MAKING scents akin to signature perfumes, Aficionado has paved the way for the general populace to enjoy luxurious fragrances at a not-too-luxurious price. With just a few bucks, people can now sport scents similar to those of Ralph Lauren and Polo Sport. A big hit with wise-spending pinoys, Aficionado is actually the “scent-illating” achievement of a brilliant Thomasian entrepreneur, Joel Cruz.

Although he graduated from the College of Science in 1986 with a degree in Psychology, Cruz had always wanted to be a businessman despite his mother’s prodding for him to pursue medicine.

“When I reached my fourth year, I realized my calling was in business,” Cruz said.

Just a year after graduation, inspired by his parents’ chairs-and-tables-for-rent business, he put up Joel Cruz Enterprise, a garments firm. His clients included Rustan’s, Shoemart, Landmark and Robinson’s.

But when the Philippines joined the World Trade Organization and tariffs were reduced and abolished, cheaper garments from China and Thailand flooded the country. Unable to compete, many local companies closed down, like Cruz’s.

Little did Cruz know that the incident would be a boom rather than a bust because it would lead him to put up Aficionado.

Smell of Success

Two years after his company closed down, Cruz was shown by his friend the latter’s concocted scents. Enamored by the pleasant smell of the perfumes, Cruz decided to put up a new business—making and selling perfumes.

In 1999, with around P50,000 for capital and with just five employees, he opened his perfumery which he first named “Affirmative”. He first set up shop at his mom’s home in Sampaloc.

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With Cruz’s patience and love for the job, the perfume brand expanded and began to be carried by major department stores and shopping malls.

With business booming, Cruz transferred his company to a bigger office—a five-floor building in Sampaloc, Manila.

By 2001, his business grew from a single proprietorship to a corporation. Along with coming up with a new name for his company, Central Affirmative Company Inc., Cruz changed the brand name of his scent line to Aficionado Germany Perfumes. Although the brand name denotes that it came from Germany, Aficionado is purely local.

“Because we get our raw materials from Germany, I used the country’s name to add some flair in the brand name,” he said.

Among Aficionado’s array of wonder whiffs are bath and body sprays, kid’s colognes, and eau de toilettes. Targeting mostly teenagers and young adults, the Aficionado eau de toilette line boasts of 69 scents available at prices ranging from P85 to P190. Kid’s colognes and bath and body sprays are priced at P36 and P37, respectively.

Aficionado has received awards from the National Shopper’s Choice Awards, the Philippine Best Excellence Awards, the People’s Brand Awards, and the Asian Star Brand Awards.

Aficionado now has 169 stores, 257 kiosks, and 54 franchised stalls in the country. To adapt to the ever-expanding market, Cruz has opened a new manufacturing plant in Meycauayan, Bulacan. Going global, Cruz has opened two outlets at SM Xiamen and Jinjiang in China.

Aside from perfumery, Cruz has also ventured back to his “first love”—garments.

“My passion for clothing has not waned despite what happened to my garments business. Right now, we have eight boutiques and are still expanding,” Cruz said.

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As for the way he deals with franchisers and business affiliates, Cruz owes this to concepts he learned in Psychology.

“I use psychology in terms of understanding people and on sensing their personality. I can sense if a person would be good to deal with or not, and it really helps me a lot,” Cruz said.

With his early years of formation spent in the University, Cruz, who studied at UST from elementary to college, considers his Thomasian education a vital ingredient in business.

“I always teach my employees to start and end work with a prayer,” Cruz said.

With all the success he is experiencing, Cruz owes his ascent to the business crest to one simple equation: a large dose of dream and a hefty helping of hard work and fervent prayers. True enough, this formula has not failed him.


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