Baking a Hit Recipe

Instead of taking a rest upon retirement, Ester Perez ventured into a business to sustain herself and remain productive.

Upon her retirement, she put up a small bakery in her hometown Guisao, Zamboanga City in 2009. The bakery, initially employing just one baker, only offered pandesal. As the bakery grew, it added sliced bread and other bread products like any other town bakery would normally offer.

Although her husband is a good provider, she wanted to remain financially independent and be productive.

Ester’s previous work in a bank somehow exposed her on handling financial transactions. However, she has no background in managing a food business. Nevertheless, she took a leap of faith.

Baker's Field owner Ester Perez holding up their best sellers

Borrowed capital

There was not enough money to put up the bakery at the start but Ester was determined to establish this business. She borrowed Php 150,000 from her father since her retirement funds were not yet released at that time.

The bakery did well, and Ester was able to get a fair return on investment. After a few years in the business, she felt the need to expand operations to reach other segments of the market.

Expanding, however, means introducing additional products and spending more on the logistics. She was determined to penetrate supermarkets and sell products to nearby towns. Thus, she had to come up with a pastry or bread with a longer shelf life. Top of mind, she thought of selling biscocho, a type of twice-baked Filipino bread usually coated with butter and sugar.

“We wanted to offer something that would appeal to both kids and adults,” shared Ester.

Ester’s grit fueled her dream of expanding the business. Soon after, she decided to offer several flavors of biscocho. Aside from the usual butter flavor, she also offered peanut, ginger, and cinnamon. Today, they offer 20 flavors and are in the process of introducing more. These were based on thorough research and development to help ensure product marketability.

Machine processor for the twice-baked pastry

Given the increased demand of Baker’s Field Enterprises products, Ester also had to expand her logistics support. Her first delivery vehicle, borrowed from her father, was insufficient to bring supplies to various supermarkets in her hometown and nearby areas. So she acquired a new vehicle.

From a small, simple town bakery, Baker’s Field has now found its niche in the market.

Aside from biscocho, Baker’s Field also produces butter cookies, cream bread, sesame cookie sticks, and whole wheat loaf bread, among others.

A chance to give back

The business, which is turning 10 years old this 2019, has gone far and repaid its debts. More than the profit, Baker’s Field takes pride in its commitment to help other people through direct employment and socio-civic work.

Through the business, Ester is now able to help her employees and the community. Baker’s Field consistently supports activities that benefit the community such as youth camp, health center services, and others. The bakery has also been employing self-supporting students during summer vacation.

A Baker's Field employee processing biscocho

To help the community, Ester and her team sell used gallons and sacks, containers of their ingredients; earnings of which are used to buy school supplies for indigent kids. Ester is coordinating with local government officials on how they can help their barangay. She has also asked their assistance in profiling their beneficiaries.

Today, Ester has 26 employees which include self-supporting students. She takes pride in providing employment opportunities to former housewives who need to augment their family income.

Staying afloat

Ester stressed the importance of innovation for a business to stay afloat in the market. “Continuous innovation is necessary given the stiff competition in the market,” she said. The enterprise plans to introduce more products including two more flavors of biscocho which are now in the research and development stage.

Staying in the business for almost a decade has not been easy. Ester also experienced hiccups along the way. The first challenge she recalled is the lack of formal training on baking, which was immediately resolved by taking a basic baking lesson to understand the process.

Two packets of Baker's Field butter cookies

In 2014, Ester was invited to an event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). She attended a four-day event to introduce her products with the intention of 400 packs of biscocho, but ended up selling 1,400 packs.

After which, Ester attended a couple of seminars and trainings organized by DTI. “Continuous trainings and support [from DTI] helped us succeed,” she said.

Baker’s Field Enterprises was also part of the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program, which used a coaching and mentoring approach for micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to learn from large corporations.

“It taught me how to build a sustainable, resilient business,” said Ester who added that the program inspired her to improve the bakery operations.

The Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Tourism (DOT), and the local government unit of Guisao, Zamboanga City also extended help in marketing the products of Baker’s Field Enterprises, according to Ester.

Packets of Baker's Field biscocho in different flavors

Reaping awards

As a testament to Baker’s Field’s commitment to improvement and innovation, the business has garnered several awards. Some of the most notable recognitions it received include the 2018 Katha Awards – International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines; 2017 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year (DTI Negosyo Life); and SME Rising Star Award 2015 (Micro Enterprise Category – Zamboanga Peninsula MSME Conference).

Despite the several awards that her business can boast of, Ester believes there is still a lot of things that she needs to improve on. She has high hopes for Baker’s Field and looks forward to employing and helping more people in the community.

Asked on how others can run a successful business, she said, “Be focused. Surround yourself with people who are willing to share their knowledge.”

Four Baker's Field employees holding up various packets of biscocho