4th gen entrep goes into healthy juice business
If a businessman who spent most of his life in a foreign country knows what kalburo (calcium carbide) means, there is no reason not to believe-or buy-what he’s selling.
(Kalburo acts as an agent to hasten the ripening of fruits.)
Jonathan Kui is the president of Mucho Mondo Corp. which runs Mondo Juice and SIP Milk Tea. Mondo is a juice bar that offers all-natural smoothies while SIP offers seeped, not brewed, milk tea. (Seeping is passing the material slowly through small holes.)
Mondo first opened in 2009 when Kui returned to the country from Canada after much prodding from his mother. He was so used to a healthy living abroad where people can ask the calorie count of the food or drinks they buy. In one of his trips to a mall here, he saw a poster with “healthy” on it. “The problem is, they were selling fried chicken.”
That was how Mondo Juice was born.
“Mondo is about having something honest,” Kui says. “We’re open about everything, where we source our products, the calorie count, and the process involved in making our smoothies.”
Twenty-something Kui is the fourth generation of entrepreneurs from his great grandparents who came from China and settled in Mindoro. His grandmother set up a small restaurant and that started how the following generations got into the food business.
Kui, who has a BA Economics minor in Classical Studies from the University of British Columbia, brings “meticulous and hands-on” one notch higher. He personally takes care of everything. He can afford micromanagement because he has a manageable number of branches.
Kui gives (very) special attention to the fruits they use in the smoothies and drinks. “Did you know that there are 250 varieties of strawberries?” he asks. “We use only six. The reason is the strawberries you buy in the supermarket aren’t fresh. They taste different.”
Kui says that if Mondo Juice wants to stay true to its promise, everything has to be fresh and has to taste great. In fact, they use a special machine to check fruit quality from the right size to the level of sweetness.
Integrity of products
“One time we had to ship back a couple of boxes because the supplier didn’t meet our requirements,” he says. “We cannot compromise the integrity of our products.”
Mondo Juice’s fruits are individually quick frozen (IQF), a way to “seal all the nutrients and flavor.” Another advantage of IQF is that the fruit is “tree-ripened and not sprayed with chemicals.”
The development of one drink can take one month up to two years to get the exact taste that Kui wants. “Taste is the most important (thing to consider) when we are choosing the variety (of fruits) that we will use,” he says. “We worry last about the price and more about the taste.”
He spends a huge amount of time in doing research. He also “gets sent away just to learn. Just to see what’s going on a different country and try to bring all back here.” In addition, Kui has a friend in Switzerland who ships varieties of fruits to the Philippines.
Kui also makes the bread, the macaroons, the cheesecake, and other things used in his shops himself. He makes the bread every day and notes that “breads with holes are better than the siksik ones.”
The newly opened branch on Rada Street, Legaspi Village, Makati, merged Mondo Juice and SIP “because the space is quite big,” Kui candidly says.
“We’ve put together design elements from both Mondo and SIP to get a balanced feel of the two stores while upgrading the overall interiors at the same time,” Kui says.
The place is very modern: minimalist, more wood, and has high ceilings. The crowd alternates with young professionals going in the morning then students in midmorning then the yuppies again during lunchtime. The two finally mix during the evenings.
Kui says that it takes about six months to train the staff because they have to know every little bit of information about the products they sell. Customers ask questions and the staff must be ready to answer them, he adds.
“We do things the way we do because we think that’s how it should be,” Kui says. “Yes we can buy the ingredients (just about anywhere) but there’s no guarantee of quality when you rely on someone else.”
Mondo Juice has branches in Ali Mall Cubao, Robinson’s Galleria, and SM Megamall.
SIP Milk Tea is located at Dr. Quintos Street, Manila, E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Pearl Plaza, Robinsons Galleria, SM Manila, and SM Sucat.