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Rise from tragedy, helm a business – Connie Hina

Connie Hina’s daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was robbed, stabbed and left for dead over eight years ago. She survived, and is now baking as part of her therapy. And their biz’s offerings are good, too, now making a splash.

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The formal start of Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner was on June 9, 2020, “when one of our neighbors bought our first banana loaf and other neighbors signified their interest to buy,” Connie Hina said. “We decided to have a formal online launching by creating an FB Page on June 20, 2020.”

The startup capital: PhP1,400.

But prior to this, Connie said they have been sharing samples of their baked goods to neighbors and the gate guards (particularly when they had significant events like birthdays). These goods were a hit, and “we gathered positive feedback on the taste and consistency.”

And given the Covid-19 pandemic, “we realized that demand for food products that can be purchased online increased, especially since baked shops and restaurants are either closed or not operating regularly. We saw this as an opportunity to try the market of ready-to-eat products that can respond to people’s cravings for finely and uniquely delicious baked goods.”

A DEEPER STORY

But what not many may immediately know is that Connie’s family’s venture into this line of business was triggered by a tragic occurrence.

Eight years ago, her daughter, Lordei Camille Anjuli, was a fourth-year UP Diliman B.S Political Science student and active student leader. In the afternoon of the 1st of February 2012, inside the USC Office, Vinzons Hall, UP Diliman – while on volunteer duties for the University Student Council – Lordei was robbed, stabbed seven times in the left side of her head with an ice pick and beaten in the face with a metal object.

“Her assailants pretended to be applicants of a booth for the UP Fair,” Connie said.

The most fatal stab wound was the one that pierced through from the left to the right side of her brain (just like “na-barbecue”); likewise, a skull bone fragment of one centimeter in size got embedded in her brain. Moreover, the beating before the deadly stabbing fractured both of Lordei’s sinuses and nose bridge.

“Worst, the suspect locked the room of the USC Office before he fled, leaving my bloody and unconscious daughter lying on the floor. It took about 30 minutes before my daughter’s companion found a key to open the door, after which, she was rushed to the hospital,” Connie said.

Lordei survived as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) victim. But the double brain injuries impaired Lordei’s memory, speech, cognitive and motor skills.

“It is a miracle that Lordei survived; thank God. She was given a slim chance considering the magnitude of damage to her brain,” Connie said.

Lordei was confined in the hospital for more than three months, with almost a month of being in coma. Afterwards, she could not move her body, eat and talk. After her discharge, she continued with her rehabilitation and therapies at home – i.e. occupational, physical speech, neuro-psychology, etc. – to regain her brain-related functions that had been damaged.

Lordei can already walk, talk and eat on her own at present, but her right arm is still semi-paralyzed, she has memory lapses, and behaving like a child from time to time. Her injured hypothalamus affects her emotion and body temperature.

“Thank God she is not violent like other victims of TBI. She is still under continuous medication and therapies up to this moment,” Connie said.

To engage in a productive activity as part of her therapy based on the advice of her doctor, Lordei started baking.

“The business is also a way to help her augment the cost of her continued medication and therapies. As a single mother, I am the sole breadwinner for my daughter,” Connie said.

INSPIRATIONAL MOVE

Lordei is, of course, the inspiration for this business; but Connie said that her son Carlo, and niece Joyjoy (a nurse by profession) helped push this business forward.

“In fact, at that time when my daughter was stabbed, Carlo was baking her favorite, a blueberry cheesecake. It was still in the oven (when the tragedy happened) and the baking had to be stopped as we rushed to the hospital,” Connie recalled.

Looking back, this seemed like a field they were going to go into.

“My late mother – Nanay Inday Silveria – was an excellent cook. She could blend simple ingredients into something very delicious and palatable. The smile of those who ate her dishes was a reward for her,” Connie said. “It is from her where I learn how to cook and bake simple cakes.”

JUST A START

Connie is still planning to own another business – in agri-business, not baking. “I want to have a self-sufficient and sustainable farm in my home town in Southern Leyte; but come to think of it, the ingredients we used are from the farm – so it is more production or adding value of processed farm products,” she said.

Connie completed Master in Management – major in Development Management in her post graduate degree, and a B.S. in Agricultural Business Management in her college degree in UP Los Baños.

So the business is aligned with her expertise because the concept of management in general, and financial and marketing management, in particular are the same across business types. “So this business is like a laboratory for me – where I can apply practically what I learned from my academic studies and in my work experience as international consultant and trainer on financial inclusion and development management.”

FACING CHALLENGES

“Every business start-up is always faced with challenges in various degree as part of the ‘birth pains’. But so far, we encountered only minimal challenges like taking longer time to book courier for deliveries, non-availability of ingredients, especially now that many people are engaging in baking. There are also customers who want to buy right away, thinking that we have a physical store or outlet,” Connie said.

