Charish Tanawan had a happy and easy-going childhood with her five siblings, one that was filled with appetizing food and pastries. She learned to cook from her mother and paternal grandmother, Inang Titang, who cooked and baked delicious meals and desserts for her during childhood years. It was never Charish’s plan nor dream, however, to become a chef. Charish says that she lost the ability to dream at the age of six after her father’s death.
Left to raise five children alone, Charish’s mother was a good provider. After her mother got robbed of a large sum of money, which was intended for the household allowance and Charish’s tuition fee, Charish had to make a difficult decision: to give up the opportunity of entering a prestigious tertiary institution. Despite this, however, she refused to settle for anything less and allow the incident to rob her of a bright future. She knew that she had to create opportunities for herself, given the circumstances. With a Commission on Higher Education scholarship, she was admitted to the Philippine Normal University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education major in Physics (BSE-Physics), which she then completed, graduating Cum Laude.
Charish then applied for teaching positions in several top universities, landing a place in the Physics department of Mapua Institute of Technology. For many years, it seemed like Charish was set along a career path in the academe. However, life, like the proverbial box of chocolates, had other surprises in store.
It was their firstborn’s birthday, and Charish and her husband decided to create and decorate a DIY birthday cake because they could not find a supplier. They bought DVDs and books on how to make fondant cakes. She borrowed her mother’s hand mixer and turbo broiler. When they posted the cake on social media, it came as a surprise that their work caught the interest of others. It was at that moment that the couple decided to jump into this entrepreneurial opportunity, and in 2007, they established Biba Cakes and Pastries Shop, named it after their daughter’s nickname Biba.
Biba was a home-based enterprise in San Andres Bukid, Manila that unlocked Charish’s creativity, an artistic side of her that she didn’t know she had. At first, hoping to have their small business while having regular employment, Charish and her husband kept their day jobs. As Charish recalls, “engineer and teacher in the morning but bakers and cake artists in the evening.”
Biba Cake started its online sales in 2008 through Multiply as its marketplace. From there, it has branched out to other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Lazada, and Linker.store.
Her best-selling product is Nut Selection Silvanas Bites. She also sells fondant cakes when-ever there is a client who asks for it, but they have slowly shifted to buttercream cakes. Their customized cake starts at P2,000. Prices, however, depends on the design.
The business slowly grew, as customers continued ordering custom cakes, pastries, and cup-cakes. But in 2015, they had to move to Morong, Rizal to give their second child, who has congenital heart disease and severe asthma, a cleaner and healthier environment. Moving to a new market and a new place where they knew only a few people was a challenge. Much like their cakes, they had to customize and adapt, so they started selling baking ingredients and packaging as well. Soon, they set up their first retail outlet in Morong, and in 2018, they opened their first commissary outside their home.
It is also in Bombongan, Morong Rizal, where they have established their production facility. They also procure needed raw materials from local suppliers and egg farmers in Rizal.
To keep products fresh, they use food-grade boxes. Their Silvanas and Sans Rival are kept in the freezer.
Through the various Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) programs, like the Kapatid Mentor Me Program (KMME) and One Town One Product (OTOP) Next Gen in 2019, Charish was able to overcome the different challenges of growing a business, especially in executing business plans and filing applications with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO-PHIL) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same year.
Today, Charish isn’t only running a successful business. She is also giving back to the community. After all, she sees herself more as an entrepreneur than a businessperson. “A businessman is all about having a business and earning money,” says Charish. “Whereas being an entrepreneur is about creating jobs, creating solutions, innovating, helping the community.” In cooperation with DTI Rizal Negosyo Centers, she holds free demos and seminars in Morong and Tanay.
During low sales such as this pandemic, Charish draws her inspiration from her staff, re-sellers, and her children. “It is them whom I think about,” she said. Biba Cake plans to strengthen their brand so they can come up with pop up stores in the country and offer more products.
Charish also heeds the call to empower women. She believes that women are innately collaborative and innovative, which makes them a great benefit to any business, and the best way to create a women-friendly workplace is to have women business leaders. To date, she has eight female and two male employees; whose numbers Charish hopes to grow.
Her success may be viewed as serendipitous, but Charish differs when she says, “Make your own opportunities, if there is no market then make one. Opportunities do not just knock on your door; you have to work hard to create that opportunity.” Ultimately, she invites Filipinos to be consciously active in achieving the success they want in life. While it may not be a piece of cake, it’s a journey worth taking.♦
Date of Release: 16 November 2020