Hard work blended with passion: Vista Barista Coffee and Bakeshop
Jasmin Vista Catolos describes herself as a wife, a mother of two and an entrepreneur. She quickly adds, “Yes, in that order.”
After graduating from San Sebastian College with a degree in Accountancy, Jasmin worked in an office in Ortigas. She lasted for only a week. She quickly realized that working from 8-5 in an office did not suit her.
Her interest in crafts led her to establishing her first business, “Rikusitos,” a party supply shop that offered party accessories, balloon decorations and flower arrangements. She started baking and decorating cakes for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. However, because she was a one-woman-team at that time, she could not keep up with the amount of work required by the business. She then decided to focus on baking cakes.
“Crave and Create” was born in 2003. It offered cakes and pastries by order. In three years, she was able to stabilize its operation. Around this time, Jasmin and her then boyfriend Odilon (and now husband) loved going to different coffeeshops in Metro Manila. This gave her an idea to try making specialty coffee. She attended a training offered by the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC). After completing the course, she knew that the best next step in her business journey was to build her own coffee and bakeshop. Good thing, her parents and her aunt lent her the amount she needed for her additional capitalization.
“When I was just conceptualizing the business, a lot of people did not buy the idea. And quite understandably. Kasi nga coffeeshop siya tapos, nasa ‘rural area’ kami. Baka hindi pumatok. But I did not listen to them. I researched more and learned more about coffee, and eventually bought the necessary equipment needed for the business such as the cake chiller and the espresso machine. My siblings helped in renovating the shop while I was busy curating my menu.”
This experience was both familiar and different for Jasmin.
Familiar because she grew up helping her parents manage their restaurant named Halamanan in Tanay, Rizal.
“Halamanan was our family’s bread and butter. Growing up, my siblings and I would spend our spare time helping in the restaurant, as cashier, server, or as kitchen assistant. Later on, I also helped in cooking and preparing some of the dishes. I was confident because when I was still in college, I attended baking and culinary classes. The interest in cooking and baking is already ingrained in me.”
But it was also a different experience for her as this was her very own shop she was building.
“May kaba factor. Kasi ako lang ‘to eh. Pero dahil nga may experience naman ako, interested talaga ako dito at talagang inaral ko naman at pinaghandaan, itinuloy ko.”
In 2006, Vista Barista Coffee and Bakeshop was launched in the very same location where it still is at present. It offers coffee, tea, pasta, sandwiches, pastries, and cakes that are freshly baked daily.
“Every food offered in our menu is fresh and we ensure that we maintain the quality of our food and service. Siniguro namin na hindi basta-basta, at hindi papalit-palit ng brand ng ingredients dahil bago namin ginamit ang bawat produkto at sangkap, ito’y pinag-aralan at aming sinubukan.”
Few years into the business, Jasmin and her boyfriend, Odilon, got married. After 10 years of working as a licensed pharmacist, Odilon resigned from his job to help Jasmin in managing Vista Barista.
“We continued doing kitchen experiments to innovate and diversify our products. I am proud to say that our Houseblend Lemongrass ( Tanglad) Tea, which became an instant bestseller, was a product of our many and continuous kitchen experiments.”
Jasmin also believes that in order to sustain and even grow Vista Barista, she must continue equipping herself and upgrading her skills.
Aside from attending baking and culinary classes to be able to offer new products in her coffee and bakeshop, she also enrolled in the Managers Course of the UP ISSI to further improve in managing Vista Barista.
“I learned different marketing strategies, the importance of business plan, the nitty gritty details of financial recording and planning. I learned that we don’t make decision based on pure intuition. Dapat based din sa data.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Year 2020. Everything was going well with Vista Barista. Jasmin and her husband Odilon were ready to roll out their expansion plans until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.
All the events booked with Vista Batista were cancelled. With the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the shop had to close abruptly, leaving their employees without jobs, and the shop without income.
In the first few weeks of the ECQ, Jasmin focused on adjusting to their current reality and helping their kids with their school requirements as classes suddenly went online. During lull time, she would search online for new recipes and continue doing kitchen experiments.
As the ECQ was extended, Jasmin and her husband had to think of ways to be able to earn “kahit maliit lang.”
Before the pandemic, Jasmin admits that posting on the Facebook page of Vista Barista was a second thought for them. “Optional lang, pag may oras lang.” Because of the pandemic, the optional became a necessity.
“We were left with no choice but to sell online. We started posting on our Facebook page and offered customized cakes for pick-up and free delivery to nearby areas.”
It was a lot of hard work for Jasmin and her husband as they had to do everything all by themselves.
“Di pa pwede ang mga empleyado namin. So bake namin, hugas namin, deliver namin. Kami pa ang bantay sa pag-pick-up ng mga orders.”
On top of these, Jasmin also had to guide their two kids who were both attending online classes.
But their efforts paid off. The number of orders steadily increased. “Araw-araw, di kami nawawalan ng order ng cakes. Usually, birthday cakes.”
When the restrictions slowly eased up, their employees were able to go back to work on a shifting basis.
“Maliit lang kasi ang aming shop so to comply with the physical distancing protocol, only two employees could report for work. Shifting sila.”
When they got the hang of it, they started offering pasta and other dishes for take-out. What used to be the dining area of the shop became their workplace.
“Eventually, dumami ang customers. Para kaming naging“drive-thru.”
Jasmin believes that they have loyal customers because of the quality of their food.
“Binabalikan talaga kami ng customers dahil sa quality ng food namin.”
In April 2021, they opened V & C Baking and Packaging Supplies.
“Nung nag-pandemic ang daming nagsulputang mga homebased bakers. Pero limitado ang baking supplies. Luluwas pa sila ng Manila para makabili, or online orders pero days pa bago dumating. Kaya naisipan naming magtayo ng baking supplies store.”
In the 3rd quarter of 2021, they started accepting dine-in customers, but still on a limited capacity. All their employees were able to report for work.
This pandemic, Vista Barista was also able to offer new products such as ensaymada, pandesal, baguette, focaccia, among others. These were the results of their kitchen experiments. They were also able to acquire new chillers.
Looking back on the past 16 years of Vista Barista, particularly the last two years of being in a pandemic, Jasmin is in awe of God’s grace in their lives. She overflows with gratitude.
“We were affected but not so much compared to other businesses. Sobrang thankful talaga kami kay Lord. Maybe one factor is that our business was considered “essential” during this pandemic, and so we were allowed to operate.”
Jasmin also shared that hard work coupled with passion fueled her to carry on amidst the hardships and challenges she experienced being an entrepreneur. “Wala talagang katapat ang sipag at tiyaga. Managing your business takes a lot of hard work. It has a lot of challenges and we experienced that during this pandemic. Kapag wala ang puso mo dun sa negosyo, kapag nandiyan na ang hirap, baka mag-quit ka na kaagad. Di mo na itutuloy. Ako, nandito talaga ang puso ko. I’m passionate with what I do. My husband and I love what we’re doing, at the same time, our business allows us to offer work to the people in our community.”
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