Keeping a tradition alive can be difficult, but Tirso and Rosana Lisbos from Surigao del Norte found a way to do it with a tasty ingredient: Cacao. While the Lisbos’ core value is to keep the Filipino culture alive, their small business has had another positive effect on the community — providing some locals a living. This is the inspiring story of how they started.

Sweet Start

The couple got the idea in 2018 when their nephew requested to have champorado — sweet rice porridge with ground up cacao beans — locally known as tablea. However, they could not find at that time the key ingredient in making this traditional Filipino dish.

Not knowing what to do, they turned to their elderly neighbor for help, who taught them how to make tablea out of raw cacao that the Lisbos couple bought from the public market. What was initially intended for their family’s consumption, has become a grand business idea. This led to the establishment of Bacuag’s Best Homemade Pure Tablea.

Despite their enthusiasm in pursuing the business and a background in retail the first steps were not easy. Firstly, it was hard for them to find local supplies of cacao and secondly, marketing the product wasn’t easy.

Since they know that everything can already be researched online, they used the internet not just to promote their products but to find suppliers too.

As such, their venture began with a capital of PhP20,000 and about 10 kilos of raw cacao. Since they have already started the business online, they pursued the platform and continued to market their products on their Facebook page. However, they found that marketing on social media was quite challenging.

“Your product will not be easily recognized, especially when it is not presentable,” Rosana realized.

DTI’s assistance did not stop there, though. The agency helped the couple through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Writeshop seminar, which pushed them to be FDA Certified. Being FDA certified meant that they could export their cacao products to international markets like Australia.

Pandemic Pulls back the Lisbos’ Progress

The pandemic threatened the stability of their business as production and operation came to a halt for months. Workers lockdowns throughout the archipelago. Products were hard to sell, so the business almost did not profit.

However, Tirso and Rosana were determined to overcome this challenge. The learning takeaways from the DTI programs they joined helped prepare them for a crisis.

While everyone else was just feeling their way around online marketing, the couple was already an expert in this new medium. They continued with online marketing and were able to strategically use online platforms as tools to recover from the pandemic.

The Ripple Effect

Today, the business supplies a variety of sweetened and unsweetened Cacao products locally and abroad. To further expand their line, they even offer tsokolatera sets with a batirol made by a local woodcarver to encourage people to make tsokolate the traditional way.

From a starting capital of PhP20,000 that has grown to PhP1.5 million, Mr. Lisbos said that they now have the capacity and FDA[1]approved equipment to advance their business, which they had worked hard on developing.

As any business-savvy individual knows, your business decisions affect more than just yourself. Tirso is well aware of this ripple effect, as the choices he makes for their small business impact many people’s lives — cacao farmers, packaging suppliers, local woodcarvers, nipa sugar producers, and most importantly, their six production staff members who are out-of-school youth.

Although running a business can be very tiring, Tirso and Rosana Lisbos find meaning in their work, knowing that they are bettering not just themselves but others, too.

They dream of continuing to level up the business together with their employees. With the way these Chocolate Champions run Bacuag’s Best Homemade Pure Tablea, we are sure they’ll achieve nothing but sweet success. ♦