Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase— this was what entrepreneur Anabelle Co-Martinent did when she took the leap of faith by quitting her corporate job to pursue a different path in life: co-founding a food and beverage business in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I left [the] Philippines when I was 30 years old, moved to Singapore then to Kuala Lumpur. I started my F&B business in 2013 so it’s 9 years old now. While my media and plant-based meat ventures are 1 year old.”
The Start of a Healthy Journey Abroad
In 2013, La Juiceria Superfoods started out as a cold-pressed juice company. However, Co-Martinent’s desire in finding the perfect balance between a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying good food gave birth to La Juiceria’s expansion as a restaurant brand. Aside from La Juiceria Superfoods, Co-Martinent also co-founded Super Saigon and Hawker Hall, which offer a unique Vietnamese-Melbourne style Pho and local Asian comfort food such as Char Kuay Teow and Thai fried rice, respectively.
After some time, La Juiceria became one of the biggest food and beverage companies in Malaysia that became the go-to of many Malaysians for their Nasi Lemak wrap, gourmet salad, Pho, or street food needs. When asked about what sets La Juiceria apart from its competitors, Co-Martinent revealed that aside from producing quality products, good marketing and branding can make a huge difference in making a customer come back for more.
“Keep creating value no matter where you are, even if you’re not in your home country. What drives a company is down to purpose, people and profits.”
Even with businesses taking a huge hit during the height of the pandemic, La Juiceria Superfoods was able to remain strong due to it already offering an online delivery option for its customers way back before the pandemic started.
“Yes, our F&B [business] did suffer during the pandemic. However, we came out stronger thanks to our online sales— which were already strong prior to the pandemic— as well as the self-reflection and clean-up that we did during the pandemic, which allowed [for] better margins and processes.”
This alone speaks for the caliber of their products, as most businesses during this time definitely noticed a drop in their sales with the pandemic situation laying off a lot of employees and people getting sick in general. But La Juiceria Superfoods, Super Saigon, and Hawker Hall offer a healthy lifestyle with a good food experience that definitely makes them stand out from the rest.
“The healthy restaurant brand that we’ve created [has] made [a] significant impact in the lives of many Malaysians. So yes, I believe I am making a difference over here.”
Life Abroad as a Working Chinoy
Co-Martinent lived in Manila, Quezon City, and San Juan during her younger years and even as a career woman. She decided to move to Malaysia in 2006.
The decision was not easy— she never pictured herself going abroad for good, not until she met her fiancé.
“Manila was okay on its own… perfectly imperfect. Being close to family is important to me, hence, I didn’t think that I will leave one day. Having met my fiancé was the main reason for leaving Manila and [crossing] borders to both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I am glad I did because the adventures I’ve had over the last few years were phenomenal.”
Aside from her food and beverage business ventures, Co-Martinent also invested in a plant-based meat company called Phuture Foods, which redefines the future of food by helping Asians move to a meatless lifestyle in a sustainable and affordable way. She also co-founded a digital media company called FFF Media, which is a social news network that reports the latest news on food and travel which helps brands engage with consumers effectively.
Even with her successful business ventures abroad, there are times when Co-Martinent feels homesick. With her being away from her family on important occasions like Christmas and birthdays, she had to learn how to adjust to avoid feeling homesick.
“I came from a close-knit family, so it’s natural to miss them on these special days. You learn eventually to adjust and make plans around how we can meet annually, and [make] the most of our time together. Definitely, there are adjustments to be made, but the new opportunities/ connections that I’ve found outside Manila [have] been worth it.”
When asked about her plans for the future, Co-Martinent already had a vision in mind— and that is to contribute to society through food or media, and probably even more.
“With the climate changes and world issues growing around us, I hope to continue my time and investments around things that will positively impact the future. From food to media, and perhaps even more. Anything that is along the lines of digital, plant-based, and promoting healthy stuff, that’s where I’ll be!”