The Binalot story: Big things come in small wrapped packages

September 25, 2012
ROMMEL JUAN decided to start a new business by reintroducing traditional Filipino food, actually by presenting it the way it was done decades, perhaps centuries, ago but in a modern fast-food setting. He had toyed with the word binalot, which eventually became the name of the new business that he had in mind. In Filipino, binalot means “wrapped.” Juan had been inspired by his memories from childhood, when food used to be served in banana leaves during family picnics. Thus, all Binalot products are wrapped in banana leaves in a show of support for protecting the environment and stamping the signature of the Filipino in a country that seems unable to resist Western influences, whether in food or fashion.

Juan learned how to run a business at an early age. “I grew up in a family where talking about business over dinner was a common practice. When I was 7 or 8, after my father went overseas on business, he always brought back souvenirs like toys for me. He would say to me, ‘Out of these 10, take one for yourself and sell the rest to your friends.’ In this way, he taught me how to do business.”

A Marketing Management graduate of De La Salle University in Manila, he later finished his master’s degree in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management in 2005.

Juan said his journey as a businessman was not easy and that he faced risks, even failures. But instead of sulking about missed opportunities, according to him, he looked at the missteps as part of his trials on his way to modest success in business. Besides, Juan said, anytime is as good a time for business as any as long as one loves what he is doing.

The Binalot founder is now recognized as one of the most sought-after speakers on entrepreneurship and so is Binalot, as the ultimate Pinoy fast-food brand.

To the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) that advocates of environmental protection live by, Juan has added a fourth: replace. The four words are woven into Binalot’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) program—Dangal at Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon (Dahon). Dahon is “leaf” in English, apparently a tribute to the banana leaf that serves as wrapper for Binalot products.

Instead of using non-biodegradable plastic and styrophor packaging in serving its food, Binalot uses biodegradable banana leaves. Such idea has helped poor farmers in a remote village in Nagcarlan, Laguna. The Dahon program has converted a depressed community of farmers, housewives and the unemployed there into an energetic and enterprising community of banana-leaf suppliers. These residents used to be without a decent income, literally without direction or hope in life. Now, they are a confident, self-sustaining community with dangal (pride) and hanap-buhay (livelihood) to show for their individual and collective efforts.

The Dahon program won for Juan the Centennial Prize in the worldwide 2007 UPS Out-of-the-Box Small Business Contest commemorating United Parcel Service’s (UPS) 100th year of existence. This special award honors Binalot as it “best exemplifies the end-to-end service theme of UPS’s centennial celebration.” He is the first Filipino and Asian to have been so honored.

Binalot was also honored by Entrep magazine as The Best Local Homegrown Franchise and The Fastest-Growing Franchise in 2009. From the Public Relations Society of the Philippines came the coveted Anvil Award of Merit.

Juan himself was chosen a fellow of the Philippines 21 Young Leaders Initiative to represent the Philippines in the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A year ago he won the Intel-AIM Corporate Social Responsibility Award

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in Kuala Lumpur.

In Photo: Rommel Juan (center) with the Binalot management team
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