From a nine to five to acquiring a taste of the unconventional, the young COO of Illo’s Group already knows where his own journey to gourmet food will take them
As one of the few businesses that found success in ghost kitchens, Illo’s Party Trays’ growth was rapid with patrons, including big-name celebrities and socialites, creating so much buzz about their hearty and sumptuous meals. As the demand for their delectable concoctions grew, the duo of Chef N Rovillos and Anne Rovillos needed an extra pair of hands to manage its day-to-day operations.
Enter Mark Anthony Agapito. The jump from conventional to an off-beat path was a risk he was happy to take all in the name of his close-knit friendship with the business’ founders. In no time, his journey into nouvelle cuisine has whipped him into shape to become a splendiferous COO of the Illo’s Group.
Taking guts with so much gusto
No one, not even Maq, as his peers would call him, knew that the promise he made to his then-colleagues, Chef N and Anne Rovillos, would have a surprising impact on the trajectory of his life. The trio that make up the core of the sought-after gourmet food, Illo’s Party Trays and Illo’s Home, were once associates in a real estate company. Thriving in the world of sales and marketing, the three of them worked in perfect harmony and eventually grew to become really good friends.
When the couple left the company to pursue their own ventures, Maq’s parting words to his long-time friends were something he fervently thought about. “Eventually, we went our separate ways. We had to do our own thing that time. But I made a promise to them, ‘Come the time you would be needing my help, I will be there,’” recalls Agapito.
Soon after, Maq forged his path into becoming a competent business development head focusing on International Marketing at Megaworld Corporation. In seven years, the very determined business wiz was jet-setting from one country to another. At times, he’d be trotting around different foreign cities for most of the year and developed a taste for different kinds of local delicacies and a deeper appreciation for world culture.
Fast forward to the uncertainty of the pandemic, the globetrotting marketing pro couldn’t shake off the gut feeling he had about the possibility of reconnecting and working again with his long-time friends. Illo’s Party Trays was slowly making a mark in the food delivery circuit through its gourmet party trays and with its expansion, the budding food business needed more people on board.
“When I knew that I was needed, I was the one who triggered the signal. I knew that was the right time. Despite the uncertainty, I was willing to go on board. I remembered my promise to them.”
Never hesitating to jump where the action is
Only armed with his purpose of helping out his good friends, the newly-minted COO jumped into action right away from growing the Illo’s range by reimagining their well-loved food into a full-on dining experience.
Even without any experience in the comings and goings in the realm of food and restaurant management, Maq converted his corporate expertise into a palatable undertaking. He shares, “I took the opportunity of converting my experiences in my corporate job and synthesizing that into something I would want our own business to have. It’s still a work in progress. I still have a lot of things to know and improve on in running our business.”
Though he describes himself as a very chill individual, Maq is undeniably a risk-taker. The prospect of creating something new was too hard to pass up even with an already-established career in marketing.
As evident in the various career paths he has taken in the past, being a dynamo has done wonders to being a master of multiple skill sets, albeit, one at a time. From being a program researcher in GMA Network to being a communications trainer in two institutions to mastering international marketing in Megaworld Corporation, the young COO attributes these choices to solidifying his now-remarkable position.
“All of these things I have done might seem like they are poles apart but when I look at it, I just try to make the most of the situation. What’s important to me is to hone a particular competency regardless of any situation. These competencies I learned, no matter how random, are lessons I can apply in my line of work now,” shares Agapito.
A vision for his dream team
More than a year into joining Illo’s Group, Maq already felt that he is comfortably right at home. Along with the founding pair of the restaurant group, Chef N and marketing maven, Anne Rovillos, and their now-120-strong staff and personnel, the Illo’s boss affirms that he is already a part of his dream team.
One of the core values of the beloved gourmet food establishment that Maq would often boast about is their company’s drive and desire to help people.
At the height of the pandemic with stay-at-home orders in place, they managed to slowly but surely add new members to the company’s original team of four. Considering how the pandemic was twice as taxing to an already anguished food industry, Illo’s Group knew how to foster their people working behind the scenes by prioritizing their employees’ mental health. “We are very employee-centric. If we take care of our employees, we know, definitely, they will take care of our clients.”
As a way to nurture their growing staff’s overall well-being, the company would host relaxation and recreational activities about five to six times a year to assuage the team’s fast-paced and high-stress work environment. These excursions are also well-documented on their official YouTube channel.
Motivating the Illo’s team is what also excites Maq in their day-to-day activities. It’s also something that is truly up his lane. “What excites me is that it is the prospect of knowing that the people behind Illo’s Group have a dream for themselves, and that’s true. It’s not because I want to be inspirational or whatsoever, but we push ourselves everyday knowing that we have shared dreams and we remain grounded in that core,” shares the driven COO.
As the homegrown Filipino brand’s popularity is growing by the day, plans to expand with newer locations and concepts are set in motion. But if Maq were to spearhead an Illo’s project beyond the food domain, he’s eager to set up a foundation one day where they could further expand the scholarships they currently offer to their employees.
“I get happy because all of their hard work and the way they project themselves to their family and to the people who believe in them, and the dreams they have for themselves are being reached. Their dreams are valid.”