The Varacco Inc., a company from the Philippines, is recognized as one of the winners for the Best Small Business: “Good Food for All” competition this year from 2,000 competitors around the world.
Ariestelo Asilo (BS Nutrition 2007) jumped with joy and excitement when he received this good news. Aries, a UPLB Alumnus and native of Batangas, pioneers Nutripreneurship, short for Nutrition and Entrepreneurship, through coffee production and research. He is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and co-founder of Varacco Inc. with CEO Kathleen Manto, as his co-founder. It is an early present for the partners when they received the good news as Timplado, their café restaurant with a registered trademark, celebrated its first anniversary this year.
All the plans that he is fulfilling now started with a question, “10 years from now, what do you like to do?” Aries was still a student when this was asked by his professor. This question made him think. He realized that by that time he wanted to own a business. Armed with knowledge, skills, and network, he opened his first business venture, an agricultural company, in 2013. The first attempt was unsuccessful but that didn’t hinder him from trying again. He opened another business, an accounting company helping small businesses in organizing their system. For two years, he diligently worked as Operations head of the company. However, he got burned out and decided to close it down just like his first company.
Aries decided to pursue a masteral degree in Business Management at the University of the Philippines through US Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development. This is the same scholarship that assisted him to finish BS Nutrition in 2007. Through this, he was exposed to various trainings, seminars, and conferences which widened his network experiences and research exposure.
In 2018, Aries was introduced by a common friend to Kathleen “Kat” Manto. He saw Kat with a group of mothers making coffee as a small business. That time, he recalled the coffee trees in Lobo Batangas where the coffee beans are unharvested and scattered only under the trees and were only consumed when needed. The idea came back to him that the coffee beans can be utilized for commercial use.
It is Kat’s idea to create the dip coffee. She is more focused on the coffee products. While Aries is interested in coffee business development and research. They decided to be business partners and started Varacco Inc. His ambition of owning a coffee company became possible.
Aries’ goal is to attain a sustainable food service system by progressive value addition leading to an increased productivity, profitability, and product quality. With this burning passion, he also shares his innovative model on Nutripreneurship as speaker on national and international conferences. He also looks for partners from different Universities. On top of that, he has one Patent and five Trademarks. With these achievements, Aries was also recognized as 2020 UPLB Distinguished Alumnus for Nutrition Entrepreneurship and Community Nutrition. This year, Aries also won a grant from ACDI-VOCA for his coffee research funded by USDA.
Before he started business in 2012, he consulted three men whom he considered as mentors, namely: Dr. Romulo Davide, Mr. Antonio “Tony” Meloto, and Dr. Aries Alip.
These three men helped him visualize the path that he wanted to take. He wanted to replicate Dr. Davide’s national program called “Farmers’ Scientists Training Program” (FSTP) where Aries will focus with coffee and call it, “Coffee-based Farming and Entrepreneurship Engagement (COFFEE) Program. In the future, he also wanted to own his own Rural bank just like Dr. Alip’s CARD bank. Just like Mr. Meloto who owns a farm, Aries, wanted to also have his own coffee farm. His learnings from these men guided him in the fulfillment and success of his business.
Creating their Brand
The partners, Aries and Kat, started Varacco Inc. in 2018. The focus of this company is on selling coffee. Though there are many challenges that happened in 2020, the partners pushed through with the launching of Timplado in July 2020. They have carefully thought of the strategy before they started launching digitally. All the challenges that the partners faced have been rewarded as they celebrated their first anniversary last July 31, 2021.
Their coffee is branded as Circa 1740 because that is the year that the Spanish brought coffee to Lipa. The Gobernadorcillo that time ordered to mass produce coffee. Lipa became affluent with the production of coffee. “We want to give honor to our heritage and culture in Lipa,” Aries explained. Timplado was coined by one of their partners. It should have been the name of their coffee because it is already mixed or “timplado”. The partners thought it would be better as the store’s name because of the ring of it – very Filipino. Now, Timplado is becoming popular not only in Batangas but also nearby provinces. As the income comes in, their store becomes bigger and better.
In 2020, Aries is a fellow of the Young Southeast Asian Leader Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellows Program for Economic Empowerment. This opportunity opened a lot of doors for competitions, grants, and the like. Since one of the things that Aries wants is research, he continues writing coffee research with his team. His Technical Coordinator urged him to apply for the UN Best Small Business competition. Aries became curious and read about it. He felt that their company suits in the competition, so he applied even though the deadline was drawing near. With the dedication and effort of their team, they went through the tedious process of the competition.
“May isang essay doon na pinakapaborito ko. What would you want to tell the government to help you? Sabi ko, I will not ask the government anymore. They are already having a lot of things to do. What I will do is that I will do my best to help the community, and, in that case, we’ll be helping the government,” Aries fondly recalled.
Moreover, another question made him grateful of the opportunity to share their advocacy and be heard by the United Nations (UN). The competition assessed the applicants based on their business’ contribution for a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food for their communities; their vision’s strength; and their impact.
They prayed hard for this and God answered their prayers. Out of 2,000 hopefuls, they placed in the top 150 and became one of the semi-finalists. The journey of the process didn’t end there. As semi-finalist, they are required to create a 2-minute video answering all UN’s questions. Moreover, this video should not exceed 2 minutes and should not be edited. Aries was challenged and he prepared his team. Thankful for his theater experience during his undergrad years at UPLB and the dedication of their team, they produced three versions. They carefully chose one for their entry. After three weeks, all the hard work paid off, Varacco Inc. is one of the finalists!
With God’s guidance and support from his family, partners, colleagues, staff, and friends, Aries will continue chasing his dreams and molding future generations with his passion, knowledge, and love for coffee. That could be the secret ingredients of Aries’ own perfect “timpla” (mix).