For entrepreneurs Aldrian Villegas and Geli Paras, it always starts with a lightbulb moment in formulating exceptional ideas that move forward one step ahead. Aldrian and Geli, who both studied college in Manila, decided to bring a new flavor and add some zest to Cagayan de Oro, thus the beginning of Sweet Leaf Bubble Tea — a tea house which currently holds branches in Pabayo Chaves Sts., one in Dahilayan Adventure Park and another in Lifestyle District. A certified crowd favorite because of its authentic tea and cozy interiors, truly Sweet Leaf has gone far. 

Photo by Fourth Legara
But like all wild ideas follows another one. According to Aldrian, they have initially envisioned something that resembles like boutique apartments and functions the same way as  Airbnb (Air Bed and Breakfast), a service which allows property owners to let travelers have a place to stay in. Since it needed more planning and capital, they detached from the original plan, took a detour and pushed through with the primary goal of offering service this time around and especially, veer themselves away from the usual food & beverage type of business — the birth of the city’s newly opened co-working space The New Office

“Was CdeO really ready for this?” Geli remembers asking herself, admitting that both of them have had uncertainties in building a co-working space, which seemingly everyone was not closely familiar with.

Photo by Fourth Legara
Photo by Fourth Legara
As someone who also hustles as a freelance graphic designer, Geli too saw the beauty of having a place where she can comfortably stay in without having to worry about other people getting to see what she was working on. With fast internet connection, unlimited gadget plugging, printing services and brewed coffee, there is no way work isn’t done. The New Office also hopes to attract freelancers who are based at home. 

“Sometimes when you’re working [at home], it burns you out.” Geli adds, emphasizing that it’s pleasant to have a different kind of view once in a while. Located at the bustling streets of Corrales Avenue, one can easily pinpoint and enter the co-working space situated just right above Coffee Quarters, a coffee shop Geli and Aldrian put up for people to spend their lazy afternoons unwinding, sipping a cup of latte. 

Far from Sweet Leaf’s darling and feminine features, the co-working space and coffee shop’s look focuses more on neutral colors, minimal, less elaborate and professional-looking design without having to compromise its “Instagrammable” factor, an inspiration they had pieced together from their travels abroad. 

Photo by Fourth Legara
Photo by Fourth Legara
Photo by Fourth Legara
Being the minds behind it all, it is without a doubt that Aldrian and Geli both have different qualities, strengths, and weaknesses that contributed most to their success. Geli thinks outside of the usual, takes care of design and marketing, while Aldrian oversees construction as well as ensuring that work is properly done. “I think of an idea and make sure it really happens.” Aldrian proudly says. They are somewhat opposites, an offset of each other’s own personalities.  According to Geli, Aldrian breaks rules while she practically follows them but despite all of it, somehow, having the same tastes, it just clicks.

Geli and Aldrian especially reaches out to young entrepreneurs encouraging them to be original, to widen their horizon, continuously learn as time passes and look at things at a fresher perspective. The key, as they say is to have a bright idea — a special one — that must not be thrown away. 


Like us, they only have high hopes for The New Office and Coffee Quarters, crossing fingers that it would go miles; holding on to the  dream of seeing it flourish someday in putting together a community that works together, magnifying start-ups and small entrepreneurs everywhere.

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