(STAR) By the GO NEGOSYO team - Showbiz has many faces but some choose a secret life away from the klieg lights.

When Pilita Corales first started her business venture, she knew next to nothing about restaurant management.

As a performer, she was already legendary, having made waves in the international scene (topping Australian pop music charts) and performing with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone and Sammy Davis Jr.

As a restaurateur, however, “Asia’s Queen of Song” was treading on unfamiliar ground. Pilita had to learn the nitty-gritty of the business from her husband Carlos Lopez, who owned a restaurant in Sydney for 30 years.

Her own success, of course, did not happen overnight. But through hard work and her husband’s guidance, Pilita’s restaurant developed over the years and gained loyal patronage

Today, Pilita’s – located at the Theatre Mall of the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan – is frequented by people for the good food, the awesome company, and sometimes, a treat of a song from Pilita herself.

For now, Pilita is happy with the way things are going for her restaurant but she’s also intent on opening more branches. And with her constant striving to improve, this doesn’t seem like a pipe dream.

And as far as dreams go, Dingdong Dantes is not one to stop wishing for more.

Behind his on-screen image as a matinee idol is a man who has always wanted some diversity – not content with staking it all on a showbiz career. And it shows in his past business ventures: Arena Fitness, a gym he helped put up about five years ago; Beowulf Mediaworks, a production house; Dantes & Camposaro Investment Co.

Lately, he co-founded Circle Café on Timog and Tomas Morato, designed with the help of the Garcia family of the Tong Yang Restaurant Group and Karylle. It boasts of 22 KTV and two function rooms.

It is, as Dingdong proudly says, a one-stop shop for people who want to have fun.

If people want good food, have music sessions with a band, or sing along with friends, it is definitely the place to go.

For a while, though, Dingdong didn’t think much about the business aspect of things until his desire to ensure a better future for himself made him determined to prove himself outside of show business.

Once he took the business seriously, he found new challenges, one of which was to make the business earn enough, not just for himself, but also for his employees.

He wanted to be able to ensure that he and the people who work for him all get something from the café.

He had to make sure that the people kept on coming back.

With Dingdong keeping his eye on the prize, driven by his desire to satisfy all of the customers of Circle Café and keeping the atmosphere of fun to keep them coming, business developed steadily.

Childhood dream

For Cesar Montano, his business has not only thrived but is also perfectly backed by his passions.

Belissimo, which means beautiful in Italian, is the name of Cesar’s quiet restaurant. The walls are adorned by clippings and mementos reflective of his career as an actor.

On the second floor, one can find his oil paintings that give color to the old wood and stone interior. Completing the ambiance of the laid-back sanctuary, guests are treated to live acoustic music, which, not coincidentally, is also one of Cesar’s enthusiasms.

What prompted him to go into the restaurant business was his childhood dream of owning his own bakeshop.

As a kid, he had looked up to their local panadero, and with much enthusiasm, he would spend mornings watching the man bake pan de sal. Sometimes, he would even try to imitate the baker, grabbing a handful of dough and experimenting on it by putting different fillings and shoving his creation into the oven.

Even though different from his childhood dream, his restaurant is as good as it gets. Because of it, he has been able to work with not just dough, but several other dishes as well.

What makes his business click is that his passion for cooking is supported by a solid background and know-how. Having a sister in Italy enabled him to frequent the country where he was able to taste authentic Italian cuisine. Deeply impressed by his experiences, Cesar enrolled in a culinary school to further develop his interest and knowledge in pizza-making.What also helped him in his business is that he had chosen to work with the right people – people who were already close to him, like-minded and believing in the same goals.

Undoubtedly, his accomplishments in the restaurant business are due to all his hard work in the pursuit of his dreams. A good example of just what is needed to turn any venture into a success.

Passion is also a major factor for Marvin Agustin, who is no greenhorn when it comes to the food industry. He’s a prime example of someone who’s worked his way up. At 15, Marvin tried to become a waiter at McDonald’s after moonlighting as a mascot for Shakey’s.

He was rejected, however, due to his “being too young.” Instead of giving up, he applied in other food establishments and later got accepted at Tia Maria’s where he became the youngest regular employee.

Not without skipping the funny challenge of being a dancing waiter, he moved up to become Tia Maria Alabang Branch’s local marketing person. It was also what solidified his determination to get into the food service industry.The opportunities kept coming and Marvin just kept on moving forward.

There was the Mister Donut deal, for which he became the endorser and even received a franchise; then there was the family business that dishes out different flavors of rice. And then the offer from one of his friends, the owner of Oyster Boy, to be one of its investors.

It was then that Marvin decided it was finally time to start his own business. Thus, he came up with Sumo Sam. And here he proved himself as a keen entrepreneur – from his main motivation for a Japanese restaurant, which came from his assessment that there were no other restaurants in the area; to the innovative idea of serving not just authentic Japanese cuisine, but also including interpretations of Japanese food from key cities of the world such as Paris in the menu; and to his hands-on manner in managing the business – Marvin has done it all.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Judy Ann Santos in her ventures. But as her experience will demonstrate, nobody should ever let disappointments hinder the desire to thrive.

Fresh from a previous partnership gone awry, Judy Ann wasn’t about to give up on her vision of a good business.

So in 2001, after finding the right location, she set up Kaffe Carabana – a rather unconventional bar that welcomed guests in shorts and slippers on condition that they don’t start a brawl.Intent on making Carabana an extension of the customers’ homes, Judy Ann takes pride in it being a safe spot to party. People from all walks of life are welcome to come and enjoy themselves.

What’s more, it has also become an extension of her own home – she sometimes goes straight to Carabana right after her shoots for her TV shows or films. Something worthy of emulation by other aspiring entrepreneurs is Judy Ann’s budgeting sense.

Following the initial concept of Carabana as a shabby chic-type resto, Judy Ann was able to set up her bar without spending too much. Decorated with plush couches, cozy low tables, hand-sewn throw pillows and even a tree house, it’s a venture that proves that capital isn’t everything.Indeed, the glamour on stage isn’t enough to sustain a star’s glimmer. There’s always good food to make them even brighter.

The successful business ventures of Pilita Corales, Dingdong Dantes, Cesar Montano, Marvin Agustin and Judy Ann Santos are just five of the many inspiring accounts included in Go Negosyo: Joey Concepcion’s 50 Inspiring Entrepreneurial Stories (Celebrity Edition) published by The Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE).

This book, conceptualized by Presidential Consultant for Entrepreneurship Jose Concepcion III, features real-life experiences of celebrity entrepreneurs, colorful portraits by celebrity photographer Jun de Leon, and lessons on entrepreneurship from PCE Trustee and Entrepreneurs School of Asia founder Vivienne Tan.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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