an electrical problem at the basement of our building would obliterate our hard work and optimism. Went out to canvass for a refrigerator at Tiongsan Harrison around 6pm for our food stall concept only to comeback to a building filled with heavy smoke and impossible task to recover a few hard drives, 1 laptop, camera, food photography set, and newly delivered batch of shirts for selling. An expensive lesson on using cloud storage, investing on business insurance, and doing work one by one instead of wanting a one big update.
This year was dedicated into a lot of learning towards on how start-ups differ from traditional business and on why we should move towards that direction. A lot of networking and individual learning with regards to the tech industry particularly on digital marketing, mobile app development and e-commerce.
The year started with the looming threat of the pandemic before going full blown into lockdown mode on March. One of the co-founders Mr. Fernando was ready to throw in the towel after a heartbreaking loss of a previous business and contemplating of going back into the health care profession to pursue a career in clinical pharmacy and eventually just pursue a career abroad. It was into the height of the ECQ and on the verge of a major life decision that Mr. Gonzales had the idea of joining the food delivery app craze. It usually takes a couple of months, a million pesos, and multiple developers (UI/UX, frontend developer, backend developer, and QA tester) in order for a mobile application to take flight. Obviously we had no resources to pull off that kind of venture. All we had was a witty way to get clients and trust the brand that we created.
Mr. Gonzales fortunately found a shortcut, cheat, or let’s say a loophole that would be able to allow us to launch a full somewhat functional food delivery app (Customer App, Merchant App, Rider App, and web based admin panel) with a meager budget. The downside was, if you do a side by side comparison with the industry leaders our app will look like crap. We honestly didn’t care at that time, all we wanted was to be able to survive the pandemic together with everyone. An extra motivation by Mr. Gonzales was that he also wanted to create an alternative livelihood program for the struggling street-vendors frequenting “The Mansion” area and we had to do it fast. Three months of continuous long work hours, sleepless nights, most days forgetting to take a bath and losing track of time.
July 8, 2022 we decided to launch fearing the ghost month curse of August and it should be on the 8th as 8 was the lucky number of Mr. Gonzales. Our goal was very simple at that time, it was to acquire the top local merchants that the pink and green app couldn’t because of their high commission rates. We decided to start off with a low 10% commission which is very far from the usual 20-37%, just enough to be able to afford our operational cost. Our mindset was that we should grow together with our merchant partners hence the low commission.
It was a stressful couple months as we were understaffed, doing the job of multiple people and committing various mistakes left and right due to lack of protocols and basics of operations management. Accounting mistakes were also an ongoing challenge, in which we suggest future founders reading this that there should be a dedicated staff, person, or founder full time taking charge of financial concerns/matters. We decided that bootstrapping will be the answer moving forward rather than the usual start-up track of getting investors after getting the needed traction and proof of numbers.
We started the year by expanding the team getting an extra hand in the operations as well as with the finances. The mission of the year was simply to be self sustainable as we continue to move forward beating our own numbers day by day and month by month. After surviving a challenging year, slowly we understood the things we did right and the things we did wrong. All the problems point out that we need to prepare for the next phase, that is to create a mobile app from scratch so that we can control the features and address the solutions related to the limitations brought about by the current technology.
A crucial problem thou is that our brand is limited towards a particular city and can only be servicing an entire province. The direction was to create a mobile application that can be franchisable or operable into an expansion direction northwards particularly in Region I, Region II and CAR. Hence ADDA was created first prior to an upgraded version of When In Baguio Eat.
A major milestone was that we were able to expand our office staff from two to eight, freelance delivery rider from seven to twenty, and afford to give christmas packages and christmas bonuses while still at the height of the pandemic.
Two years into the operation and yet we are still learning something new each day. We are also fortunate enough to be able to breakeven and put our earnings into product development. As we transition towards normalcy and post pandemic operations, product development would dictate if we will survive the next few years and be a success story in the North or be part of the statistics of startup failures.
August 3, 2022 changed our business name When In Baguio Eats Online Store and incorporated with the SEC to become When In Baguio Inc. From two co-founders, we on boarded our wives (Mrs. Joyce Ann Romero-Gonzales and Mrs. Esobel Jaen-Fernando) to take part into the venture and share alongside the milestone.
August 5, 2022 we are now launched our second mobile application “ADDA Ngarud App” for partnerships as well as initial operations.
September 1, 2022 re-launching of our website www.wheninbaguio.com