Do you have a skill/hobby that you enjoy? If you have been thinking of making a business out of it, the series on Entrepreneurship may help you with prayer for discernment, assess your circumstances, and get inspiration from other women entrepreneurs (specially in the food business) who are gracious to share their stories and tips for women like you!
Today, we hear from May Santos, owner of popular party cake supplier, Kitchen Kraft Novelty Cakes, in business for thirty years.
May Santos is a veterinarian by profession, having finished Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in UP Diliman in 1980, ranking second in her class in the licensure/board exams. Initially she wanted to study (human) Medicine but changed her course about two minutes before giving her application to the registrar. She was afraid she would not endure the loooong years of studying and the expenses involved would be very taxing on her parents. When she passed the UPCAT (admissions test), she was offered a scholarship so she pursued becoming a veterinarian.
She then worked for thirteen years with Universal Robina Corporation handling veterinary nutrition and pharmaceuticals. While working, May enrolled in short cooking courses out of curiosity; this led to courses in baking and eventually, cake decorating. “Together with a good friend who was also obsessed in taking culinary courses, I enrolled in almost all the short courses that time when culinary schools were not yet a ‘fad,’” May recalls.
After every course she took, she would eagerly try to cook/bake at home whatever she learned. Her brothers and sisters would then bring whatever she made to their offices and shared them with their co-workers. Her mother had the habit of giving the goodies she baked to friends and relatives too. Soon, the recipients of those goodies ended up always requesting for more. Since it was just a hobby for May , she did not charge anything because she was just happy baking; the applause she received was enough heartwarming reward. Sometimes, they would give her a tray of eggs, sticks of butter, or a pack of flour and it was up to May to transform them into ensaymadas, cinnamon rolls, mamon, ube cake, mousse, puff pastry, cheese rolls, etc.
Her first commercial stint as a baker was when her sisters’ officemates ordered a total of one hundred pieces of Ube Cake during the Christmas season. “At that time, they just cost PHP100.00 each!” May nostalgically remembers.
May received rolls of aluminum foil (which were scraps from the wrappers of Cheese Curls) to wrap chipboards she sourced from Divisoria to serve as her cake boards. She bought flat sheets of cardboard which she hand-cut to make into cake boxes; she boiled and grated ube, pre-measured, packed, and froze them; pre-measured and packed other ingredients so she could do an “ube cake production line” efficiently.
“With only a hand mixer and my mom’s electric oven whose thermostat was busted— I had to open and close the oven doors from time to time to maintain the oven’s temperature using an oven thermometer— I produced cakes upon cakes. Needless to say, the whole house from the kitchen to the dining and living room was filled with Ube
Cakes which took turns cooling in our refrigerator. In the next 25 years, I never ate nor tasted Ube Cake again!” recounts May. Hence, May’s Kitchen Krafts Novelty Cakes was born as a home-based business providing cakes, desserts, party setups for special celebrations.
Here are May’s Tips for Women Entrepreneurs:
What considerations would be important for women before going into business?
*Do what you love most and put that into a business venture, big or small, and the rest will follow—— logistics, funding, marketing, etc.
*If you are married and with growing children, try a business that will allow you to “watch” and take care of your family at the same time. Though most women are also providers now, they are still expected to be good wives and mothers.
*Single or married, it’s good to always have the support of your family.
How they can equip/prepare themselves?
*They must have the interest, knowledge and skills needed.
*Funding can be saved, borrowed or earned slowly by starting small.
What mistakes to avoid?
*If you are into production/manufacturing, always strive to make good quality products and be consistent.
*Never settle for anything that is not “acceptable” by the standards that you set or what is expected by your clients.
*Good products translate to happy and loyal clientele. They themselves are inexpensive yet effective advertisements for your products.
*If you want to “copy” your competitor, don’t copy “exactly” and do it with a twist or enhance it. Be original.
Most important lessons you’ve learned?
*Nothing stays permanent. Do not be complacent.
*Always improve what you have; be updated with the times and trends.
*Be dynamic and learn new things to offer. Even your most loyal client of so many years will get tired of the same thing and would like something different from time to time.
What do you look for in staff?
I always say that if you want your staff to be effective, train/teach them well accordingly. Basically, staff should be trainable in addition to being honest, God-fearing, creative, with good disposition and the necessary educational/ work background.
What inspires you to do what you do?
The happiness I bring through the celebrants’ cakes that I make inspires me. Their smiles and praises somehow let me forget the sleepless hours of hard work.
Constructive criticism also helps to improve one’s products and skill.
What are your success secrets?
People always describe me as very creative, innovative, meticulous, and detailed. I want everything perfectly “in place” as much as possible. As they say, good quality products do not come cheap, but I try to cost them reasonably so people get their money’s worth.
Good service and goodwill is important, too.
Do you have other tips or anything else you would like to share?
*Be at least “visible” if you cannot be hands-on so you don’t miss out on anything abnormal.
*Manage your staff professionally with a bit of compassion.
*Do not stop to improve and learn new things. There are a lot of ideas/education you can find from books, people, internet, schools, magazines/newspapers, television, competitors, etc.
*Try not to be overly concerned with the monetary benefits so much so that you do things “just for the money” and you are not happy doing your tasks (but not to the point that it’s not profitable).
*The end product somehow mirrors your inner self and if you made it while you are angry, sad, distressed,etc., the outcome is so-so and you will end up with an unsatisfied client who will never come back.
*Strive to make your clients always come back.
*Give good service and give a personal touch to make each order unique.
*Above all, don’t forget to seek and thank God for all the help and blessings that come your way.