They have been coming up with specialized solutions – e.g. with the courier, they resort to other available courier or, “worst case scenario, we deliver using our car – which we also use for TNVS – like Grab,” Connie said.

For the availability of ingredients, “we buy in bulk so we have stocks.” And for those who want to buy right away, “we inform them to give us time and place the order at least two to three days prior to delivery date. Although there are instances when we have less delivery for a day, we accommodate them and they can order and have it delivered within the day.”

GOOD BIZ MOVE

Is this a profitable venture?

“There is not much of an investment cost here since we do not have a stall or a physical outlet. The main investments are the oven (of which the shelf life is already exhausted) and baking equipment and utensils. We bought a new portable oven though after two weeks to accommodate our batch delivery. I would say the cost is relatively not that much so I can say we already have attained our ROI since we started,” Connie said.

For people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Connie give?

“One must have a passion on something and transform that passion into concrete goals. Set a goal first then break it into do-ables – plan – take the first step to make it happen,” Connie said.

Then look at the market (demand and supply side). “What opportunity can one take advantage of – like in this pandemic – despite the many negative impacts it brings? There are also many opportunities.”

Connie also recommends for people to “be creative and always think of the satisfaction of the customer”; directly communication with customers (e.g. thank them during the first point of contact – regardless if they are only asking or placing order already, get their feedbacks after each complete order and send a personalized note); and for a family business, make sure that each involved member of the family is in the same mindset, commitment and passion.

Lastly, do the business not just purely for profit but on how this business can be of help.

“Our slogan is order for a cause. While the cause is for my daughter, but still, if my daughter can be helped and can get back to normal, she can help a lot more people (she already did before the tragedy happened). She is still hoping that she can be a lawyer someday and help the disadvantaged and discriminated who are deprived of justice and their rights,” Connie said.

In ending, Connie said to “always put God (or whoever one believes in – higher self) first in everything (regardless of what religion you belong to). Seek for guidance and bring Him in what you think, say and do. Have deep faith that in every business or undertaking, it is an expression of who you are – unique creation, regardless of status in life, gender orientation, etc.”

To support Lordei’s Whip & Bake Corner, head to Facebook; email lordeiwbc@gmail.com; or call/text 09566090363.

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‘Don’t be discouraged nor lose hope even if the process is difficult’ – Cyramae Ubaldo

This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000. “Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first.”

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This February, Cyramae Ubaldo opened a candle business, Candle La Vie, with a start-up capital of around around P10,000.

“(When) I started planning my wedding, I thought scented candles would make great souvenirs,” she recalled. Though, obviously, these would also be applicable for any other events. And “that gave me an idea to start this business.”

Since she finished BS IT, Cyramae said she never imagined that candle making would become her passion. In a way, this makes the venture challenging.

“Some days I tend to become hesitant if I’m going to pursue this business. (I have) lots of negative thoughts (about this business) – e.g. that it might fail right away, that no one would purchase the goods, that my candles won’t be pleasing compared to others,” she said.

But with the support of her partner, “I was able to push through.”

She has yet to reach ROI, but Cyramae thinks this is a profitable business.

And for people who may want to also open their own business, what tips can Cyramae give? 

“Don’t be discouraged and lose hope even if the process is difficult. It will always be hard at first. The most important thing is that you love and you’re happy of what you’ve been doing. Even it is a small progress, it’s still one step towards your goal,” Cyramae ended.

For those who want to get in touch with Candle La Vie, head to Facebook or Instagram.

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Create value for your biz to succeed – Jico Ambrocio

Jico Ambrocio, founder of Elo Athletics, believes in creating value for your customers. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following.”

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Elo Athletics – better known as just Elo – was conceptualized around July 2020, and officially launched via Instagram in October of the same year with an investment of around PhP150,000 to cover startup costs and the initial inventory of products.

It was, perhaps, a line of business Jico Ambrocio would eventually enter.

“I’ve been very close to the fitness industry, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle ever since I was in high school,” he said. “I was an active gym goer before and I pursued weightlifting as my main source of physical activity throughout college and even when I started working.”

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Jico was placed in a similar position as many others – i.e. “I couldn’t keep doing it because all the gyms had to temporarily close down.”

Jico tried exercising at home by doing bodyweight exercises such as HIIT, but he said he didn’t enjoy it as much as working out in the gym “maybe because there was always a feeling of isolation and uncertainty during this pandemic, that I couldn’t push myself to perform intense exercises.”

And then he came across Yoga, “and it really changed my perspective on health. Yoga taught me to be mindful of my emotions and to adopt a holistic approach to fitness.”

The newfound love – i.e. Yoga – led to the establishment of Elo Athletics.

“I… felt that the brand can open opportunities to spread the importance of taking care of our well-being, especially our mental health,” Jico said.

