Lockdown Economy Philippines in a Baked Goods Business with Mich Oliva
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Danielle Hormillosa
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Mich Oliva, the founder of Sugar High Bakery, a baked goods business in Quezon City. Mich shared how Sugar High Bakery started — simply, a light bulb idea. Cookies are her favourite dessert and she got the idea to establish the business after searching for the “chewiest cookies,” an idea that became their slogan. During the lockdown, Mich stated that she was kind of scared of people flocking inside their compound to buy their products due to threats of virus transmission. Also, she had a hard time replenishing the supplies needed for baking. Fortunately, shopping for ingredients became easier as time passed by.
Tell us something about your business, Sugar High Bakery.
Mich: Sugar High Bakery is a business that I put up two years ago. Everything right now is operated online. It was a lightbulb idea when I was searching for the chewiest cookies ever and so Sugar High Bakery was born. Right now, we’re operating with four staff at home. It’s my hobby and cookies are my favourite kind of dessert. We opened another business called Ging’s Gourmet that mainly bakes breads and cakes for special occasions.
Mich, where are you based and how many customers do you usually have?
Mich: We’re home-based in Quezon City. A lot of people right now are actually going outside of our gate and asking if we have something available. We’re still based at home and very thankful that a lot of people have been patronizing our products.
As for the customers, daily we have at least 20 deliveries for both businesses, Sugar High Bakery and Ging’s Gourmet. We have breads, cakes, cookies, lasagna trays — so everything mostly for celebrations.
You mentioned earlier that you are home-based. Do you have any employees?
Mich: We have employees at home. I actually call myself an employee, as well as my mom and my sisters. Everything we do right now is within the family. We have employed three staff that we’ve trained throughout the pandemic and I’m so lucky that they’re very smart and really easy to work with. Right now as a whole, we’re a team of seven.
Speaking of siblings, tell us about this donation drive partnership you did with your younger sibling for the victims of previous typhoons.
Mich: My sibling is a senior in high school right now and most of their school projects involve doing donation drives. He was asking if he could partner with Sugar High Bakery. As part of his project called “Project Segregation”, we used a discount code when selling our products and part of the profits were donated or used to buy materials for the victims of the Marikina typhoon “Rolly”.
Regarding the pandemic, how did the lockdown affect your business?
Mich: When the pandemic started, my business really boomed. I thought of closing down for a while because I was scared people would gather within our compound, but a lot of people have been messaging us online through the Sugar High Bakery Instagram page, asking if they can place an order. I said no because I do not want to risk the riders’ safety and are not able to let them inside our compound. When we started opening and operating, people really ordered a lot! We went from maybe 6,000 followers to 18,000. The business grew twice and it was a blessing in disguise for me. I’m just really thankful right now. We’re focusing on making our customers happy and driving their satisfaction to a hundred per cent, as much as possible.
Are your delivery partners your own or are they outsourced from a third-party logistics company?
Mich: They are mostly outsourced, but we have in-house riders already so we made a group chat with all the riders to communicate with them.
What are the key challenges that you face?
Mich: During the pandemic, it was very hard for us to get supplies from different suppliers during the lockdown. We could not even go to groceries. It was time-consuming to go into the grocery and fall in line for almost three hours, but now the situation is getting back to normal.
A second challenge is making sure the customers think the product is safe and secure. Before we ship out our products, we made it a point to seal them. Most of our customers appreciated the fact that we were sealing all the boxes and trays and making sure that our products are sanitized. Those are the main things we struggled with besides keeping up with the demand, which in itself is not a problem of course.
In terms of acquiring supplies, how did you solve the problem you had? Did you buy ingredients at the groceries or online?
Mich: We had a lot of ingredients from our suppliers, but we also go to the grocery every weekend. I think patience is a virtue right now; we wait within the day to go into the grocery and get everything we need. Everything needed a lot of time and patience so time management was a key factor in ensuring this business succeeds during the pandemic.
You mention that your customers appreciate that you seal your products. Do you know how they are doing right now?
Mich: Most of our customers are very open to how they are doing. When we message our customers, we try our best to be very welcoming. We would ask them, “How’s the food and the products, how are you?” They would always share how happy our products made them feel. A lot of customers would tell us how their day went with our products. So there, we made friends along the way.
How about your competition?
Mich: I used to often check on my competitors before, but now I do it from time to time na lang maybe because I’m focusing on what I want, how I want my business to be and how I want it to look like more than checking my competitors’ movements. But sometimes, I still do check — maybe mga once a month!
In general, how is your business doing now?
Mich: In general, I think it’s doing really well. It’s getting bigger and requires more focus and time, but so far it’s going really, really well. I want to expand maybe next year if God’s will bless us.
Aside from expansion, what are your plans for the few coming months?
Mich: Right now, I don’t have any plans. I will continue to make new products, explore new recipes, and continue making my customers happy and growing our following. Everything that we do right now is not really planned, it’s something that comes out of spur-of-the-moment ideas. We’re not really “planners” so if we think of something that might do well, we do it right away.
Mich, can you tell us three things that you need help within operating your business?
Mich: I’m currently working in a corporate company alongside managing Sugar High Bakery and Ging’s Gourmet, so what I think we would need is a good system. We’re already planning to create a website to centralize all the orders and help with the deliveries. Scratch what I said earlier about not having plans, this is one plan that we have! My focus right now after the holiday season is to create a website for both Ging’s Gourmet and Sugar High Bakery to centralize orders and it would be easier for customers to check out our page and products. We also want to know their feedback so the website will have a section where they can share their experiences. I love receiving feedback and constructive criticism. If ever a customer would say something bad about our products, I wouldn’t fight them. I would just listen to them and see where we can improve things.
The system that we have right now, medyo old school where you use this order form, so we’re still looking for people who can help us, employees, with things like social media.
You mentioned two things, are there more?
Mich: Three things actually! The third is deliveries pala, lalo na during peak season! Right now, I don’t know how I can even sleep, but it’s okay! Pag may sipag at tiyaga, kayo mo yan!
Yes, I agree. Mich, if you were to address your potential customers, tell them why they should choose Sugar High Bakery.
Mich: If you’re in the search for the chewiest cookies ever, the search is over! You should try Sugar High Bakery cookies at hindi lang yun! If you love cinnamon rolls, I’m not bad-talking other big brands out there, but we have the fluffiest cinnamon rolls ever. That’s all!
A local bakery that offers cookies that never crumble — this is Sugar High Bakery. Thank you so much, Mich!
Mich: Thank you! Bye!
About the Guest
Mich Oliva is a 26-year-old entrepreneur. She works in a corporate company alongside handling two online bakeries namely Sugar High Bakery PH and Ging’s Gourmet PH for more than two years now.
Sugar High Bakery is a brand she created out of love and passion for chewy cookies. It was a light bulb idea. When she was searching for the chewiest cookies ever, Sugar High Bakery was born!
Ging’s Gourmet is the 2nd brand she built together with her family. They make products, ranging from their famous cinnamon rolls to their gourmet cakes, perfect for occasions with family and friends.