The Healthy House: What You Can Learn From This Growing Business
Gerard Sison, CEO of The Healthy House, with Mia David, nutritionist for The Healthy House, and Stephanie Zubiri. Photo: The Healthy House
Business comes differently for people. Sometimes it takes a while to find a good idea for a business, and sometimes the perfect opportunity presents itself. For Gerard Sison, CEO of The Healthy House, it was a classic case of finding a need and filling it, that old mantra of entrepreneurship. “We were a group of friends who worked out together, looking for a nutrition service because we needed help with that. We tried some of the existing brands but none of them could do what we wanted or were up to our standards,” he explains. “So basically, we asked, ‘Why don’t we make our own?’”
In this case, “we” comprises athlete/entrepreneur Victor Silayan, who serves as managing director, footballers Daniel Matsunaga and Ally Borromeo, who both work in product development, and Sison himself. Driven by passion for health and nutrition, they founded The Healthy House.
The Healthy House offers full-service nutrition programs to anyone with health concerns that they want to address through food. The customer meets with Healthy House’s resident nutritionist who does a full consultation based on the customer’s profile, lifestyle, and medical condition. She then prescribes a fully personalized diet for them, which the kitchen executes “to perfection,” Sison says. Meals are then delivered to the customers on a daily basis.
The company’s clients come from all sides of the spectrum, from people who want to lose weight, showbiz personalities who don’t have time to prepare food but need to stay healthy, basketball players staying fit, and others. “It’s a real variety of clients,” Sison says. In the crowded market of diet delivery services, they stand out with their dedication to nutrition, and they’ve been featured on national outlets such as Kris TV and the Inquirer broadsheet, and even count celebrities and athletes as part of their client base.
But how did The Healthy House move from an idea to a successful business? Sison shares the challenges of starting a business from scratch and the lessons he’s learned. Read on to learn about how to start a business from your passion:
Starting The Business
Getting the business off the ground took some work. “The passion was there, but the long part was solidifying the concept. Our concept was always based around high quality and doing what’s best for our customers, but we had to make it profitable,” Sison says. The team began discussing starting a business in December 2013, meeting every other week while they were busy with their day jobs.
Sison thought he could start the business with just the capital from his personal funds, which he raised from modelling and acting, as well as from his previous career working in the bar/nightclub/hotel industry in his native Australia, where he was getting paid “really, really well … but the lifestyle wasn’t for me, so I left.”
But as he did the initial planning for The Healthy House, he realized that he would need a much bigger investment than what he could afford to provide. So he spoke to investors that could bring something to the business — not just money, but other contributions such as experience and connections.
“Money, you can find anywhere,” Sison says. “But if you have a good idea and present it well, there are a lot of people with money who don’t have time to figure out how to make it grow. And if they like your business, and you can grow their money with their investment in your business, then it’s a win-win.”
Out of the six investors Sison presented to, four invested in his idea.
But Sison found that dealing with the financial aspects of starting a business was difficult. “Nine out of 10 businesses fail because of poor financial literacy.” So he consulted with his more knowledgeable friends and built the right team to ensure that the company would be financially well-versed in the business they were getting into. “The kitchen business is a very expensive business, but once we put together the team and had a plan, it looked right, and the only thing left to do was just to do it.”
Once they started operations in September 2014, Sison and his partners leveraged their personal contacts as their first clients. “I had a list of people who I knew would be interested, so I called them one by one to tell them about Healthy House. We also did a special promo to get us up and running where we offered a 10% lifetime discount to our first handful of clients.”
Growing The Business
When asked about the pace of growth for the business, Sison simply says “Huge.” The Healthy House hit its capacity ahead of schedule, which helped sort it out financially. “In the beginning we had a few financial holes in the business … but sales cures all. Whatever financial mistakes we made, we knew we could always cure it by serving our customers really well and keeping sales up.”
In the beginning, the company had some trouble with budgeting. “We missed our budgets several times, if I’m totally honest. If anything caused me stress, it was that,” Sison says. The expensive nature of the kitchen business, coupled with the way that The Healthy House manages its kitchen, contributed to the initial difficulty. “Instead of telling the kitchen to stick to a budget, we say nutrition and quality comes first. So our chef tells us how much money they need for the budget, and then we provide it.”
This is an unusual way to run a kitchen, Sison admits, but for The Healthy House, nutrition and quality take precedence. “We’re a nutrition company. We pride ourselves on that.”
Now, however, the holes have been plugged and they’ve found a happy medium between ensuring quality and having a reasonable budget. The Healthy House is now growing at a manageable pace. Sison runs the business full time as the CEO, managing sales and marketing, even as he still does acting and modelling. “This business is my bread and butter,” he says proudly.
His ultimate goal is for the company to be “a wonderful company that people really like dealing with,” and if celebrity endorsements and happy customers are anything to go by, The Healthy House is well on its way towards Sison’s goal.
What can you learn from Gerard Sison’s success with The Healthy House?
- Have a solid idea and a good business plan. Sison was able to attract four out of six investors because he had a good product and a plan to realistically be the best in his business. Before anything else, you should solidify your business concept, and your plan for moving forward.
- Find investors who can contribute not only money, but expertise and advice. As Sison says, you can find money anywhere. If you’re looking for investors, try to bring in those who have prior experience in the business, because a trusted resource like that is worth more than money.
- Make sure your financial literacy is strong. A lot of businesses fail because of poor handling of financial matters. Don’t be one of those. Educate yourself on the ins and outs of finance of your business, and consult with people who have more knowledge. Build a team that can address financial concerns like Sison did, and make sure your business plan has contingencies for when things don’t go well.
- Manage your time. In the beginning, Sison had plenty of time to devote to getting The Healthy House off the ground. “I didn’t have a girlfriend back then, so it was a lot easier!” he jokes. But if you’re afraid that you don’t have time to devote to starting your own business, remember that “it’s not really about finding time. It’s about managing yourself and prioritizing so that you can use your time well for your business.”
- Treasure your customers. Sison believes that their exceptional customer service is key to their success. “We make sure our clients are treated with the respect that they deserve and not just a number,” he says.
- Be the best. A good idea isn’t enough — you have to strive to be the best in your field. “My philosophy is, if you can’t be the best, then you shouldn’t be in business,” Sison says. If you have an achievable plan for this, success will come a lot easier.
So if you’ve got a great business idea and passion, you can start your journey towards becoming an entrepreneur. Just remember that it takes a lot of work and planning.