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Andre Chanco

Coffee Entrepreneur

Security Bank client since 2015

Andre sipping his first coffee of the day

Andre Chanco believes that coffee is all about relationships. “My past 2 girlfriends—past and current—I met in a coffee shop.”

“I think there’s something to pick up there,” he says jokingly.

It was twelve past eight on a wet Thursday morning as we rounded the corner to Yardstick Coffee. Already visible through the front door, Andre Chanco, co-founder of Yardstick Coffee, was chatting with his staff while dialling in the sport blue La Marzocco Strada.

“I haven’t told the Yardstick story in a while!” Andre exclaims as he sneaks a peek at the interview questions across the table. The 30-year old coffee entrepreneur lights up before getting down to business. “It’s important to stick to the original vision… the why—the reason why you started.”

Later, he expounds: “I always say that we are a coffee company by heart but that we are a hospitality company to begin with,” As we talk, the theme of relationships threads through the discussion. “As a client, I feel that Security Bank is just so relationship-driven, which puts us in the same boat as far as our vision.”

After the interview, Andre agrees to demonstrate how to make a proper cup of pour-over coffee. Before he begins, the former corporate consultant and coffee purveyor wants everyone to know: “Specialty coffee is not about having a fancy place, a cool playlist or expensive machinery; it’s all about having good raw product to begin with.” He tips water from a swan-neck kettle in a slow, circular motions to ensure the coffee grounds soak evenly. Even before the first wave of aroma hits us, it’s clear – Andre understands the importance of not rushing the process.

What did you do before putting up Yardstick?

Later, he expounds: “I always say that we are a coffee company by heart but that we are a hospitality company to begin with,” As we talk, the theme of relationships threads through the discussion. “As a client, I feel that Security Bank is just so relationship-driven, which puts us in the same boat as far as our vision.”

After the interview, Andre agrees to demonstrate how to make a proper cup of pour-over coffee. Before he begins, the former corporate consultant and coffee purveyor wants everyone to know: “Specialty coffee is not about having a fancy place, a cool playlist or expensive machinery; it’s all about having good raw product to begin with.” He tips water from a swan-neck kettle in a slow, circular motions to ensure the coffee grounds soak evenly. Even before the first wave of aroma hits us, it’s clear – Andre understands the importance of not rushing the process.

What made you pursue the coffee business full-time?

I always enjoyed coffee. I left Manila in 2000 when I was 13, 14, when it was all frappuccinos… Travelling and late nights in school started the whole coffee thing for me. But it wasn’t specialty coffee back then…

What really turned me onto coffee was when I walked into a place in Singapore on a weekend that served specialty coffee. I think that was in 2008, 2009. Back then I didn’t know that there was a difference between specialty coffee and commercial coffee. So I walked into the place – it was called Papa Palheta – and had an espresso. It was probably one of the most mind-blowing experiences from a taste perspective. It was coffee but it was not like what I had been drinking… and then it snowballed from there.

What’s the story behind Yardstick? How did it start?

After Papa Palheta, I was like, “Damn, I need to start my own coffee shop.” But I was only a year into living the corporate life. After three years of working, I decided to take a leave of absence for 6 months. On weekends, I would make coffee in that shop that I visited. I asked them, “Oh I’ve been your customer for a long time so on the weekends, can I try to make coffee with you guys?” Just to learn.

Plus I travelled a bit to see what’s out there… when I came back, I said I wanna learn how to roast coffee, because the business then was to roast and supply. That was the grandmaster plan—to roast and supply.

So instead of opening a café café, we just decided to open a supply company to align it with the cafés that were opening during that time. It was a good time to open—not too early but also not too deep in the game. That was in 2014.

What does Yardstick mean and what is it exactly?

The reason why we called the place Yardstick was because we’re trying to set a standard—the yardstick of how coffee should be. My first brief to myself and to my designer friends was that I don’t want a coffee shop. I would see a lot of new cafes when I travel. I would see all the coolest cafes… but with Yardstick, I wanted something different. So during the design phase, I got my favorite cafes, put them on the wall and said let’s not do that because everyone’s gonna be doing that.

When I left my job and told my parents “I want to open [shop] in the Philippines”, my Mom cried in the car.

How hard of a decision was it to leave the stability of your corporate job and venture into a personal business?

What really turned me onto coffee was when I walked into a place in Singapore on a weekend that served specialty coffee. I think that was in 2008, 2009. Back then I didn’t know that there was a difference between specialty coffee and commercial coffee. So I walked into the place – it was called Papa Palheta – and had an espresso. It was probably one of the most mind-blowing experiences from a taste perspective. It was coffee but it was not like what I had been drinking… and then it snowballed from there.

