Zamboanga City is a province in the southern Philippines severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses were forced to close, and a lot of people lost their jobs. However, one entrepreneur in this city refused to give up.

The entrepreneur is a woman named Onoda Moharin, who owns a micro business named Sweet Moh’s Bakeshop. When the pandemic hit, her business was among the many that were forced to close. But while the pandemic has been a difficult time

for everyone, Onoda’s innovative solutions to problems are what makes her a cut above the rest.

Sweet Moh’s Tasty Tale

Onoda’s journey to success started in 2015 as a home-based business at a rented apartment in Tetuan, Zamboanga City. She baked cookies and pies and displayed them in her sister’s clinic in Isabela City, Basilan.

One day, one of her sister’s pregnant clients bought a slice of pineapple pie and took it home. Within 30 minutes, she came back and bought the entire pie. She told Onoda that that was the best pineapple pie she had ever tasted. It was the finest testimonial they’ve heard, which prompted Onoda to turn this side hustle into a full-time business.

In a few weeks’ time, Onoda faced a delightful challenge — orders kept coming in. That was when she decided to buy a bigger oven and eventually open a bakery beside her sister’s clinic, and she named it Sweet Moh Bakeshop.

As someone who studied at UP Los Baños, buko pie had a significant impact on Onoda’s life. This is why when she decided

to open a bakery, she did not hesitate to include this coconut-based delicacy on her menu.

It seemed as if the bakeshop was growing exponentially and everything was going well until Basilan’s coconut industry was hit hard by the dreadful Cocolisap. Since one of their main products was buko pie, Onoda had to search for a different source of buko, or else the business would greatly suffer. Thankfully, they were able to find a supplier in Zamboanga City, even if it meant having to purchase and transport this raw ingredient from there to Basilan every day.

How the DTI Helped Bake Onoda’s Success

Onoda found her biggest success upon joining ZAMPEX, the Zamboanga Peninsula Exposition, in 2017. The response to their products was so significant that they were convinced to open their first branch. Banking on the lessons of running the first branch, they eventually offered two more branches.

In 2018, she attended the DTI’s Kapatid Mentor ME Program to hone her entrepreneurial skills further. One of the first things she learned is that securing a business permit is essential in ensuring the public that your business is legitimate and safe to transact with.

In the program, she learned how to develop a business plan and met other young entrepreneurs with whom she could bounce ideas off.

Another lesson she learned during her mentorship is proper accounting and how to properly put a mark-up on her baked products.

“In business, you should not only put 30% mark up to be profitable. You should aim higher. Make it up to 70% to make it a lucrative business,” she expressed.

Pondering during the Pandemic

In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, Onoda’s bakery virtually had zero business funds. When the local government announced a lockdown in March of 2020, she had to make drastic decisions.

First, she paid her workers, then she had to do the same for her suppliers. However, her funds were insufficient to pay everyone at once, so she wrote promissory notes to several suppliers. What was left was a small sum that she kept for herself and her family during the uncertain times of the pandemic.

Even when funds were already pretty low, Onoda did her best to help the community. During an outreach program spearheaded by their homeowner’s association, she gave away several boxes of canned condensed and evaporated milk that she had in stock.

After almost two months of being closed, Onoda slowly opened the business, even when they were still afraid of the COVID-19 virus and even when the vaccine was not yet available. As she no longer had funds to restart the business, she had to borrow money from family members.

The journey back was not as smooth as when she was starting out. The first few months of the pandemic were the hardest. There were only a handful of customers, so she only sold a limited amount of baked goods.

But Onoda did not give up. She hired a friend to manage her Facebook page to get more customers. It was a successful endeavor; from 430 followers, the social media manager was able to increase it to 5,650 followers!

“Challenges are very uncomfortable, sometimes unimaginable. Accepting it as part of your business journey will make it easy to handle; no matter how big or small it is. I have no huge capital in my hands, but I have a huge determination to win.”

Sweet Moh’s owner then contacted her previous customers to inform them that her bakery had reopened. She also partnered with delivery services such as Maxim to make it easier for customers to purchase her products. Onada recalled that she even had to wake up at four in the morning every day to deliver pies to the Pier of Zamboanga. These pies were then transported to her first branch in Isabela, Basilan.

All these to make sure they earn enough to make a living during one of the harshest periods the whole world has ever experienced.

Towards a Freshly-Baked Future

Sweet Moh Bakeshop is the epitome of a small business success story. Faced with unimaginable challenges during the pandemic, Onoda never gave up. She persisted through it all and came out stronger on the other side.

Her story is a reminder that no matter how tough times might get, we should always be hopeful and expect the best. Onoda Moharin’s journey to success is an inspiration to us all. She may not have a huge capital, but she was determined to win. Thank you, Onoda, for reminding us of the power of hope and determination. ♦