by Jean S. Resurreccion, DTI-Laguna Negosyo Center Cabuyao City
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Where It All Started
Everything started in 2015. When Mia lost her job, she made a decision that would change her life forever.
Losing her job gave her the nightmare that she might not be able to support her child without an adequate income. However, it made her realize that this was the path that God had chosen for her. Cooking and baking always captivated and enthralled her. These two had a way to relieve her stress and allow her to say loud and proud that she enjoys what she does. Her cell group leader and colleagues gave her a simple mixer as a farewell gift on her last day and this gift served as her sign to finally start something she’s always wanted: her own baking business.
She decided to take steps to pursue her love of baking. She mustered the courage to place a to-go snack in front of her humble abode. She began selling her homemade siomai as well as buy one, get one burger and sandwiches. When her business began to grow, she decided to enroll in a baking school.
“Mia,” her nickname, should be her primary business name. However, because everyone she knows kept referring to her by the name “Mama Mia,” she decided to adopt the name and thus “Mama Mia’s Sweet Delight” was born.
She describes herself as a loving mother who is compassionate in doing what she enjoys.
Despite the difficulties she faces, she will never regret her decision to start her own business. “It was the best decision she could have made.”
Made With Love
Mama Mia’s Sweet Delights caters to health-conscious individuals who want to enjoy pastries without worrying about their health, giving her products a distinct value proposition. Her famous baked goods include brownies, banana bread, and crinkles. She also supports co-local farmers and producers by incorporating their products into her recipes, such as tablea, ground coffee, bananas, squash, and calamansi. Mia is meticulous in selecting her raw materials that are low in sugar and made of high-quality, natural ingredients.
Challenges and Difficulties
In starting her own business, one of the challenges she had faced as a start-up was building brand awareness and attracting customers. Since she is not a techy person, she is having a hard time marketing her products and developing a strong online presence through the use of social media platforms for her to reach a wider audience. Additionally, managing cash flow and ensuring that the business is profitable is a daunting task for her who is starting out with just limited knowledge of it. Moreover, navigating the legal and regulatory requirements of starting is also an overwhelming task for her as a new entrepreneur.
It is important for Mia to have a solid business plan in place to help her mitigate these challenges and increase her chances of success. Though she struggles, she made sure to find a way to overcome this, and that is why seeking guidance and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs or business coaches also became a valuable resource for her. Furthermore, the constantly evolving market and industry trends require her business to be adaptable and innovative in its strategies to stay competitive and succeed in the long run. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges early on, Mia believes that she can position herself for success and growth in the long term.
For her, starting a business requires perseverance and dedication to overcome the challenges that arise along the way.
A Mompreneur Meets DTI
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provides support to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by offering various programs and services such as training, consultancy, financing assistance, and market development. These initiatives aim to improve the competitiveness of MSMEs, increase their productivity and profitability, and ultimately contribute to the overall growth and development of the Philippine economy.
One of the most notable programs under DTI is the establishment of Negosyo Centers all over the country which serve as a one-stop shop for MSMEs. These Negosyo Centers offer services such as business registration assistance, product development and testing, business advisory services, and access to financing programs and market linkages. These services are provided free of charge, making it more accessible for MSMEs to avail of the resources they need to start or expand their businesses.
With the help of the Negosyo Center Cabuyao City, Mia was guided in applying her business to DTI and other legal and regulatory requirements that she needed to acquire. The center has provided her with one-on-one coaching sessions to help her hone her skills and assist her in various aspects of business that she is concerned about, such as building her brand, attracting customers, and developing a business plan.
Mia then took part in DTI Laguna’s SMERA (Small Medium Enterprise Roving Academy) program, through Negosyo Center Cabuyao City. It is a continuous learning program designed to help MSMEs become more competitive in domestic and international markets. These seminars consist of various business modules tailored to the needs of business entrepreneurs across seven learning stages: startup and capability building, market awareness, market readiness, export readiness, export market entry, export sustainability, and export expansion.
Eventually, in 2019, she was selected as one of the mentees under the KMME Program (Kapatid Mentor ME Program). This is a 10-module mentorship program that optimizes weekly face-to-face interactions between the mentors and the mentees with the key goal of boosting the entrepreneurial capacity through improved access to mentorship, money and market. Through this, she was able to accelerate her personal and professional skills as an entrepreneur and was able to improve her competitiveness and innovation.
At the height of her learning, an unfortunate event occurred and that was when Covid19 hits the world. A total lockdown was implemented. People were forced to stay in their houses and many entrepreneurs shut their businesses. The pandemic has changed how people work, learn and interact as social distancing guidelines have led to a more virtual existence, both personally and professionally.
Maintaining a business in the midst of a pandemic was extremely difficult for Mia. It was difficult for her to obtain her primary ingredients during the first few weeks of the pandemic because transactions were restricted. Small business owners like her struggled to make ends meet.
Getting Back on the Feet
However, for her, the pandemic was the ideal time to learn and create new products based on what was available, so she came up with the idea of new banana bread variants such as the Banana-Squash and Tsoko Banana Bread. Being confined was not so bad because it gave her more time to spend with her family and it also gave her a chance to become innovative and create whatever was available. It also gave her the opportunity to share her baked goods with the local barangay, police, and medical personnel.
After the pandemic has subsided, Mia joined the OTOP Next Gen Program (One Town One Product) in the mid of 2020. Despite the pandemic, she never gets tired of learning new things to improve herself, thus turning this unfortunate situation into an opportunity. The OTOP Next Gen Program enables localities and communities to determine, develop, support, and promote products or services that are rooted in their local culture, community resource, creativity, connection, and competitive advantage. As their own ‘pride-of-place,’ these are offerings where they can be the best at or best renowned for. It endeavors to capacitate ‘OTOPreneurs’ to innovate and produce market-ready products and services.
Through the OTOP Next Gen Program, Mia was able to level up the quality of her products. In addition to this, she was able to broaden her horizon to come up with new or better offerings with significant improvement and innovation in product development, design, packaging, standards compliance, marketability, production capability, brand development, among others.
After completing these vital programs, Mia started to join several trade fairs and exhibitions. With the learnings and skills that she acquired, she challenged herself and tried to move out of her comfort zone. She was able to participate in numerous local and national food trades and bazaars from 2019 to 2022. Venues include but not limited to Cabuyao Municipality Food Bazaars, University of the Los Baños, Festival Mall in Alabang, World Trade Center and SMX Convention Center in Pasay, Ayala Malls Solenad, and SM City Santa Rosa and SM Megamall.
Eventually, Mama Mia’s Sweet Delights tried to apply as a supplier at one OTOP Hub in Laguna and was approved to be one. Now, she is presently a supplier at not just one OTOP Hub but at two — Enchanted Kingdom OTOP Hub and UPLB OTOB hub — with one of her carrier products, Calamansi Crinkles.
One True Love
Business is an unforgiving field that can be harsh on those who do not have the drive to succeed. It can be challenging to land a position in this field if you don’t have the right qualifications, and you will need to put in a lot of effort if you want to make it in this tough industry. For Mia, being passionate about your work will help you to stay motivated and achieve success in your career, but it is not always enough to succeed. As she said, “love what you do and follow your heart; don’t be afraid to be learned from and be mentored by those who have already achieved success. They too have experienced hardships and failures before reaching the success they have. Continue to pursue learning and pieces of training. If it is your one true love, you will never get tired of nurturing it.” -#-