What’s the biggest adjustment you had to make financially when you were starting the business?

You know Elon Musk? He said something like, “I’m gonna eat hotdog or instant noodles from a convenience store every single day. And if I’m able to do it for thirty days straight, then I’m ready to be an entrepreneur.” Uh, so along those lines [laughs].

You told us before that coffee and coffee shops are synonymous with relationships. How does Yardstick translate this to its clients?

I always say that we are a coffee company by heart but that we are a hospitality company to begin with. That’s what we tell people that join our company—it’s not about making coffee. I mean, that’s what we do on a day to day basis but why we do what we do is more important. We’re a hospitality company and it’s about making the guest, client or customer feel happy or welcome.

There are multiple relationships that we try to maintain. The first customers are our own staff and team. Then the next should be our corporate clients and our customers. I’m quite hands on in a way that I try to maintain relationships at all levels.

Do you still find time to do other things outside of Yardstick?

I’m married to Yardstick.

I am married to Yardstick.

When I was reading business blogs and entrepreneurship blogs, they used to say being an entrepreneur is lonely—I get it now. I get it.

I think that it requires a change in mindset that being alone is fine, but also discipline such that if I say “I’ll leave my laptop here”, I’ll leave it and not carry work to bed. Because at night, I’ll say that I’ll leave my laptop, but once I’m on my phone on social media, that’s it, my thoughts run. It’s challenging, but I try–especially when I’m with family.

What other things are you passionate about besides coffee?

I like basketball. I used to play varsity all the way through grade school to university in Singapore—I know I’m not in shape today [laughs], but it’s always been there.

Photography is another creative outlet, and I really enjoy good food. I could eat alone at a restaurant and still enjoy. Most of my travels are dictated by coffee and food.

Are there lessons you’ve applied from your other passions to business or coffee?

Of course! During my years playing in varsity, I was always a point guard for every year, but I was team captain for more than half of the duration. So some of the leadership qualities of leading by example, being vocal—which for me, isn’t really telling people what to do, but more of talking to everyone and getting them involved. The first thing I did today was go around and ask my staff how they’re doing, what’s new and stuff. It doesn’t have to be work related, as much as it is just talking to my guys.

From a business perspective, one of the growing pains of bootstrapping and owning a business is doing everything manually, so we engaged Security Bank for our payroll. It’s so much better.

How has Security Bank helped you in your business?

From a business perspective, one of the growing pains of bootstrapping and owning a business is doing everything manually, so we engaged Security Bank for our payroll. It’s so much better.

The automation and streamlining of the process has been very helpful to our employees. It used to be a lot of paperwork, checks, envelopes or whatever.

What’s good as well–apart from our branch being just around the corner–the relationship managers are always on point. I think that it’s really important to have a financial partner that believes in the same things that you do, and in this case, I found that with Security Bank.

What advice would you give someone planning to put up their own business?

Don’t open! Work for someone or just study again [laughs]. No, no, I’m kidding. Um… I think you need to be selfless about the purpose. Right? So, the purpose of what you’re doing is never about yourself, it’s about something bigger. Look at the bigger picture.

But be selfish about your health and well-being. I think that’s key. In most cases, it’s easy for founders and entrepreneurs to pay themselves less, or to pay themselves when the company makes more money. It’s important to kind of pay yourself whatever is fair, because at the end of the day, you’re investing yourself—you’re putting time and effort into someone that is able to bring value to the business.

If you don’t pay yourself, you run the risk of burning out. Your lifestyle will get affected, your health and well-being will get affected. So, be selfish in that perspective just because it’s good for the business. And the more I’m in it, the more I’m seeing the importance of it.

What’s one value or principle that’s most important to you?

Stick to the original vision and the why—the reason why you started. Sometimes we [Yardstick] get the temptation of wanting to put an ice cream maker in the shop, or get the temptation of hiring a certain person, but if it’s not aligned with the original ‘why,’ it’s tough.

What’s next for Andre?

Next? Uh, so, I’m in the middle of transitioning between spending half my time here and half my time in Singapore—my girlfriend is in Singapore now—and maybe doing something coffee-related in Singapore.

I’m also trying to finish a new shop. You know where Glorietta 2 and Holiday Inn are? Opposite is Ayala Park Terraces–there were a few retail spots there, so we took one spot. But it’s not Yardstick. It’s a different concept.

Photography by Gerard Del Mundo

Like Andre, you can turn your startup dream into reality with Security Bank.

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