Sophie’s Mom set to take venture to higher level
Have you tried mochi ice cream?
This dessert is a Japanese confection made from soft, pounded sticky rice (mochi) with an ice cream filling. It is popular in Asia and the United States, and has now reached Philippine shores.
One of the popular mochi ice cream brands in Metro Manila is Sophie’s Mom, a bakery and confectionery shop in Makati. Their mochi ice cream is homemade.
So who are Sophie and her mom?
Sophie Ramos is a college freshman in UP who is into blogging and “tweeting,” and bakes with her mom, Marie Antoinette “Tonette” Rosal.
The two love to tinker around in the kitchen, along with Tonette’s two other young daughters, Stephanie and Samantha.
“Our family loves ice cream, and we have been making our own special all-natural ice cream which the girls love,” Tonette shares.
When Sophie was a junior in high school, the family went to the US for a vacation with their relatives. There, Sophie’s cousin let her try mochi ice cream, which was very popular in the area. Sophie loved it so much that she asked her mom to try making it herself there.
“It was frozen, and it was supposed to be soft. Remember you made a mistake it was supposed to be soft?” Samantha reminded her mom.
After a month of trial and error, constant practice, and frustrations over the sticky mochi, Tonette and the girls finally perfected their mochi ice cream. When they came back from the US, Sophie tweeted about it, much to her friends’ delight. She got numerous inquiries from friends about how they could order it.
“My classmate, she suggested the name ‘Sophie’s Mom’ because everybody’s like, ordering from Sophie’s mom,” Sophie recounts.
In 2010, they sold their mochi ice cream in Sophie’s school fair, and everything was wiped out in a matter of hours. On the following days, they included cupcakes and cookies in their investory so they would still have products to sell when the mochi ice cream runs out.
From I.T. to confectionary
Tonette used to work for IBM as the country manager of its Software Labs Services. Although her work there was very technical, her hobbies were leaning more into the arts. She dabbled in fashion design, pastry arts, painting, decorating, and of course, baking.
In May 2011, Sophie’s Mom joined its first bazaar in Malayan Plaza. Though the bazaar was held on the 33rd floor, on a weekday, their products were sold out and received positive feedback from customers. It didn’t hurt that most of the customers in the bazaar were bloggers who raved about Sophie’s Mom.
“Blogging is a big thing now, and they gave us free publicity, so that’s how we really moved,” Sophie says.
Tonette, who wanted to quit her job to stay at home and raise her daughters, and also to concentrate on her hobbies, got a corner space reserved for her by her mother in a compound a few blocks away from her house. She saw this as an opportunity to start a bakery as an outlet for her creative side, but still geographically close enough to allow her to come home anytime she wants.
Sophie’s Mom, with its home-style, vintage-feel ambience, finally opened in July 2011, offering the famous homemade, all natural mochi ice cream, cupcakes, and cookies, all made using the finest ingredients.
The window display and whimsical design of the store are continuously updated to reflect special occasions and seasons.
Even though the store’s location is in a residential area, customers come in droves for the confectioneries. To keep it interesting, they come up with new items every month, pastries that are not commonly found in other bakeshops, with unique combinations of ingredients that are innovative but not too exotic for the customers’ palate. This is what they call “comfort food with a twist.”
Tonette and Sophie are aware that they are not the only ones who make mochi ice cream in the metropolis. They also know that there are dozens of cupcake and pastry shops everywhere. But they are confident about the quality of their brand.
“You can’t please everybody. People will compare us with other brands, but you can’t let it get to you. We just keep our focus because we know our market,” Sophie says.
Tonette and her girls try to enjoy every minute of running their business. She is in charge of the recipes and product development, Sophie does the marketing and research, Samantha is excellent in sales talk, and Stephanie likes to be the “cashier.”
Like a parallel to them, they noticed that they get families as customers, sometimes even three generations coming in to check out the products.
“We get the lola (grandmother), the mom, and the kids all buying different things,” Tonette relates.
But their most precious customers are from the 18-25 market, who are into social networking and love to voice out the excitement over Sophie’s Mom.
Their kitchen is always in a frenzy during Christmas and Valentine’s days because of the numerous bulk orders and displays for their bakeshop. They have also ventured into corporate giveaways.
Their cupcakes, cookies, and Spanish bread also kept their customers coming back for more. The mochi ice cream, with flavors ranging from Nutella truffle, red velvet, frozen Brazo de Mercedes-vanilla, leche flan to lemon meringue, are excellent gifts as they can last up to two weeks when stored in a fridge.
Aside from the main bakery along Santol Street in San Antonio Village, Makati, they recently opened a kiosk at the ground floor of SM Megamall. Plans of opening four more branches are in the works within the next few months in the north and south parts of Metro Manila, and eventually expand to provinces nationwide. Franchising is also on their list, but they want the business to “mature” first before taking that next big step.
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