LOVING THE INDUSTRY YOU CHOOSE

It helps that Jico studied Business Administration and Accountancy in college, and “it has always been a personal dream to be able to start and grow my own brand. Back then, I thought my first brand would fall under either the food or fashion industry, and not in the industry that Elo is currently a part of.”

All the same, “thinking about it now, I love the industry that I’m in because I know that the products and services we can create will be valued by a lot of people since most of us really value our well-being. My degree helped me make better decisions for the brand but it was my personal experiences that really pushed me to do my best.”

As a new biz, “we haven’t reached ROI yet,” Jico admitted. Nonetheless, “I’m seeing a lot of opportunities for the brand to grow and I’m still personally investing more money in it so we can create better experiences for our customers. I would say that it’s a profitable venture because we are able to generate a healthy volume of sales, but it also requires a lot of patience to see it through until it eventually reaches ROI. Hopefully that happens soon.”

FACING CHALLENGES

There are still challenges.

“One of the main challenges I face is being insecure about the brand and its progress. I’m constantly aware of the actions of competitors and I tend to compare the growth of my brand to theirs — which has negative effects on my confidence, and belief in our products,” Jico admitted. 

However, “I have learned to overcome this feeling by focusing on the things we currently have. I realized that if I start looking inward — looking at positive customer reviews, or how many customers we’ve served, I am able to help myself view these challenges positively and constructively.”

On the business side, delivery and logistics are also challenging the running of the business. 

“I have to ensure that the products arrive to customers on time and in their best state. This means that I would also put a lot of effort into tracking the status of deliveries and communicating with customers, and consistently working with our couriers and partners to make sure that the delivery process is good,” Jico said.

But Jico is confident Elo will eventually carve its name in this industry.

JUST START

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Jico give?

“Don’t be afraid to start! The fact that we have to invest money in a business means that we have a tendency to make sure that everything is perfect before launching — because no one wants their money to go to waste. However, the act of actually launching your product/service and getting it out there will really help you create better products/services for the people you cater to. Start with something small, listen to your customers, innovate and improve, and things will get better,” he said.

It helps to do initial research about the industry: the product, the prospective customers, competitors, etc. “Understanding how your brand will fit in and provide value in an industry is the key to consistently growing your brand and following,” Jico ended.

For more information or to order, head to IG: @elo.athletics, or Facebook.

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Believe in your product – Jansen Prado

The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000. “Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.

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The Pantry Project Manila was established only on July 16, 2020, with a startup capital of approximately P25,000.

“Our family loves to cook. We just love cooking and making our guests happy with food.. good food at that… And we always had this plan to launch our family’s heirloom recipes. We want to ‘put them out there’ and share to everyone the love and passion that goes into every dish,” said Jansen Prado, owner of The Pantry Project Manila.

In fact, by the end of 2019, “we were already gearing up to launch our mom’s estofado seco; and we planned to sell them in jars.”

But then COVID-19 happened…

Though, initially, “we decided to put everything to a halt… we saw how the pandemic hit so many of our ‘kababayans’. We had to do something.” And so “we aimed to help not just our own kitchen but other home cooks, too, who were displaced by the pandemic. We reached out to people whom we knew can lead us to people that can cook really well.”

And so, yes, The Pantry Project Manila came into being.

The first dish offered was the “badass bopis”, a recipe “loaned to us by our mom,” Jansen said.

Now, why bopis?

“(We) want the public to be comfortable eating bopis. That bopis can be very meticulously prepared, clean and positively distinguished. And that bopis can be gourmet and not be too expensive at the same time,” Jansen said.

ROI has already been reached, and “I am really very grateful.” This is also a profitable business, though “hard work and creativity are really essential.”

In hindsight, “I never thought I would be the one who will be pushing this plan. I have pictured my sisters to make this business materialize. I was so much into what I was doing in the corporate world that I did not see this coming,” Jansen said.

Fortunately for him, he has a degree in Marketing Management that “I find very helpful to the business.”

There remain challenges.

“The biggest challenge, especially during these times in the MSME world, is creating your market, your niche,” Jansen said.

Also, “with our main product, the Badass Bopis, it was hard to convince people that it is worth trying. A lot of people have reservations regarding eating the dish. So yeah, we had to add more to the menu.”

Businesses, of course, need to learn to face challenges.

For Jansen, the approach is to “focus on our purpose and knowing that there are a number of people who depend on the online pantry’s operations; this keeps us going.”

And for people who may want to also open their business, what tips can Jansen give?

“Make sure that you believe in whatever your product is. Be passionate. Challenges will abound and your passion will keep you going. Always welcome change as it is inevitable. Patience. You need tons of this. Have faith. No day is the same, so stay calm, focus, work harder. Optimism will never hurt,” Jansen ended.

Wanna get in touch with The Pantry Project Manila? Head to Facebook or Instagram: @pantryprojectmnl; email pantryprojectmnl@gmail.com; or call/text 09052700617.

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