I ALWAYS WANT TO PUSH the envelope. I never want to stay safe.” That’s the mantra of local businesswoman and self-proclaimed risk-taker Rubyjane Buhain-Redila.
The entrepreneur explained that she has always thought outside of the box, which might have resulted in some failures, but has also been a major part of her success.
Rubyjane is the president of John B’s Mart, a family business with humble beginnings. Her parents, John and Thea Buhain, opened the first John B’s, a small supermarket in NCS, Dededo in 2003. “Initially, my mom just wanted something simple, kind of a mom and pop store” she explained.
John B’s Mart was well received by island residents who came in search of fresh local produce, Filipino goods, and delicacies. Over the years the supermarket flourished and laid the groundwork for bigger things to come.
In 2009 the family opened a second store in Yigo, but the sudden turn of John Buhain’s health would bring on big changes. “Unfortunately, my dad had some heart problems, and we felt selling the Yigo store was the best decision,” Rubyjane said. When John retired, Rubyjane and her husband Mark took over.
They opened a Tamuning location in December 2016. Rubyjane was interested in the niche market, and bringing in more goods from the Philippines in addition to the store’s general merchandise. “I took over from Dad, but ever since I was in high school I’ve always had that entrepreneurial itch,” she said.
Rubyjane graduated from the University of Guam with a degree in Business Administration. After leaving the island for the mainland U.S., the urge to start a business followed her. “I was living in Vegas, and I had few resources, no savings, but here, I am very gutsy, thinking, ‘Let me open a coffee shop’ even though I had no experience in the restaurant business,” Rubyjane remembered with a laugh.
She wrote a detailed business proposal, and although her plans never materialized in Las Vegas, the perfect opportunity came along when she returned home in 2008. “When I moved back, I saw the Java Hut advertised in the newspaper,” she recalled. Initially, she was skeptical about buying the coffee shop, but after studying the market and the area, she made the decision, overhauled the menu, renovated the space, and revamped operations.
“Slowly but surely, it turned around. We really opened it up to the local community to express themselves through music and poetry and artists,” she explained. “I felt like my opportunity could be used as an opportunity to help others.”
Rubyjane sold the Java Hut when she opened the Tamuning John B’s, but maintains a stake in the business. But there’s more to her than just being business savvy. She is also an avid painter, screenwriter, and stage actress.
Painting has always been in her blood. She often won prizes for her artwork as a child, and continued the hobby in high school. She put painting on hold in college until a friend and local artist encouraged her to get back into it.
“I never really took it seriously until a friend of mine gifted me [with] a set of brushes and some paint, and told me to start again,” Rubyjane said. “She gave me a deadline and said, ‘Here, finish at least two pieces for this art show.’”
Rubyjane submitted her work to the Annual Women’s Art Exhibit by Nissan. One of the pieces, a painting of her daughter and son, was particularly personal to her. “For someone who didn’t have a whole lot of background in art, it got some good feedback,” she said, smiling.
In 2014 she wrote her first screenplay, Madam, a story about a Guam senator doubling as the leader of an underground sex labor trade. She teamed up with local cinematographer Alan Certeza and director Brian Muña to turn her story into a short film that was featured at the 2015 Guam International Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Made in the Marianas.
While fictional, the film touched on very real issues and highlighted violence against women and human sex trafficking. Rubyjane not only wrote the screenplay, she also played the lead role of Madam. But the sinister theme of the film led her into a period of depression. “The character was very dark in nature. I didn’t realize that I was so engrossed in the character that it kind of overtook me,” she revealed. “I was so deeply immersed in her story, and it stayed for a long time.”
"I was living in Vegas, and I had few resources, no savings, but here, I am very gutsy, thinking, 'Let me open a coffee shop' even though I had no experience in the restaurant business."
She eventually began painting again as a form of release. “It was my outlet, and before I knew it, I painted 15 pieces in a few weeks,” she said. “Everything I felt transferred to the paintings.” The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency featured her work in a show titled Solace. Rubyjane used it as a means to raise awareness to violence against women and human sex trafficking.
Outside of her creative and business endeavors, Rubyjane is a devoted mother and wife. She and husband Mark take turns picking up their children from school, and help each other balance the responsibilities of parenting. “2011 was the craziest year,” she said. “I was in the middle of opening a coffee shop, I was opening a daycare with a partner, I was even opening a restaurant called Little Adobo right by John B’s, but I spread myself too thin.”
Rubyjane continued, “I regret [the restaurant failure] because I know my family was affected,” she said. “But I’ve definitely learned, my kids are my number one, my family is priority.”
With more projects on the horizon and an arsenal of trade secrets, Rubyjane is a modern day renaissance woman. She is a proud Filipina with strong Guamanian roots who strives for nothing short of the best.
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