How Sift by Laureana Cafe brewed its way to success as a pandemic-born business
Where were you back in July 2020?
It was a time of anxiety and adjustments for many people, as most industries were trying to cope with the loss accumulated during the lockdown. However, amidst uncertainty and adversity, Kristian Cayabyab and his partner, Laureana, baked the beginning of their success.
Laureana and Kristian (who was then working at a restaurant in Makati) began selling pastries within their condo community in July 2020 with a starting capital of only 15,000 pesos. Their first purchases were the vital ingredients of baking such as flour, butter, and eggs.
It was a hit that Kristian needed to quit his job to help Laureana in baking pastries full time. Indeed, two heads are better than one as this helped open an opportunity to tie up with event organizers and catering services. During Christmas of that same year, they were able to cater to 10 events. With the growing demand for their coffee-pastry pairing, Kristian wondered, “why not start a coffee shop instead?”
They started to study their target market in their McKinley residence and saw the immediate need to serve caffeinated drinks to BPO workers–the night owls who were then mostly working from home. This inspired them to get a commercial space and finally construct their first physical cafe and decided to call it “Sift by Laureana.” Kristian shares, “‘Yun yung pumasok na idea na Sift talaga yung brand kasi nagagawa namin siya in both coffee and pastries. Pastries… if you’re sifting the ingredients, you get better results sa pastries mo. You can also sift sa mga latte art mo..”
Opening a coffee shop entails the need to invest in a quality espresso machine. Since this machine acts like the heart that pumps blood to this whole business lifeline, Kristian and Laureana needed a supplier that they can trust not only in the beginning, but a supplier that they can rely on for a long time. That’s why they chose Blu Coffee.
“Sa Blu Coffee, they taught us how to operate quickly to meet the demands of our customers, especially those who order in bulk. They also guided us in choosing and operating the espresso machine,” says Kristian. “Na-brief kami sa mga ganun, and then yung sa [background and dynamics of the] coffee industry, into details talaga yung naging briefing nila sa amin. Tinuruan kami kung paano gumawa ng coffee drinks, and kung paano imaintain ‘yung machine.”
When they officially opened the doors of their 20-seater cafe, they became the go-to cafe not only of BPO workers who need a caffeine + snack fix, but also of pet lovers who walk their dogs in the morning. “Yung mga dog owners, pag magwa-walk sila, so may hawak na silang coffee… Tapos nag-introduce kami ng mga puppuccinos [for the dogs], and frappuccinos para sa mga dog-lovers,” Kristian, who is a dog lover himself, shares that even the cafe welcomes furparents and furry friends “Yun talaga yung first coffee lover group namin yung mga dog owners talaga. And that’s why we always welcome yung mga dogs sa loob.”
But a business would always encounter issues unforeseen. Luckily, Sift’s relationship with Blu Coffee has enabled them to make it through every hurdle that can potentially pause their operations such as a machine damage. “Naging first challenge namin actually yung tag-ulan. Kasi minsan yung building mawawalan ng electricity, so ang kakapitan lang minsan is the generator… nagiging limited flow ng electricity. So minsan mada-damage talaga yung machine mo. Kasi syempre machine ‘yan and electricity ‘yan. And so ang pinaka-nagustuhan ko naman sa Blu Coffee ay they’re always there to accompany us sa mga challenges namin na ‘yun.”
True to its mission, Blu Coffee Distributors has made it a point to guide Kristian as they figure out every step of the way. “[They gave us guidance on] how to open the machine. Delicate yan. Saan makukuha yung parts? May available ba na parts si Blu Coffee. Kapag nag-break down yung machine, which is di mo naman maiiwasan, kasi siyempre tumatagal na rin yung business natin… so syempre nagde-depreciate din yung mga machine mo,” Kristian recounts, “May minsan na nangyari, is nagbreak down yung machine meron silang binigay na pamalit habang inaayos nila yung machine mo. ‘Yun yung pinakagusto ko dun.”
The trust and the quality of service that they receive from Blu Coffee made them decide to invest in another machine. “Isang branch pa lang kami, dalawa na kaagad yung machine namin,” shares Kristian. This allowed them to also become one of the pioneer stalls in the longest street market – the McKinley Hill Street Market. Kristian says that it’s the machine, the sight, smell and sound that it brings that attracts long queues.
“Iba yung dating ‘pag alam mo ‘yung espresso machine ay nandun… Naaamoy ng customers yung coffee. So hindi siya [dispenser] lang. You’re exerting an effort, kaya kahit na times two yung price namin sa iba naming competitors, mas gusto nila na pumila sila sa amin. Kasi on the spot mo gina-grind yung beans mo, on the spot pa ginagawa ‘yung espresso shot mo, nakikita nila nags-steam ka ng gatas. Iba ‘yung dating nun,” Kristian says.
As an entrepreneur, Kristian believes in the quality and the lasting impression that Filipino suppliers build with their clients. Truly, Filipino suppliers put their hearts into their service that it transcends to the customers as the raw material becomes a final product in their hands. “Kapag sinabi mo na ang supplier mo ay mga Pilipino, mas lalo nae-engganyo na bumalik ang customers. Because they know na atin ito eh. Nakakatulong ka na nga, lumalago pa yung company mo,” Kristian proudly shares.
With this proud Pinoy spirit, Kristian shared that Sift started with only three staff members. “And ngayon nasa 9 na kami. And may mga nag-aapply pa na intern. Before this year ends, ang goal namin ay maghahanap pa kami ng 30 kasi magkakaroon kami ng second branch, bigger and better. ‘Yun yung goal namin.”
Nowadays, Kristian and Laureana are gearing up to ‘address’ a very happy ‘problem’.
“Always puno ang cafe. Minsan nagkakaroon ng pila. Minsan nagpapa-reserve na yung iba kasi nauubusan sila agad ng seats. Yun yung biggest mistake, or di naman siya mistake (laughs)… It’s just that hindi lang talaga namin na-project na papatok kami. Kasi nagsimula kami nung pandemic. Naging maingat kami. Ang design lang ng restaurant namin ay 14 seater.” Now, they have started assembling tables al-fresco at the space adjacent to their storefront. “Bumili pa kami ng tables para magdagdag pa ulit. Ang goal namin ay maging 30 seaters na siya.”
From baking the beginning in 2020, to brewing continuous success in 2022, Kristian has a recommendation for aspiring entrepreneurs, and that is to find a partner that will help you continue what you started and be consistent with it. Plus, do not be afraid to start doing what you love as long as you have a reliable partner like Blu Coffee.
“Yun yung pinaka-thankful naman ako sa Blu Coffee. Na nag-aalalay talaga sila sa mga starters.”