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#DTIMalasakit Story from DTI-Region 4A (Laguna)
By Arianne C. Alinios

  

They say people must face and overcome challenges for them to even more enjoy the bliss of success. This is evident in the journey of Mrs. Supeña S. Solis.

Tita Sophie, as what most people call her, is the owner of one of the famous gourmet sardines in the City of San Pablo, Laguna, the Sophie's Gourmet. At the age of 63, she started her business when life unexpectedly threw her a curveball.

Tita Sophie's eldest daughter, Thea, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. Her condition required her to resign from her work as a food technician. Receiving treatments and undergoing chemotherapy sessions was tough, but this did not hinder Thea from pursuing her interests such as cooking and experimenting. Thea picked sardines as the subject of her experiment due to its cheap price and Tita Sophie supported her.

Both Tita Sophie and Thea attempted to come up with unique and delicious gourmet sardines by using endemic Filipino natural herbs and spices for fermentation. Their equipment was limited to a pressure steamer during that time, yet they were able to produce a delicious product. Due to the large volume of gourmet sardines that they had produced, they thought of giving them to their relatives and friends as a Christmas present. Little did they know that they would receive awesome feedbacks about it. This encouraged Thea to pursue her interest as a business, so she asked Tita Sophie to buy a pressure canner–which is a bit expensive–to make the processing easier.

As a compassionate mother, Tita Sophie agreed even though they were facing financial difficulties at that time due to Thea’s medical needs; she believed that keeping Thea occupied has helped her daughter keep a positive mindset about her condition.

At first, Tita Sophie was just helping and supporting Thea until she realized that she is also enjoying everything. She even participated in a mini fair celebrating women and their passion at the International Rice Research Institute where her products caught the attention of one of the spectators because of its potential. Hence, Tita Sophie was advised to register her business and consult with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regarding its programs and services that can help her scale up.

Soon after, Tita Sophie met Ms. Lory Jaraplasan, one of DTI Laguna’s employee, and Mr. Clarke Nebrao, Chairman and President of the Association of Laguna Food Processors (ALAFOP). They encouraged her to take advantage of the seminars, training sessions, and other activities of DTI and ALAFOP in order to improve her product and expand her business.

Despite of the assistance given by DTI and other government agencies to Tita Sophie, she still encountered several challenges, particularly in terms of capital and manpower. “It is really difficult to operate a business when you have a small capital, so I sought help from a micro-finance company,” she said. “I also have a few regular employees, so whenever we accept series of bulk orders, I tell my family members and employees to work harder,” she added.

With hardwork and determination, Sophie’s Gourmet, which started with two variants, now proudly offers 14 variants in the market. It is also estimated to have increased its capital and business asset by more than by 60%. Its products are sometimes exported to Hongkong and the United States, and it regularly processes gourmet sardines for Mga Likha ni Inay’s.

Tita Sophie was also able to widen Sophie’s Gourmet’s market by participating in various events such as Kalakal CALABARZON (2016-2018), International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines (2017-2019), Franchise Asia Philippines (2016-2018), and many more. Moreover, Sophie’s Gourmet showcases its products at the One Town One Product (OTOP) Hubs in Tagaytay and Makati.

Until today, Tita Sophie is continuously improving the quality of her products and she has one message for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Life is not always rainbows and butterflies. The same goes for putting up and managing a business. Perseverance is the key. You need to know and love what you are doing because it will never be easy to be on top. However, once you are there, you will realize that it is all worth it. So always do your best, never give up, and keep on praying for your time to succeed to come.”♦

Published in Pilipino Mirror on 28 August 2019.

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