I’ve always loved baking because it was my avenue to relieve stress. Stress with school? Bake. Stress with bad-hair days? Bake. Stress with my adolescent love life? Bake.
The feeling I get when I fold chocolate chips into a brown-butter cookie batter is as relaxing as taking an afternoon nap.
Back in 2018, I decided to share my love for baking with friends and family. Before creating The Sweet Spell, there was Torkies, my first attempt to run a small business with little to no knowledge about accounting. I had just entered my second year of college as an AB Communication student, and I was barely surviving my Math and Economics classes.
One day at dinner time, I shared the idea of Torkies with my dad, mom and brother. They asked me all sorts of questions like, “What’s your profit margin?,” “What are your COGS (cost of goods sold)?” and “Where’s your income statement?” There I was, giving a blank stare while scratching my head from confusion. I realized that running a business is not just about the product itself—there is a whole other side to it!
My mom and brother closely taught me how to cost my chocolate-chip cookies. They explained every term such as revenue, profit and cost, and although it was a lot of information, I surprisingly learned it quickly! I ran Torkies for two years with very limited operations since I had less time to bake. Leaving the house for school and events was still a thing back in 2018 and 2019!
Aching to be productive
Fast-forward to 2020, how the times have changed. Two months have passed since the start of community quarantine, and I was aching to be productive.
I grabbed all my cookie ingredients, mixing bowls and my favorite spatula, and baked a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. I baked the same cookies every day for a week until my mom sent me an online recipe for banana bread.
I did not have much baking equipment, so I baked the banana bread in a square tin. I religiously followed the recipe as it was my first time to bake it, and after two hours, there was a warm batch of chocolate banana bread waiting to be devoured. My family loved it! I personally thought that it could use a lot of adjustments. I baked another batch following my intuition and my family loved it even more.
Over the course of the third month in quarantine, I tweaked my chocolate chip recipe, baked two flavors of banana bread every week, and learned how to make focaccia and Spanish bread, too!
With four recipes, I decided it was time to jog my memory of accounting, put it to use and start my own small bakery.
As I was planning it all out, I saw that a close friend of mine, Arianne Panganiban, was into baking bread, too! The bread she baked was not your run-off-the-mill pan de sal; it was red velvet with a cream cheese filling.
Seeing her post had me make the most life-changing decision since choosing what college to attend—I asked
Arianne, “Want to start a bakery business together?” In less than five minutes, she wholeheartedly agreed.
We spent the last two weeks of May planning out our menu, contacting suppliers, weighing out the costs and figuring out operations. Arianne and I live 17 km apart—and we still haven’t met up in person since our double date on Valentine’s day! Both 21 years old and still undergraduates at university, Arianne and I put up The Sweet Spell.
Arianne and I had the same vision that The Sweet Spell should not be like every other bakery, with pastel-colored pictures and bright aesthetics. Instead, we had witches as our source of inspiration—dark red colors, cauldrons and spells. Not only did our aesthetic separate us from other online bakeries on Instagram, our wide array of original recipes and twists on classic pastries were our biggest edge.
The Sweet Spell has a total of 19 products—from bread, cookies, cakes, loaves and even mystery boxes! I take pride in the fact that all my recipes are original creations—the Triple Creamy Cinnaloaf which is my take on the ordinary cinnamon roll, the 24-hour Coffee Brewkie, Yin and Yang, White Cinnacookie and my latest recipe, a Crème Brûlée Cheesecake with a honey-infused graham crust.
Our top five bestsellers are The Sweet Spell Cookie Set, Triple Creamy Cinnaloaf, Tiramisu Bites, Crème Brûlée Cheesecake and 24-hour Coffee Brewkie.
Arianne and I have been running The Sweet Spell for a little over six months now. I have to admit, it was not easy. A business thrives because of all the work behind the scenes.
The Sweet Spell would not be where it is today if it weren’t for that quick lesson in accounting with my mom and brother. It would not have such a vast selection of products if it weren’t for Arianne. Running day-to-day operations, staying up until midnight preparing several orders, and challenging one’s creativity in food and social media posts are made worthwhile when we know a customer is happy with their order.
I believe that my first sown idea of having a small online bakery has grown in its vision and mission to become something greater. Although The Sweet Spell only started this year, the experience has been life-changing. We may only be a small business now, but the goals we aim to reach are as high as the stars. —CONTRIBUTED
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The author, 21, is a senior AB Communication student at the Ateneo de Manila University.
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