71 week ago — 6 min read
After 11 years of working late nights and long hours in a call center, Hazel Asignar began to develop health problems such as asthma, diabetes, hormonal imbalance and thyroid problems. After being declared “not fit to work” by her doctor, Hazel knew she needed to pivot for her well-being while still generating income.
Since she was always an excellent cook, she decided to pursue a dream she had years ago of making bagoong and selling it online to potential customers. Armed with only Php 1,000 capital to make her first batch of 30 jars, she took to Facebook and social media to promote her products. To her surprise, she sold out after her first post and recovered her initial investment!
'Nung first time ko mag-post at naging sold out, sabi ko sa sarili ko ‘baka nga meron akong kikitan dito.
And with that, Ninang’s Kitchen was born.
As any small business owner would know, the anxiety of leaving stable income to fluctuating earnings every month is extremely high. As the worries and doubts piled on, Hazel was fueled by the positive feedback she would get on her products. Each kind word shared about her products pushed her to keep going and not give up. The support of friends and loved ones also played a big role in keeping her morale high. Hazel explained, “Ang dami ko kasing kaibigan na hindi ko inakala na they would be the ones who would support me.” With their purchases and cheers of encouragement, she knew she wasn’t alone in this new journey of hers and was more determined to succeed.
As Ninang’s Kitchen continues to sell products online, they have also expanded their business model to accommodate resellers and private branding for companies. “We have a company na nag-pprivate branding [sa amin]. Before ‘nung nagsimula ako, doon ako nabuhay sa mga resellers. Mga teachers na gusto mag-resell, sa mga iba’t ibang municipality.” From starting out with selling only 30 jars on her first run, she is now able to sell 1000-1500 bottles of bagoong alone in a month. She has since expanded her offerings with chili sauce and various peanut butter variants and now does all her production in a 30 sqm processing area.
Like many of us who were greatly affected by lockdowns during the pandemic, Hazel too encountered challenges with her business. “The big challenge that I had was logistics with my raw materials. I had to stop operations for almost a month.” This didn’t stop the entrepreneur, however. She continued to look forward despite the difficulties and figured out ways to earn money, not just herself and her family, but also for her suppliers as well as the struggling farmers and fishermen she worked with.
Hazel acknowledged the help of DTI’s Mentor Me program and how the marketing learnings from the program helped her see the potential reach of her business. “Dati, I was just limited to Dumaguete, Negros, mga order lang ng mga kaibigan. I didn’t see my business na puwede pala lumabas ng Pilipinas”, she shared. Ninang’s Kitchen fulfills orders of overseas Filipinos who miss the salty, umami flavor of Philippine bagoong. Aside from the learnings Hazel has picked up from DTI’s Mentor Me program, she also shared how Globallinker’s Linker.Store has become Ninang’s Kitchen’s official website. Though hesitant at first, and while recovering from two eye surgeries, she was able to set up Ninang’s Kitchen’s Linker.Store with the assistance of her son and husband.
Kami yung nag-set-up ng Linker.Store with the help of DTI, and ‘yung Linker.Store ang ginagamit na namin as our official website.
She went on to say, “Napakaganda talaga kasi ‘nung platform. It’s so easy for us to use, tapos wala kaming babayaran - it’s totally free.” With a little effort to get acquainted with the platform, now the site houses all her products and Hazel directs all inquiries to the site.
Looking to the future, Ninang’s Kitchen hopes to expand the menu further and maybe even tap the global market. “Mayroon na kaming spicy bagoong. We are looking into additional variants in the future with bagoong. We already have four variants of peanut butter. And we also hope to penetrate into the global market,” she explained. When asked what her advice is to starting out entrepreneurs, Hazel summed it up perfectly, saying, “Never give up. In all of life’s challenges and in business, never give up.” At the end of the day, the core of small businesses is its people and Hazel is proof that no matter what happens, you fight for what is essential.
Watch the full interview of Ninang’s Kitchen’s Hazel Asignar on Unionbank’s Youtube page.
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Image source: Ninang's Kitchen's Facebook page
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