BUSINESS is sweet for four young entrepreneurs who make chocolates for a
Kevin Val Turtur, 23, who recently graduated from a business administration course at St. John Paul II College in Davao, chose not to have a regular job in an air-conditioned office. Instead, he became a farmer.
For the past two years, he has been managing his own cacao plantation in a four-hectare farm, and a one-hectare nursery for cacao seedlings, in Catalunan Grande, also in Davao.
Cacao is the dried seed of a tropical tree that is used to make cocoa and chocolate.
Kevin, whom friends fondly call “cacao prince,” says he was inspired by his father, an executive director of a cacao association in Mindanao.
“I would listen to him intently whenever he speaks in seminars and workshops,” Kevin points out, recalling the times he would tag along with his father. “He taught me a lot about discipline, which is important for a farmer.”
Which means “waking up at 5 a.m.” and spending the rest of the day in the farm.
Farming, says Kevin, is not enticing to most young people who often dream of earning big but living and working comfortably—if not glamorously—in the
Farming has taught him important life skills like time management. “Many young people sleep late and wake up late,” he notes.
Growing cacao has also reminded him to be more caring to his workers, and of course, to the seedlings. Good teamwork translates to good revenue.
Kevin says it was also teamwork and the right decisions during his stint in his school’s varsity basketball team that helped make him a better person.
Baking chocolate cakes has taught sisters Lara and Mia Tonogbanua a lot about patience.
“Our Chocolate Walnut Fudge is an heirloom recipe from our great grandmother, Lola Enas, that dates back to the 1920s,” Lara says.
The process of baking the cake requires long hours of careful temperature monitoring and constant stirring to achieve perfect texture. “It must be thick and smooth,” she points out.
After finishing college at the Ateneo de Manila University, Lara, 27, and Mia, 26, chose to learn about making cakes in the family kitchen in Davao.
It didn’t take long for their uncles and aunts to order cakes as pasalubong to friends. Soon, these friends started ordering, too.
Lara and Mia have expanded their product line to include French macarons, cookies, brownies, tarts, meringue drops and chocolate spoons.
The sisters say the art of listening to each other’s comments and suggestions as well as those from other people is vital when running a start-up.
“We joined bazaars and weekend markets and always asked for feedback,” Lara says, adding that teamwork remains an essential factor in their endeavor.
She considers passion as a basic ingredient to success.
“Being sisters and business partners, working together, setting aside differences and acknowledging each other’s strengths and weaknesses are very important in making our start-up successful,” Lara notes. “The food business is very tough, which is why passion must be your basic ingredient. It sounds like a cliche, but if your heart is not into what you’re doing, the customers can literally taste the difference.”
The sisters’ advice to their peers who want to go into business: “Always be updated with what the market wants. Always improve and reinvent yourself.”
Karla Singson was in college when she opened a small gift shop business.
“I started in 2007,” she recalls. “It was Mother’s Day and I was thinking of what unique gift to give my mom. I made a bouquet out of Hershey’s Kisses and she, and my friends, loved it.”
Being Internet-savvy, she soon launched an online shop.
The 26-year-old business administration graduate now handles 30-50 orders and deliveries of chocolate bouquets per month.
“December is not a very high season for us,” she admits. “Business picked up only last year when I started selling gift baskets. Valentine’s Day is my busiest. It’s when I get to sell more than 150 gift sets, not just bouquets!”
Karla describes her start-up as a “business that is about making celebrations more special and making ordinary days extra special.”
She says that, just like in any business, patience is very important. “Assembling chocolate gift sets,” she adds, “has taught me that making other people happy is key to being happy myself.”
As for advice on how to keep one’s business going, she says: “Be really wise about your time and money. Time is the only resource we can’t get back. Invest your time in making your business processes more efficient. As for money, have ample capital and be conservative about spending. Spend only for assets that will boost sales or make your business more efficient… There’s no shame in starting small.”
The best part about her own business, Karla points out, is that she gets to taste and shop for chocolates. “Chocolates always evoke good vibes, and my office always smells like chocolates,” she quips.