Just the right dough: The story of Golden Oven
Airra Katrina Tan has always imagined herself as an entrepreneur – establishing her own business, running it, making it part of who she is.
Even when she was just a Management Engineering student at the Mapua University, she already did side jobs as an entrepreneur, selling different stuff to her friends and classmates. This did not really come as a surprise as doing business is something ingrained in her family. Her father and brother are managing a construction and an auto supply business. Her mom, a Certified Public Accountant, is her go-to person when it comes to financial matters.
But when she graduated from Mapua in 2010, she did not pursue entrepreneurship right away as her father urged her to apply for a job to gain experience being an employee. Appreciating the wisdom behind this advice, she worked as a flight attendant for Cebu Pacific. Amidst her busy schedule, Airra’s entrepreneurial spirit just wouldn’t be tamed. In between her flights, she managed a dormitory inside the Salem Complex near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4 and a logistics business (delivery of cosmetic products from warehouse to clients) in Pasay City.
Juggling her work as a cabin crew and as an entrepreneur was Airra’s life for five years until she married her long-time boyfriend in 2016. Few months into the marriage, Airra and her husband agreed to start their own family. She then decided that it would be best to resign from her job and prioritize her health so she could have a healthy and safe pregnancy. She also gave up both the dormitory and logistics business. That same year, Airra got pregnant.
Airra gave birth in February 2017 to twins. She savored this season in her life to focus on her babies and look after her growing family. A breastfeeding advocate, she exclusively breastfed her twins and even regularly donated breastmilk at the Chinese General Hospital, which is just beside their house. As she is someone who is not used to being idle, Airra spent what little free time that she had in learning how to bake. Once she had the grasp of it, she started baking lactation cookies. Then, she tried selling it on her Facebook page. Orders steadily increased, as clients kept coming back.
Realizing this was something she wanted to do in the long haul, Airra took the next logical step and registered her business, “Golden Oven.”
“Golden because breastmilk is considered liquid gold.”
But just when the business was beginning to shape up, the coronavirus hit the country (and the whole world).
The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown rendered Golden Oven’s lactation cookies “non-essential.” The demand dwindled, sales declined.
When crisis like this happens, entrepreneurs are forced to do new things.
“Naglabas ako ng PhP 100, 000.00 galing sa savings namin.” (I shelled out PhP 100, 000.00 from our personal savings.)
Airra started making bread based on recipes on Youtube and sold them online. Although her baked products were always “sold out,” she admitted that she was not that happy with the dough.
She continued experimenting and modifying her recipe. After several tries, she finally came up with the recipe that would give her just the right dough she wanted for her breads – soft, fluffy and light.
Using her dough as her base, she made different kinds of bread: cinnamon, floss, ensaymada, etc.
Then on her husband’s birthday in June, 2020, she made cheeserolls. It was every guest’s favorite! They urged her to include this in her growing menu of bread products.
“At first, I was hesitant. Ang hirap kayang gumawa ng cheeserolls. Ma-proseso siya. Daming kailangang timplahin.” (It’s so hard to make cheeserolls. The process entails a lot of preparation.) But she later caved in.
Her hard work paid off because when she joined the Let’s Eat Pare (LEP) Community, her cheeserolls were given a perfect score of 10/10. LEP is an online food community/platform launched in the Philippines in 2016. On Facebook, it has over 486 thousand members, sharing posts about their favorite restaurant and food products, promoting Filipino food businesses in the process. With her membership in LEP, Golden Oven gained attention from foodie netizens. Its Facebook page suddenly became a hit online; from 1,000 likes, it has now over 11,000 likes. Add to this are the great reviews she continues to receive from the members of the LEP Community.
“May sasarap pa ba sa Golden Oven? Parang eto na yata pinakamasarap na tinapay na natikman ko. Yung binabalik balikan ko talaga. Sobrang solid sa sarap at lambot ng tinapay!”
“Mga erp, share ko lang my best ECQ find: Golden Oven breads!!! First time ko nag-order nung September 2020. And since then, I’ve ordered 12 times already. Kasi tuwing maglalabas sya ng new product, talagang nag-oorder ako agad. Lol.Kasi the first time I tried the milky cheese roll, wala na, ayoko na talaga sa iba. Sobrang soft and fluffy ng bread. As in kahit matagal na, basta iref tas reheat before eating, same quality as when it was delivered. Ang galing! Ewan ko anong gayuma nilalagay ni Ms.Airra Tan sa breads nya, pero anuman yon, oorder pa din ako ulet!”
“Golden Oven’s Milky cheese rolls FTW!!!!!! Pang breakfast, pang himagas, at pang sports pa!!
Napaka sarap!!!!!!!! Wag na kayo papahuli!!! PS: Hindi po ako bayad, sadyang napaka sarap lamang.”
“I am a fan of their milky cheese rolls. As in ang daming beses ko ng umorder at pinang reregalo ko rin ang cheese rolls nila. This is the first time i tried their newest product, their Pastillas roll and it was really good! Hindi ako nadisappoint. Ordered their chocolate crinkles too. Super moist and chewy. Bentang benta sa teammates ko sa volleyball! Ubos ang 2 boxes. I tell you pare, with Golden Oven you’ll never go wrong. Walang maling order kasi lahat masarap!”
“I found gold in LEP, pare! Milky Cheese Rolls by Golden Oven. Overflowing with milky, buttery and cheesy goodness, pare!”
“Akala ko makukuha ako sa tingin ng pork floss, yun pala SOBRANG PANALO ng Milky Cheese Rolls ng @golden___oven! Wild! We are super fans, pare! Imagine an ensaymada and soft cheese roll in 1! I had 5 pieces in one gooooo, pare!”
As orders keep coming in, Airra continues to upgrade her business operations. She hired two helpers in the bakery and trained them in baking. She invested in an industrial oven and a heavy-duty dough mixer.
“Dati natatakot akong ipagkatiwala sa kanila ang recipe ko, ang pag-bake mismo. Pero walang mangyayari kung ako lang lahat. Hindi ko kakayanin lalo na’t lumalago ang negosyo.” (Before, I was afraid to entrust my recipe and my production process to my employees. But I wouldn’t be able to do it all by myself considering the business is growing.)
When Golden Oven just started offering new products, she would produce a few boxes a day, which would give Airra a profit of PhP 300.00 – PhP 600.00. Now, they are producing around 40 boxes a day, giving them a 5-digit daily earnings. The bestseller is the cheeserolls.
At the height of the pandemic and the restrictions, Airra wasn’t able to avail of any government program launched for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and their employees. She pointed it to the lack of information about these programs as the reason why she was not able to avail of these programs.
“Kung alam namin, sana nag-avail kami. So, lahat ng tulong na binigay namin sa mga empleyado namin, sariling kayod, sariling bulsa.” (If we only knew of these programs, we would have availed of it. So all of the help we extended to our employees came from our own funds.)
But while Golden Oven survived the challenges posed by the pandemic without much help from the government, she still hopes she can get assistance to sustain and grow her business.
“When the time comes for me to expand Golden Oven, I hope I can avail of financial assistance or additional investment.”
Asked about her plans for Golden Oven, Airra said she intends to sustain the business and make it grow.
“Golden Oven is my legacy. I can already imagine having branches in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. But for now, I’ll continue doing it based on my own pace and my own capacity.”
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