CEBU CITY—When her son Llenard Fredric baked his first mud pie at the age of four, Giselle Boholst had no idea that it will be a start of a business venture that would bond the family more.
Now Llew’s Mud Pies on Don Ramon Aboitiz Street here has been the favorite hangout of young and old alike mainly because of its mud pie—a dessert made with chocolate cookie crust, ice cream filling and topped with chocolate syrup.
The dessert store is named after the nickname of Llenard, now eight years old and a grade three pupil of Cebu Learning Center.
The concept of the mud pie started four years ago when Llenard was an energetic four-year-old boy who attended two to five summer classes.
“The classes he attended were varied: arts, baking, enhancement of academic skills. When he baked the mud pie in his class, I was impressed so I replicated it and had relatives taste them. Then, the orders came in,” says Giselle, a psychologist by profession.
Demand for the mud pies flooded that Giselle and husband Fredric decided to look for a space to open a store.
Fredric found a small space near St. Theresa’s College on Don Ramon Aboitiz St. It was early 2009. They initially invested P500,000 and later worked on the interior design.
In December 2010, Llew’s Mud Pies officially opened.
Giselle admits that opening a dessert store was accidental because she had wanted to put up a preschool.
“I love children. That’s why I wanted a preschool. But the capital (to the start the business) is expensive and we cannot find space,” she tells Sunday Biz.
She might not have built a preschool but Llew’s Mud Pies made her closer to her two sons Llenard and Fyodor Bastien and the children who frequent the store.
“One mother told me that this is a nice concept because when you start a business with children as clients, you are already bringing the entire family,” notes Giselle.
Mud pies and smores are the store’s best sellers. Mud pies are sold at P30 each while smores are sold at P25.
“Smores is made of roasted marshmallow and chocolate syrup sandwiched between two graham crackers. They can be served warm and frozen.”
Giselle says the store also serves dishes such as cheese-baked rice (with tuna or sausage), ribs, fish fillet (in olive oil or black bean sauce), lechon kawali and chicken schnitzel among others.
Giselle says they decided to keep the prices affordable especially that the store is near a school. Frequent visitors of the store are students, doctors and even, grandparents.
Helping Giselle in running the store are three full-time staff. Her support system includes her husband, Fredric, a clinical psychologist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and two sons.
With them, she develops and experiments new dishes and desserts.
Giselle has been working in the human resource department of a bank for 10 years.
As the one responsible for developing and experimenting new products, Giselle says she does get burned-out at times but the support of her family keeps her going.
When people ask her about the store’s chef, Giselle says she used to say “We have someone but of course, I cannot tell you.”
In truth, she was a bit intimidated with the question because the store does not have a school-trained chef.
“But my husband told me that it goes to show that even those who are not trained in school can be chefs because we do the research on our own,” says Giselle.
For instance, the best-selling smores was developed when she was watching Barney.
“When I made it, my husband told me not to expect too much about it. Today, it’s the only frozen dessert that sells like hotcakes,” she says.
Llenard also helps his mother by researching on his own and suggesting it to Giselle. Giselle, in turn, tells Llenard if the recipe is doable.
One of Llenard’s idea is a white chocolate-filled puto as the second variation to the dark chocolate-filled puto.
As with any aspects of life, Giselle says everything is about hardwork and loving what you do.
In her case, she loves cooking. She likes to experiment with different ingredients, have people taste her creations and ask them if they like it.
There have been several inquiries about putting the store up for franchise. She already gave a nod of approval for a cousin to operate one franchise but is still hesitant about opening it to other people.
“My idea was to operate a small store so I can attend to it every day because with business, I am very hands on,” she says.
Running the store is also a way for Llenard to positively channel his energy. He even tends to the store every other day. His parents pay him P100 for a three-hour duty.
“He now knows how difficult it is to work so he does not ask something from us out of his whims. He placed his first salary in a coin bank,” shares Giselle.
A charming boy, Llenard’s presence in the store often gets the attention of the students.
He loves the idea of owning and running a store so he feels responsible to visit the store every day, he says.
And what are the future plans of this eight-year-old entrepreneur?
Llenard, the inspiration behind Llew’s Mud Pies, says he wants to be an architect when he grows up and is looking forward to manage more stores in the near future.