As soon as he landed in the Philippines from Macau, where he coached the iECO Green Warriors in the Asia League’s The Terrific 12, Ariel Vanguardia headed straight to Banawe, Quezon City, which is far from his Pasig City residence.
That was September 21 – two days earlier than the Terrific 12’s final day. Vanguardia did such just so he could grace the grand opening of Oomori Japanese Cuisine, a resto which he co-owns with long-time business partners.
“Lumagari ako nun,” said Vanguardia with a grin.
Oomori started out as a food stall in Arca Yard Food Park in Valenzuela City. But thanks to the positive feedback it got, owners and siblings Blizzeth and Wilbert Lee decided to make it a full-fledged restaurant.
“They put up one in Valenzuela where they own a food park – sa kanila rin yung food park – and maganda yung response. So pinlano nila na ‘oh coach, were planning to have one in Banawe, baka gusto mo sumali’.
“And sumali ako. So that’s how it started,” the former Phoenix Fuel Masters head coach recalled.
So far, Oomori has been gaining ground. And Vanguardia and his partners are even more delighted as the Return of Investment is projected to come by in eight months – far from their initial projection of two years.
Now, given its progress, Oomori – which offers a wide variety of Japanese food such as sushi, rolls, sashimi, temaki, rice meals and more but isn’t limited to traditional Japanese dishes – is planning to expand.
“We’re planning to expand to more branches and mas hands-on na ako kasi dito medyo malayo sa’kin. Dun naman sa Katipunan, Ortigas where dun yung area ko, and even sa Calamba in Laguna where I’m from,” Vanguardia said.
Long before he managed egos in the locker room, Vanguardia had first been exposed to the corporate world, working as a medical representative for Wyeth in 1994 after graduating with a Business Management degree in De La Salle.
“Nag-work ako dun, kasi may kotse eh,” admitted Vanguardia with a chuckle.
He worked there for two years. And in 1996, Vanguardia had his first taste of managing a business, as he put up a printing press shop and a video rental store at the same time – video rentals were a hit during the 1990s.
“I had a printing press business in 1996. Yun yung first business ko. And I had a video rental store – uso pa nun yung VHS eh. So yun yung very first,” recalled Vanguardia, a member of the Green Archers’ Team B during his college years.
“Pero natigil yun when I coached.”
His business activities stopped when he entered the basketball realms again in 1997, as an assistant coach in College of St. Benilde Blazers. Fortunately for him, though, Vanguardia saw himself back in it several years later.
“Nung 2003 I had an Ice Monster – nag-franchise ako nun. Nasa Talk N Text pa ‘ko nun,” he remembered.
Since then, Vanguardia has been fulfilling duties as a coach and a businessman. Currently, the 45-year-old is co-handling the 20:20 Bar in Makati, and he’s also serving as an agent for iECO, which specializes in waste management.
“Kasi para maging stable ka rin, you have to have a fallback,” reflected Vanguardia.
“Kasi siyempre, coaching, on and off.”
So far, Vanguardia has yet to hold a coaching gig since handling iECO in the Terrific 12. But as much as he loves basketball, Vanguardia also loves what he’s doing right now, though it’s far from his usual work over the past 20 years. He still finds fulfillment in the business world. For him, it is a lot like coaching.
“It’s more on leadership din kasi, kasi you’re handling people eh. Ako gusto ko nakaka-salamuha yung tao, mga customer,” said Vanguardia, who led Westports Malaysia to the ASEAN Basketball League title in 2016.
“It’s fulfilling if you see it growing, ‘pag maganda yung response, maganda yung feedback ng friends and family.”
But more than the profits and the stability it brings him financially, what makes it so rewarding for Vanguardia is the fact that businesses can greatly provide livelihood to many people, not just for its owners.
“Very fulfilling ang business kasi nakaka-tulong ka rin sa tao eh. Nagpo-provide ka ng service, nagpo-provide ka ng livelihood and opportunities,” he said.
“Iba kasi rin ‘pag nakapag-bigay ka ng trabaho sa isang tao eh, kasi yung blessings na binibigay sayo, nae-extend mo pa sa ibang tao,” Vanguardia added.
“Yun yung fulfilling dun sa pagkakaroon ng business.”