Turks Shawarma founder and president Gem Lapid Zeñarosa took a trip down memory lane to share his humble beginnings and sacrifices he made to build what is now one of the country’s leading food retail franchises.
“When my wife and I got married, I was juggling between different jobs to provide for my family. I was then into buying and selling cars. My wife stayed home at that time, so we wanted to have something to keep her busy as well. We decided to sell her car, which was a college graduation gift from her father. Proceeds of that car sale was supposed to be used to put up a small shawarma cart just outside our village. Later, however, we decided to put that venture in a shopping mall. That’s how we got into the food business,” he was quoted as saying in an interview.
He shared that just like any other business, everything didn’t go the way as planned but he persevered.
“We had to do everything by ourselves — from being a marketer down to being a store crew while my wife tended the cash register,” he noted. “We didn’t have our office back then. I had to stay up late to prepare our meat to be used the following morning and wake up as early as 3 a.m. to go to Balintawak Market to buy produce and deliver these to the stores.”
He also opened up about his hesitancy to open Turks for franchising, sharing how personality seemed to be not fit for the bigger opportunity. “I was hesitant to open the business for franchising at first because I am not comfortable talking to a lot of people. I am what others call an introvert. But we kept receiving a lot of inquiries, and we saw the potential of efficient growth and increase of brand awareness, that’s why I gave it a try. We started with just one franchisee to study the flow of operations. Within a year, we expanded into more than a hundred branches.”
In 2017, Turks was awarded “The 100 Club” by Francorp for opening 300 Turks branches in a span of one-and-a-half years.