Helping other women is the icing on her cake
She doesn’t even like baking and considers it “messy.”
So how did businesswoman Selyna Ventura turn Mon-Mon Bakeshoppe and Snack Haus into one of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay’s most popular brands and go-to dessert shop since 1998?
The homegrown bakeshop on Jose Villafuerte Street has made a name for itself over the last decade for its affordable desserts and the opportunities it has provided a number of poor women to hone their baking skills and earn a decent living.
For Ventura, becoming a business success rested on three factors.
First, she acknowledged that while she doesn’t know how to bake, she knows “how to taste.” Second, she recognized that there are people gifted with the talent and skills for creating baked goods, and that she could always ask them to work for her. Lastly, she was determined to remain faithful to her vision of being able to produce affordable desserts that even those who have less in life can enjoy.
Ventura’s concept of affordable desserts came to her during a visit to Manila in early 1998. She remembered enjoying the pastries at Goldilocks and Red Ribbon but thinking that their prices were quite steep for the average wage earner.
“I told myself then that if I were to do something like this, I’d make sure that even the poor can afford them. Everyone deserves to eat delicious food, even if they don’t have a lot of money,” she said.
Interestingly enough, Ventura was thinking of going into another business at that particular time.
A couple months before, she was forced to shutter the pawnshop business she and several friends had established because of financial issues. Two years earlier, her boutique had to close after her supplier of ready-to-wear clothes declared bankruptcy.
As fate would have it, a soda company reached out to Ventura and asked what she intended to do with the space where her boutique once stood. Right then and there, she thought of opening a refreshment parlor. Since the place was in a high pedestrian traffic area, being near a church and a school, the soda company readily agreed to support her. It provided her with tables, chairs and a free supply of 20 cases of their beverage.
With her background in commerce, Ventura knew she had to offer more to keep the business afloat. That was when she tapped the services of her friend, puto (rice cake) vendor, Linda Tarongoy.
Ventura encouraged Tarongoy, who sold her native goodies in the shop, to venture into other products and pastries. Soon enough, the bakeshop started getting noticed in Ipil, especially among the masses who discovered that for P150, they could treat themselves to cake.
To cope with the increasing demand, Ventura sent several of her employees to train in baking. But the increased production took a toll on the shop’s baking equipment that were not intended for commercial use.
Ventura lamented that every year, she had to shell out P100,000 to replace her baking equipment. The annual expense not only limited her income, it also slowed down her expansion plans.
In 2012, the shop’s reputation got the attention of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which offered Ventura assistance under its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (Setup). But the bakeshop owner turned it down at least thrice, as she felt wary about possible government meddling into her business.
The DOST employees, however, refused to give up and finally convinced Ventura of the program’s benefits. She has been a beneficiary since.
Established in 2002, Setup is a financing program for small and medium enterprises to help them “improve productivity and efficiency through the [use] of appropriate technologies for product development, services or operations.”
As of 2016, the DOST has released more than P3.3 billion in financial assistance to almost 4,400 businesses. The assistance has helped generate some 168,000 jobs.
The DOST assistance helped Ventura expand her work force from five employees to 35, most of them women who are also beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program.
Better equipment enabled Ventura to double the earnings of her shop, which was recently renovated to accommodate more customers.
The bakeshop was also recently awarded best Setup adoptor in Zamboanga Sibugay by the DOST.
While she appreciates the award, Ventura said what she considered really important “is being able to help and encourage others to share their talents. That’s my purpose, and maybe that’s something people can remember me by.”
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