From Cruise Ships To Cakes: How This OFW Jump-Started A Dessert Business Amid A Pandemic"I lost my employment because of the pandemic, but I have all the knowledge, skills, and experiences that I have gained on board," says Ann Dulay.CREATED WITH M.Y. SAN GRAHAMS
Analyn “Ann” Dulay, 32, is one of many Filipinos who lost their livelihood as a direct result of the economic uncertainty brought upon by the pandemic. She had to leave her post as a cruise ship staff member on short notice, leaving her very little room to make plans and adjustments.
Good thing she already had Ann Sweet Co., an on-the-side dessert business that she tended to during her off days. Using her savings, she turned it into a full-time business, which turned out to be a wise decision. Read the story of how Ann's passion for baking helped her stay afloat during one of the toughest times in her life:
Getting sent home unexpectedly
“When I heard about the pandemic, I wasn’t expecting that it will be this serious. I thought it was just an ordinary virus na mawawala rin after a few days,” Ann recalls.
This is why it caught her completely off guard when she was told that they had to go home. “Sobrang nasaktan and naiyak ako," she points out. "Kasi naisip ko agad, paano na ang pangarap ko? Paano ko ma-su-sustain ang needs ng family ko if walang regular income?”
But as previously mentioned, Ann was quick to turn things around. “I lost my employment because of the pandemic, but I have all the knowledge, skills, and experiences that I have gained on board. Bakit ‘di ko gamitin lahat ng natutunan ko para mapalago ang business? It’s like working, but now I'll be working for myself.”
Turning her 'hobby' into a full-time business
Like many newbie bakers, Ann’s first clients were her family and friends — the same people who convinced her to turn her flair for baking into a source of income.
“Ann Sweet Co. started in 2014 when my friend encouraged me. Besides baking for my family, I used to bake for my friends, too. Nahiya na sila dahil laging libre, so they told me, ‘Ann, magbenta ka na kaya!’"
Ann Sweet Co. slowly attracted customers, especially online, with its range of affordable products. But as it remained a business that’s open only when she’s not working abroad, managing it full-time didn’t come easy for Ann.
Between the sourcing of ingredients and the need to bake to keep up with orders, she had very little time to promote her business online. “Halos all day, every day na ako nag-be-bake. I feel like, pagod na ako, kasi ako lahat. But I couldn't complain and refuse an order kasi ang goal ko is to do it full-time," she shares.
She adds: “I started to offer my desserts around late May, when we shifted to GCQ. Kumikita ako around P3,000 to P5,000 for the first three months. Ngayon, over P10,000 na.”
On starting and growing a food business
From an experienced baker who turned her hobby into a major source of income, Ann is more than willing to give advice for her fellow food entrepreneurs:
1. Tailor down your products: “Huwag marami agad at paiba-iba ang products. Focus muna sa few items to master the recipe. Over time, you can play around with the recipe to add variations, and eventually, add more products.”
2. Never compromise your ingredients: “Our products reflect our service. We introduce ourselves to clients through our products. Marami nang online sellers, marami nang bakers — and it’s really hard to stand out. But with unique and quality products, makikilala ka rin and babalik-balikan ng clients.”
According to Ann, an ingredient she continues to rely on is M.Y. San Grahams. She uses it for her cheesecakes, which is a constant best-seller because of its consistency in terms of taste and quality. She even quipped, “People can tell whether it’s M.Y. San Grahams or not.”
“Other than the base of my cheesecakes, I also use M.Y. San Grahams for my dessert table,” Ann explains. “It’s very versatile. I make graham balls, graham cookies, and graham bars. The convenience is there, too! You can either do baked desserts or, ‘pag walang time, no-bake products.”
Watch how M.Y. San Grahams became Ann’s trusted negosyo partner:
3. Have a concrete marketing plan: “Plan how to market your product. Think of a unique packaging, a unique business name, and how you could make use of social media platforms,” she points out. “Make a dessert na makikilala ka, and every time maiisip nila ang dessert na ‘yun, ikaw at ang business mo lang ang maaalala.”
4. It would be hard — but enjoy the process: Ann concludes: “Just have fun. Don’t work too much to the point where you’re already pressuring yourself. Feel at ease and happy every time you bake. Because your emotions during baking reflect on the outcome of the product. Kaya dapat masaya lang!”