Fiorgelato, the pure Italian ice cream brand of Milkin Corporation, started out of its owner Ricardo “Richie” Z. Cuna’s love for ice cream since he was a child. Now 18-years in the business, Fiorgelato has established a niche market and remains a strong brand in the Philippines with 50 outlets nationwide. Also, Richie’s passion has driven him to venture overseas.
As the President/CEO of Milkin, Richie stays on top of the business through his Globe Postpaid that helps him keep in touch with his people as he flies in and out of the country. A long-time Globe subscriber and a Globe Platinum member, it figures importantly in his daily activities. “I cannot live without my Globe mobile. It’s really part of my life already. Communication is crucial to me as I need to email, text and call regularly,” he said.
Richie also needs to stay connected to his 35 franchisees whom he personally chose to expand Fiorgelato. Offered through Globe Business, his Biz Broadband, Biz Landline and Business Plus allow him to have constant communication with his franchisees and to the main office. Using Biz Broadband, he can regularly check Fiorgelato’s website and receive orders needed for the outlets through email. With Biz Landline and Business Plus, he can be reached right away by franchisees for immediate consultation and instant coordination. Richie said he values his communication tools as these help him make fast decisions for the business.
Richie is very glad of how the brand has grown through the years, taking pride in the quality of their products. “Fiorgelato uses original gelato formula in Italy since 18 years ago. Our ingredients come from US and Italy. Fiorgelato uses pure milk from Australia. There’s not even a drop of water there,” he said.
He shares that the biggest hurdle in business is how to sustain a brand especially if one is not a multinational. Thus, Richie chooses well when it comes to opening franchises and outlets, which start at P300,000 up to P1.8 million for full dine in. Flexibility is important to him and he always focuses on quality not quantity.
Also requiring much of his time these days and constant communication is his overseas business. Following Fiorgelato, he opened the Fior Café and started the Ice Cream Gallery for his international brand. He also has the Coco Banana brand in the US for Goldilocks. He is doing consultancy setting up ice cream plants all over the world including China and the US. “We are aggressive overseas. I’m working on Japan now. Kuala Lumpur opened in March 15,” he said.
Richie has an extensive background in entrepreneurship and the ice cream business. He ventured in business a long time ago, starting in his school days. He also worked with BPI for eight years and with Export and Industry Bank from 1997 to 2003. He started Milkin in 1992 and he managed this enterprise while he was working for the bank. He described that period in his career as tough years.
Given his love for ice cream, with cappuccino and pistachio as his favorites, he had to study the technicality of ice cream making. Technical ice cream schooling can take four years and he studied in Italy and the US. He was the first gelato graduate in the Philippines. He recalled during his time in Penn State the ice cream he cooked in class came out third after Häagen-Dazs and Dreyer’s out of 80 in the class. He prepared ube.
“For my part I’m a chef in gelato. I left the banking industry in 2003 and focused on the business. From 1997 to 2008 my life is in my luggage traveling in and out of the country. It’s getting to be a career after the corporate life. Soon as I started I looked at the business with a 10-year, 15-year and 25-year plan. I had planned for this and it was on the right track all these years,” Richie said.
When he started, Richie had less than five employees, prepared all the ice cream and even attended to the shop at the same time. From this humble beginning, Milkin has more than 60 people today and Richie said he has given the business to his employees. “Milkin manufactures, distributes and retails gelato. So it’s an end-to-end venture. I gave Milkin to the employees. I had employees who were with us for 18 years. It’s really for them now. The reason why I am still here is because my people need my support,” he said.
Looking back, Richie is satisfied with what he has achieved in his life. “We often wonder if entrepreneurs are made or born. One must have internal skills in entrepreneurship and sometimes it is not enough that you try hard. You can feel it inside you. In my case, I had been working in the bank yet I knew I had to follow the business. My work in the banking industry also benefited my business as it allowed me to have foresight that helped me ride through times of crisis. I am happy and I believe I have reached my peak already,” he said.
Richie is currently the Chairman and a founder of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. He is a Globe Negostar inspiring entrepreneurs to dream big.