Former TV host finds sweet success in cake business 

Not even the pandemic can prevent Filipinos from celebrating birthdays with cakes.  With the use of social media and logistics apps, TV and events host turned baker Angelica Gutierrez Esguerra-Villarojo and her husband Vernon make sure birthday celebrations remain sweet.

Angelica, 34, who hosted travel and magazine shows over Studio 23 and ABS-CBN Sports & Action a few years ago, and Vernon, a registered nurse, put up Keyks by VerGel to create custom/theme cakes, cupcakes, sugar cookies and other pastries for all occasions.

Keyks by VerGel founders Angelica and Vernon Villarojo
Keyks by VerGel founders Angelica and Vernon Villarojo
"Baking cakes became my passion and my husband loves to cook.  As I also love to eat, we made profit out of it," she says.

The couple started with a minimal capital of 1,500.  They converted their home kitchen in Barangay Calumpang, Marikina City into commissary for the business.  "My husband and I started this business in 2017.  We saw that there is profit in cake business because every person, in his or her own little way, celebrates birthdays," says Angelica.

While Angelica also did events hosting, the health crisis and the ban on mass gatherings this year encouraged the couple to focus on the cake and pastry business.

The business thrived on customization.   "What makes it special is that we make sure that customers will be satisfied for the distinct taste and presentation because we put passion and hard work in every cake that we make," she says.

"We treat our customers as our boss, so we let them decide what design fits their festivities. For years now, we have established a good relationship with our dear satisfied customers. That's why they keep coming back to us and provide non-stop referrals," Angelica says.

Social media also proved helpful in providing free publicity.  "We are very thankful to social media platforms [Facebook, Instagram] for being a great tool and avenue in promoting and disseminating information with regards to our pastries and culinary products," says Angelica. 

The couple tapped ride hailing/food delivery apps to deliver their products to customers. "These apps are very convenient for small enterprises like ours. We keep ourselves updated for the latest food trends and fads, so we can go head-to-head against other culinary delivery businesses. Name it, and we can prepare it," she says.

Angelica is hopeful that the business will pick up once the pandemic dissipates.  "I always believe that Filipinos are known to be resilient, and we can make it during this pandemic. For us who ventured in SMEs, it's hard to sustain the business with limited customers as functions and celebrations were halted as well," she says.

"That's why we shifted momentarily to cooking some cuisines such as baked sushi and other viands [food party trays] to substitute for the pastry business. But luckily, I still get orders even during the quarantine period. Filipinos are cheerful. We tend to celebrate even with limited resources like money and food," she says.

"My plan is to continue this venture in the midst of this pandemic. As they always say, it’s our 'diskarte' on how to still flourish during these trying times that will make our businesses prosper. It’s not yet time for us to rest and we must double the effort," says Angelica.

Most importantly, Angelica holds on to her faith.  "I believe that our God is a loving God and the best will still prevail for us. We have to hang on with our faith and strive more to overcome the crisis," she says.

Angelica who studied HRM at Asian College Quezon City says she wants to grow the business as their family expands.  "My focus for now is for our business to grow, aside from having our first baby. My husband and I always wanted our first child.  We want to provide our future children the best in life. That's why we are working hard. I guess that's what every parents dream for their families," she says.

She encourages other entrepreneurs not to lose hope.  "My advice to those venturing into SMEs is to hang on and strive more in order for us to cope during these extraordinary and trying times. It shall pass and will be just part of our history," she says.

"Let us keep our faith in the Almighty God burning because He is a loving and protecting God. Keep our faith. Prayers and hard work are the two vital ingredients of a fruitful, exciting and savory life," she says. 

Topics: Angelica Gutierrez Esguerra-Villarojo , Keyks by VerGel
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