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When entrepreneurship blends well with destiny

CEBU, Philippines - It was her passion for baking that pushed 46-year-old Gemma Almirante to build her own bakeshop.

From being a plain housewife, Gemma challenged herself into managing her own enterprise, starting with just a small sari-sari store in their house at the same time selling puto maya and tempura.

Although profit was good from her small business, Gemma felt that she was destined to bake. Indeed, she eventually built her own delicacy bakeshop now known as Oj’s Torta, one of Argao’s best.

With a capital of only P2,000 she obtained from her husband's salary and from her little savings, she went her way into building her own bakeshop.

"My love and passion for baking influenced me to this business. Since childhood, daan na gyud ko ganahan magluto.In fact gusto unta ko mo-eskwela ug international culinary pero unfortunately di namo ma afford," the Cebuana entreprenuer shared to The FREEMAN in an interview.

Gemma started her bakeshop business in 2005 in her residence in Abear St., Poblacion in Argao Cebu.

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"Tungod kay well-known kaayo sa Argao ang torta unya daghan pud kaayong travelers from other places ang mohapit ug mangutana sa among tindahan kung asa sila kapalit ug torta, so I thought of venturing in the business of torta making," shared the woman, who is a mother of one.

Building the business

However, getting to where she is now wasn’t a walk in the park for Gemma as things were not looking so good when she started.

Sales were relatively low when she started, but that wasn’t enough reason for her to just give it all up. She strived hard and improved the quality of her products to step up.

"Among tindahan gihinay-hinay pud namo og improve from purely a sari-sari store to a bakeshop selling refreshments and Argao's delicacies," she said.

Recalling the times when she was still starting, Almirante sees a big difference in how much she's earning now compared before from her baking business.

A daily income of around P500-P1,000 before could already make her family happy.

But daily sales and production have since grown, as she also introduced new products to her customers.

"We tried to improve the taste and quality of our torta and other products. We also borrowed additional capital to buy the necessary equipment to increase the production and improve the packaging of our products," she said.

Gemma usually borrows capital from her close friends who offer lower interest rate.

Aside from its main product torta, Oj's also sells other delicacies such as suncake, chicharon, toron, peñeato, baked polvoron, cheesecake, macaroons, leche flan, malunggay polvoron, peanut browas and tostodos.

Oj's bakeshop have could produce at least 30 dozens — the least — or around 360 pieces of them or more every day.

Oj's also built a small delicacy store in Lindogon, Simala two years ago near the famous Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (Simala Shrine) which is frequently visited by travelers and another one in Carcar City.

Gemma is eyeing to open her next outlet in Cebu City, particularly in Fuente Osmeña soon, but for now she wants to focus on improving the look of her main store to attract more customers.

She shared she continues to be open to introducing her products to other markets such as supermarkets and other retail stores.

Hard work and perseverance

For what her humbling enterprise has become today, Almirante is thankful for the lessons she learned from the entrepreneurial seminars she had attended.

But most of all, it's hardwork and perseverance that really mattered to her.

"Being friendly to customers is also important and I have to be open to suggestions and comments to improve," she said.

"Importante nga down-to-earth atong attitude and God-centered pud ta kanunay," she said.

What she has reached now could already be fulfilling but the learning never stops, as they said.

Driven by the objective of making her business even bigger, Gemma will be one of the recipients of the second leg of the Mentor Me program of the Department of Trade and Industry, which will start this month.

Under the program, entrepreneurs like Gemma Almirante will be undergoing mentoring sessions by established entrepreneurs tapped by DTI. (FREEMAN)

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