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Community Spotlight: Kiddo Cosio of El Union Coffee

Jun 19, 2018 9:00:00 AM

City-dwellers and tourists flock to San Juan, La Union not just to ride the perfect wave, but also to visit its bustling community of specialty cafes and restaurants. One of the most recommended spots in the area is El Union Coffee, whose stylish interiors, perfectly poured lattes, s’mores, and grilled cheeses often find their way to our Instagram feeds.

El Union Coffee is led by Kiddo Cosio, who’s living the millennial traveler’s dream of moving closer to the beach — allowing him to see Elyu’s scenic sunset daily and play with his kids while managing a thriving coffee company with his wife, Amy.

We talked to Kiddo about the humble beginnings of El Union and how a digital finance tool like PayMaya helps both his business and customers.  

PayMaya: What’s the story behind El Union?

Kiddo: If you’re to distill it in a statement, it’s “business or coffee in the service of humans.” That’s the root of our coffee company. We started it to live a more human life, not to live at the mercy of our routines, but rather to let our routines serve us. That’s why we moved to La Union and started a tiny coffee shop.

As it turns out, that story resounds to people. A man’s search for meaning, right? Looking for a bit more depth in your life and a bit more balance. That’s where our story is rooted and what has attracted our crew, our staff. They’re birds of the same feather and they understand what we’re about. That’s how we’re able to share it with a broad audience, because people connect with the storytelling of that single statement.

PayMaya: How long has El Union been running?

Kiddo: We’re on Year 5 now. This October we’ll celebrate our fifth anniversary. We opened, I think, a week or two before our friends at Flotsam.

 “We started it to live a more human life, not to live at the mercy of our routines, but rather to let our routines serve us.”

PayMaya: What’s the bestselling food at the cafe?

Kiddo: I think we’re best known for the grilled cheese. It’s a random thing. The story behind that is kind of funny. I posted a photo of grilled cheese in our Instagram. I just ran it like it was a personal account before.

El Union’s Grilled Cheese | photo credit: pepper.ph

These college kids showed up and said, “Can we order this?” and showed me their phone.

I said, “Oh, that’s not on the menu.”

They said, “Why would you put in on your Instagram if it’s not on your menu? What kind of person are you?”

“Wow, you guys are pushy…”

“Well, we’re coming back in six weeks. You better have grilled cheese on the menu.”

So I got a piece of chalk and wrote on the board. “What date? June something? Okay, we’ll have grilled cheese.” Then they showed up and it was ready. We never did any planning for it. It just happened but people enjoy it. It’s not a very complicated product but we don’t do shortcuts. We don’t do extenders so it’s all butter, real cheese. We spent hours doing the bacon jam. That’s another ethos of our quality – simple things done really well.

 “That’s another ethos of our quality – simple things done really well.”

 

PayMaya: What were your challenges and milestones?

Kiddo: I think we came around a bit early for the market of specialty food in La Union. There were no other specialty coffee shops that we knew of. Even now, there may only be 3 or 4 other players in town at the moment. The natural challenge is being just ahead of the curve, the bleeding edge. You have to carry the business through.

photo from elunioncoffee.com

There was one day in our history where we sold zero coffees. There were quite a few days where we sold two coffees. But we held on to make it to the weekend because we knew that the traveler market would show up and buy maybe 50 coffees, which was big at the time. On a day like today, that’s going to happen in like half an hour. We’ve come far.

PayMaya: Yes, even your store looks different from way back.

Kiddo: Yes, it was about 10 square meters and six chairs, and we struggled to keep that afloat but we just kept on. That’s one of our challenges – business. I was never in the coffee business before but we were able to grow to a point where my partner, Sly, one of the pioneers of third wave coffee, joined our team two years ago. We’ve also scaled to the level that we are now.

 “The natural challenge is being just ahead of the curve, the bleeding edge.”

 

PayMaya: How did you hear about our brand?

Kiddo: The PayMaya guys came around our neighborhood and wanted to work together. One of our crew said he downloaded the app a long time ago, maybe in one of the earlier iterations of the product.

I’ve heard of it in the air every once in a while but I really understood what it was when PayMaya came here and engaged us to partner.

 PayMaya: How is your experience so far with PayMaya QR?

Kiddo: What I like about it is that it gives us another opportunity as merchants to upsell and to give people another option to fulfill their payment. With the credit card terminal as well, it gives you another chance to say, “it’s okay, we have PayMaya.”

As a neighborhood, I can see how it could ease a lot of challenges for a community where bank account penetration is not very high. You can pay using your phone, you can load it in the store. To be candid, we’ve encountered a few road bumps along the way. But I think that once it’s running smoothly, it could be a formidable tool for business people.

 

“With the credit card terminal as well, it gives you another chance to say, ‘It’s okay, we have PayMaya.'”

 

PayMaya: What are the advantages of PayMaya QR for you as a business owner in La Union?

Kiddo: I think it’s too early to tell. I’m a big believer in zooming out and seeing its effect over time and gaining insight through statistics. Let’s see how it unfolds.

I came from the world of technology as well before, from the marketing side of technology. I keep track of great new ideas that are coming out the world of tech. I try to be optimistic about things and I do see the benefit in it. As we zoom out, we’re going to see what effect it will have on our business.

PayMaya: How does PayMaya QR help locals and tourists in surf town?

Kiddo: One is that you don’t have to carry cash. At the beach, everyone is attached to their phones. I guess it gives you one less thing to worry about. Now I just have to think about my cellphone. If you have the card with you, then you just have to think about that and stick it to your phone.

It resonates to the audience just how expansive the offering is. That’s something I didn’t realize off the bat until a friend told me like, “Hey, check this out! I’m traveling and I just loaded my phone and left my card at home with my crew. So if they need to pay for something, you can easily transfer it.” So I realized the potential of the platform and how sophisticated it can be.

 

Experience the ease of paying with just a few taps on your smartphone at surf town! Learn more about PayMaya QR here: www.offers.paymaya.com/qr


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Topics:Features