Before we start the interview, Milka Romero clarifies that the success of Roku, her family’s Japanese restaurant along Katipunan, doesn’t just rest on her shoulders. It is a team effort.
She considers this Quezon City venture bonding time with her mother.
“The reason I opened this restaurant is because my mom and I love to travel. We also love Japanese food,” the management economics undergrad says. “I guess during that time, we were traveling a lot. We went to Japan, and later decided to open a restaurant.”
The young business wunderkind admits that starting her resto wasn’t a cakewalk. She handles the PR, marketing and product development of Roku’s dishes.
One of the stellar food options at the store is Tuna Spicy Rollboat, a contemporary take on sushi. It has a nice kick of spiciness that doesn’t grate on
the throat. Its Yakitori platter sets are perfect for students.
“It was such a challenge. While we were eating, we thought, ‘What are the ingredients of this? Let’s make our own,’” Milka recalls how she and her mom developed the Roku concept.
She had fun working with her mom.
This young woman is not overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of celebrity clientele. Her dream clients would be the Japanese people themselves. Getting their approval for Roku’s dishes was the criterion for success.
“It’s the best compliment we can get because they know the cuisine. To get Japanese people to try it, that’s a good sign,” she says.
This 20-year-old Atenean has confidence and a strong vision. She is a go-getter, setting up a business at an age when most yuppies are still afraid to do so. This self-confidence might intimidate some people, but it also helps her filter out who can be her strong allies in the future, when she plants both feet in the business world.
Milka isn’t a nerdy business type. She is co-captain of the Ateneo football team. This is her last year with the varsity team, and she considers this her season to dominate in sports. “Ateneo is doing well. We really improved since my rookie year. We’ve seen our team mature. Right now our standing is pretty good,” she says.
Football is Milka’s other passion. “I’ve been playing for 10 years. And it has taught me many things outside the field, like discipline, which I’m able to use in school and work.”
She admits that being enrolled in marketing and business while running a business helps her with Roku’s creative direction. “It’s good because I get to practice whatever I learned,” she says.
Even her batchmates tease her about having a decent start-up with a good location, compared to her peers who start with just tables and chairs. She knows that she is fortunate to have
parents who fully support her business decisions.
When I walked into her restaurant, I saw Milka taking orders and greeting every customer. “The hardest part is not sleeping,” she says in jest. But at the end of the day, she knows her efforts are worth it.
“You don’t feel tired because you want things to be done. You want to finish it. You want to give your 100 percent. The hardest thing would probably be always wanting everything to be perfect, because it’s an extension of yourself.”