Spud to shrimp: Jorge Wieneke’s entrepreneurial journey with SM
From left to right: Father and son Jorge Noel and Jorge Miguel Wieneke pose side-by-side as co-founders of Japanese food-inspired store Tokyo Tempura
Tokyo Tempura’s journey of growth, advocacy, and partnership empowered by SM began with a simple idea that eventually scaled to over 100 stores in just a few years. Its originator, Mr. Jorge Wieneke, one of the co-founders of Potato Corner, shares insights into the Tokyo Tempura brand’s beginnings.
“It all started in 2012. I embraced my next chapter and got into teaching,” said Mr. Wieneke.
Life after Potato Corner saw Mr. Wieneke transition into teaching. He became a faculty member for the Ateneo Center for Continuing Education (CCE) with programs under retail diploma, restaurant management, and retail site selection.
“I wanted to share what I’ve learned in creating a unique concept and inspire one’s life through entrepreneurship felt like an advocacy that I wanted to pursue,” he added.
The idea about Tokyo Tempura sizzled during a visit to a buffet station when he saw people lining up for it. Realizing access to this Japanese dish wasn’t cheap, his new concept has a goal: to democratize tempura to those who can’t simply just have it every day and make it more affordable to people.
“Luckily, SM really values their tenants, especially those na lumaki sa kanila,” Mr. Wieneke said. “This is the second time that they supported a concept coming from me. And of course, just like how supportive SM was in 1992, they were still there to provide a space for us.”
(Luckily, SM really values their tenants that grew with them.)
In an interview with Mr. Wieneke, he shared how SM is very involved with its tenants.
“Laking SM ako. I can even name all the entrances and exits in Megamall,” he said in jest. “In all seriousness, you can even hear it today in Steven Tan’s speeches [President of SM Supermalls]. Especially if you are an MSME in partnership with SM—you can feel their support. I was once that MSME. Yes, there are challenges, saan bang wala, but you will grow with them.”
(I grew up with SM. Yes, there are challenges, but you won’t find a place where there is none.)
True to this cause is SM Supermalls, which has over 20,000 tenants across 85 malls. And as of the end of 2022, 68% of its mall tenants all belong to the MSME sector.
Together with his son, Mr. Jorge Miguel Wieneke IV, they co-founded Tokyo Tempura, opening their first store in SM in SM Fairview back in 2014.
The partnership with SM over two decades ago has even crossed over to the next generation.
As one of the Board Directors of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. (AFFI), Mr. Jorge Miguel collaborated with the Group to launch the AFFI Spaces X SM Supermalls. The project allows members to present pitches to SM, do some food sampling, and get awarded spaces.
Mr. Wieneke IV hopes the project continues to give opportunities to other aspiring entrepreneurs just like one of the partners in this project, Buffalo Avenue, which was able to open in SM Southmall.
“We champion the notion that once you’re in SM, you’ve made it,” said Mr. Jorge Miguel. “This is exactly what we feel, because SM is very supportive of MSMEs.”