– by Bubbles Salvador • Photos by Jun Pinzon & Dakila Angeles
What does Gabby Concepcion like best about having his own business? “You can choose what to do. You have better control.”
”There are only three things I wanted to do in life: become a dentist, a pilot, and a real estate broker,” begins 80s heartthrob and actor Gabby Concepcion. Successfully becoming one out of three, “puwede na,” he jokes. Before migrating to the United States in the 1990s, Gabby was a big movie star, having started out as the other half of a popular teenage love team. More than a decade later, he came back, and has since been making waves, starring in movies and teleseryes, making product endorsements, and even recording his own album.
Gabby has recently added “entrepreneur” to his growing list of achievements. Having learned the alkaline water business while he was in the US, he sought out an Aquabest franchise here — a good choice, considering that the company owned by Carson Tan, Global Quality Waters and Environmental Solutions Technologies, Inc. (GQWEST), has received multiple awards over the past four years from Entrepreneur Philippines’ annual Franchise Awards. This business relationship between Gabby and Aquabest has become mutually beneficial, with Gabby lending his name to the brand as endorser.
Admittedly only learning the ropes as he goes, Gabby has been fearless in trying out new businesses: besides Aquabest, he’s also trying his hand at developing a line of scents and toiletries bearing his stamp.
On this particular day, when he sits down for a few minutes with Masigasig, he is also scheduled for a photo shoot and a showbiz interview along with precious family time as well. A trusted assistant is busy attending to the multitude of activities, texting and calling on her mobile phone.
Here, Gabby shares his balikbayan journey from US-based real estate broker to start-up negosyante back here at home.
What kept you busy while you were in the US?
I was a fixer-upper first in 1999…We would rehabilitate a home, fix it up, and resell it. We would get the loan then do the real estate work as well. That’s how I got into real estate. In 2002, I became a real estate broker with Prudential California Realties. As a broker, I could do mortgage [loans] and I could sell homes. I was with Prudential until I came home in 2008.
When you came back in 2008, was it part of your plan to have your own business?
I go with the flow. I see what works for me, I work on it, and if I feel comfortable doing it, then I go for it. Ganun naman ang business. Parang real estate, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, pero ‘di ko akalaing gagawin ko.
How did your franchise of Aquabest Refilling Station come about?
I was a dealer of alkaline water when I was in the US. When I came home, naghahanap ako ng alkaline water dito. It was really just for home use, because my dad was sick then. Tapos, nakita ko itong Aquabest; they have oxygenated water and alkaline water. So sabi ko, gagamitin ko ito para sa bahay. Pero may ino-offer palang franchise, so kinuha ko na rin ‘yung franchise. Tiyempo naman, they were also looking for an endorser, and they got me. So we hit two birds with one stone. We now have an Aquabest Refilling Station in our family compound in San Juan.
Why did you choose Aquabest among a bevy of other water refilling stations? What makes it different?
Maganda ang filtration system ng Aquabest. Admittedly, marami na ring water refilling stations, and lahat ‘yan may mga water filtration stages. Marami palang stages na dinadaanan ‘yan. Aquabest ‘yung pinakamarami; we use about 24 to 26 stages of filtration. In terms of price, I would say it’s very competitive, depending on your area. Lumalaban kami sa prevailing rates ng competitors in the area.
What were the challenges of putting up Aquabest?
We only started construction last year, and started operations this year. Siyempre, startup siya, wala pa kaming record. Pinakamahirap talaga ‘yung getting clients. Ang dami na kasing competitors. Unlike five or six years ago raw, nung bago pa ‘yung concept ng water refilling, it was easy. Marami talagang may gusto ng tubig na malinis.
Does being a celebrity help promote your business?
[As far as my own shop is concerned,] hindi ko pa alam, since my Aquabest station is still new. But according to Aquabest, their sales have gone up [because of the endorsement].
What lessons have you learned about running your own business?
Just like any other business, it’s not easy. You have to like the product; you have to like what you’re doing. In anything, be it writing or photography, you have to like it. Kasi kung hindi, lalabas na pilit. Eh kung gusto mo ‘yung ginagawa mo, tapos may problem, it becomes a challenge. Iba ‘yung mindset mo. You think, “‘Yung challenge na ‘yan, okay ‘yan, kasi alam ko ‘to, eh.” Ganun din ako. I love scents!
In what ways are showbiz and your businesses similar?
They’re both businesses! But if it’s your business, aalagaan mo talaga. Of course, sa showbiz, aalagaan mo rin ang sarili mo. Pero dito sa sarili mong negosyo, you can choose. You can choose your bottles or your design. As an actor, you can also choose what teleserye or movie to do, pero unless you become a producer, you have a limited say on things. You’re in control here in your own business.
Do you think it’s easier now to do business because of modern technology?
Oo naman! Mas mabilis na ngayon ang communication.