Profiles, Stories

Johnlu Koa: The Man Who’s No Stranger To Setbacks

Johnlu Koa is the Founder and CEO of The French Baker and Lartizan. He’s also the man who brought Chatime to the Philippines. From introducing a foreign cuisine in the Philippines to facing the current crisis, he has had his fair share of hardships but he always found a way to breakthrough and do even more in the end. Learn more about the Chinoy entrepreneur, baker, and francophile.

Johnlu Koa French Baker

Johnlu Koa, Founder and CEO of The French baker


It’s the 80s, and as a fan of all things French, and as a professor of marketing at UP Diliman, Johnlu Koa discovered through research that there was little to no bakeries that offered French pastries. Around this time, he was tapped by Henry Sy to open a store at the mall he’d be opening soon, SM North EDSA. The timing was just right but of course, there was a catch — were ‘pandesal-raised’ Filipino’s ready for French pastries?

With the economy jumping right back up after the Marcos regime, Koa knew that the opposite may be the case, that new markets would actually be emerging. He knew what he had to do to fulfill the needs of these new markets.  “I did what nobody else could do, face uncertainty with [a] low level of experience, low level of knowledge, with only one belief: that I was young, I was willing to suffer, and that I had marketing education from the best business school in the country. And that I could do what I taught. All the long years of teaching would have been meaningless if I could not apply what I learned.” said Koa in an interview with ANC.

In his process of building The French Baker, Koa brought in a lot of innovations. He was the first to serve preservative-free bread, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat bread, and even bread with very low sugar. His business grew so much that in 6 months, he opened his second store. This was all in the 80s.

Now, the French Baker is a mall staple with more than 60 branches nationwide! Many of the baking practices and standards that Koa established became the benchmark for the local bakery shops we have now today.


The French Baker

One of the 60 branches of The French Baker


As a seasoned professional in his industry, Koa is already familiar with the complications a crisis could bring to a company and so handling the crisis was a task like any other for him. He continually visits his stores to check on his employees, opened as many stores as he could, cut royalties by half for those who needed it, postponed collection notices for stores that were closed, and he even held seminars for his people to prepare for reopening.

“It’s a new environment where there are disturbances. There may be threats, but there must be opportunities,” said Koa in an ABS-CBN article. In all his experiences in the crisis, he found an opportunity to take care of his employees and took it as a chance to invest in them.

If you want to learn more about this Chinoy, watch his extended CHiNOY Profiles here!

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