“Ever since I was young, I have always had a business-minded approach in life,” says Mary Grace. Coming from a poor family, she had to learn how to make ends meet at a young age. When in college, she turned to floral arrangement and catering gigs to pay for her tuition and other miscellaneous fees.
“Life wasn’t easy back then, but somehow, I always got through every challenge life has thrown me. I just always kept a positive attitude and chose to look at the good in every situation because I know there is always one.” Little did Mary Grace know that in February of 2001, she would marry into the Belviz family, owners of Belviz Farm in Calinan, Davao City, and one of the “chocolate families” of Davao.
“[My husband and I are] into farming fruit trees like durian, pomelo, mangosteen, and cacao, and we usually sell them as fresh produce,” she says talking about their own family business.
With another fortunate twist of fate, the production rate of fresh fruits exceeded their expectations. So instead of wasting the fresh produce, they established Rosario’s Delicacies to add value to their fruits.
Starting in June 2001, Rosario’s Delicacies only produced processed durian products such as durian candy, frozen durian, and durian jam, but they later diversified due to durian’s seasonality. “[We tried producing] tablea using the traditional fermentation techniques and principles that my father-in-law taught us.” With those, Mary Grace tried to create products from them, but to no avail.
Since 2004 to present, Mary Grace has been attending the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) sponsored selling events such as the National Trade Fair, Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission’s (CITEM) International Food Exposition which allowed her to gain experience in marketing in a wider scale.
It was only in 2015, however, that Mary Grace was able to successfully innovate and develop products made from their cacao. “I was accepted as a scholar at Ghent, Belgium to attend a workshop about cocoa and chocolate processing.” The new knowledge allowed Rosario’s Delicacies to produce tree-to-bar chocolate bars, cacao nibs, butter, and powder, among other things.
Mary Grace allotted 10 hectares for cacao which intercropped with durian and has produced around five tons of fermented dried cacao beans. To increase their stock, they also buy wet beans from other farmers and dry fermented beans from other cooperatives.
“The value of processed cacao is significantly higher compared to the raw materials, [so we were] able to maintain continuous cash flow and guarantee the employment of our personnel.” Though still small, Rosario’s Delicacies hopes to expand their company and maximize their farm’s potential with their workers.
Rosario’s Delicacies products gained improved packaging thru the assistance of the DTI and the Department of Science and Technology; this led to increased sales. All that support coupled with training from DTI e-commerce webinars, the P3 Loan Assistance of P200,000, trade fairs, the Kapatid Mentor Me (KMME) Program in 2019, made Rosario’s Delicacies what it is today through the hard work of a woman who used to tend to her family’s humble sari-sari store.
Most of the cacao butter produced by Rosario’s Delicacies is used for their chocolate, but a few of these are sold to vegan restaurants. The natural cacao powder, on the other hand, is offered to the health-conscious individual as it is more wholesome and nutritious compared to Dutch-processed/alkalized cacao powder.
“I also [attribute] my journey’s success to the full acceptance and trust from my husband and in-laws who believed in, supported, and empowered me from the very beginning,” she says, wanting to extend the same support to their employees. “I feel so blessed that I never experienced [that part] of Pinoy culture where female in-laws are not given importance. [That would have prevented] me from becoming an entrepreneur.”
Presently, Rosario’s Delicacies has 17 employees, 12 of whom are women.
“We don’t have formal facilities like feeding rooms or daycare, but when they bring their children along, we share our living space with them. We also provide our workers with counseling if there’s conflict in their families.”
She continues by saying that they have a lot of women employees who are victims of harassment, physical and emotional abuse, and poor access to education. “A lot of my women workers were battered – they’re survivors, and they inspire me to continue the business. It is my privilege to be of service to them.”
Today Rosario’s Delicacies products are sold at Bangkerohan, Cacao City; Gattys Farm in Manila and Duphoriaby Durian Master in Makati; online it is offered at GlobalLinker, Lazada, One Store, and thru Facebook.
Rosario’s Delicacies has even gone international. Their products can now be found in different brick-and-mortar and online stores in Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States. That’s why to all aspiring women entrepreneurs, Mary Grace says, “Dare to dream and work on that dream! Life is full of challenges, that is why you must look at the opportunities, not the adversities. With God and hard work, there are always endless possibilities.”♦
Date of Release: 15 October 2020