Silca Coffee Roasting Company has been a byword in the local coffee industry since the company was founded in Silang, Cavite, in 1975 by husband and wife Enrile and Evelyn Asuncion.
“My parents owned rural banks in Silang at the time, and I saw that many farmers were borrowing money for fertilizer, so there was quite a large number of coffee farmers whose livelihoods and growth we were financing. The farmers asked for my help to market their product and sell it at a better price,” Evelyn says. “At the time, we were exporting handicrafts, so my husband and I were well versed in the export business. Fortunately, we were able to find a market abroad for Philippine coffee.”
About 44 years later, Evelyn is still very much involved in the company, now headed by son Michael. Her daughter Carolyn, meanwhile, has ventured into bag making, something that seems unrelated to the family business, until one realizes that the bags from her brands Evrile (after their business Evrile Enterprises) and Sako Store are made from coffee sacks.
“I saw a coffee sack in our factory that was placed on the floor in such a way that sort of looked like a bag and thought, ‘What if I put handles in that?’ It would make a nice bag.” Carol says. “I brought a few sacks home and started drafting, cutting, and sewing. The jute material, when treated properly, makes an excellent bag because of its strength, durability, and neutral tone.”
EVRILE AND SAKO STORE
Evrile was conceptualized to cater to the US market and has been well received because many Americans are environmentally conscious and love good design.
Sako Store, meanwhile, was created to appeal to the Philippine market. It “focuses on using local materials and designs for use in specific areas in the Philippines—like the Baon Bag and Beach/Market Tote,” Carol says. “Our bestseller is the Baon Bag. Filipinos love their baon. I personally bring the Baon Bag to the office every day.
MERGING PASSION AND COMMERCE
Carol has always been creative and interested in fashion, design, branding, and product development. “I am happy that I was able to find a way to bridge coffee with design with Evrile and Sako Store,” she says. “I started out with a basic tote and made different designs, mostly out of experimentation and suggestions from friends. I continued to refine the designs until I reached a point where people who saw them wanted to buy them, and it was then I knew I was ready to launch.”
All of the coffee sacks used are from the Silca roastery. “We source coffee from all over the Philippines and various parts of the world—Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Brazil, and more—so I am able to use a wide variety of authentic sack designs,” Carol says.
The inaugural collection is named after the Asuncion children—Jaclyn, Michael, Carolyn and Angelica. “They all reflected our personality to some degree,” she adds.
Evelyn is very supportive of this venture. “I was absolutely on board from the beginning because I’m very much into nature and support products that are made from recycled materials. I really like Evrile for its innovative designs. Plus, I really don’t like using plastic,” she says.
“I am lucky to have a family that is so supportive of my pursuits. I believe the root of this is that was my mom was so adamant about us receiving the best education, so as a result, all her children are independent thinkers. When one of us decides we will do something, the others support because we all respect each other. From the beginning of this venture, I announced what projects I would like to work on with the family business, and that I was going to focus on my bags. The trick with tasks that require you to divide your time is prioritization and communication,” Carol says.
AN INHERITED SENSE OF BUSINESS
For Carol, running Evrile and Sako Store isn’t just about running a fashion brand. “I’ve been grateful that Evrile has been a wonderful vehicle for me to learn more about coffee origins and the nature of the coffee trade. In general, Evrile has given me the opportunity to learn about the process of design and all the wonderful and challenging things that go into starting and running a business,” she says.
She also learned about handling a business from the best teacher—her mom. “My mom started and successfully ran a busines in a very different time, most notably before the Internet, so her business principles are grounded in reality. The best lesson I’ve learned from her is how to manage your cash well,” Carol says.
When asked about the secret to her business success, Evelyn says, “I advise people to just go with the flow. Just go with what is in demand. Don’t get attached to things or ways if it no longer is what the market wants or can handle.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The Philippine coffee industry is on an upward trajectory, thanks to the thirs wave movement and the efforts of local coffee advocates. “Philippine coffee as an industry will be very lucrative once again, and I can see it flourishing given the proper care by the next generation. I say lucrative once again, both because the local market is growing more sophisticated in its tastes and Filipino food in general is becoming a trend globally as well,” Evelyn says. “Given these two factors, especially the growing local market, I really think Philippine coffee has a bright future.”
Both mother and daughter are optimistic about their endeavors. Carol aims to add more products to spur global growth. I just wrapped up the photoshoot for the next collection—desigs that were largely based on consumer feedbackst wrapped up the photoshoot for the next collection—so I’m excited for that to come out. I’m constantly experimenting with what can be done with the sacks, so just as the sack evolves into a bag, our brand is constantly evolving,” she says.
Evelyn, meanwhile, is excited to see Silca grow and flourish some more within the current local coffee industry. “The local market for coffee is stronger than ever, and we are so thrilled to be able to serve Filipinos quality coffee they deserve that is Philippine-made. By the time most imported products get here they are no longer fresh, so we are happy to lead the way in the brewed coffee movement,” she says.
Through Silca Roasting Company, Evrile, and Sako Store, Evelyn and Carol Asuncion show that there are many ways for a family business—and the family members themselves—to not only thrive long term, but also to find new, tangential markets to serve.
written by Yvette Tan / photos from Evrile and Sako Store