WHEN the pandemic erupted in the Philippines, most of the businesses were severely affected, some even closing shops.

Stella’s Cuisine Kakanin and Pancit Malabon was among the fortunate ones to have its business booming even with the pandemic.

A homegrown business which offers purely Filipino favorite kakanin (rice cakes), Stella’s Cuisine started in 2015 with just seven kakanins to choose from, including the colorful and delicious sapin-sapin, biko, kutsinta. It eventually included in its array of food to offer the all-time favorite palabok, pancit Malabon, and pitchi-pitchi, among others.

Stella’s kakanins was inspired by their love of eating kakanin as their hometown’s pride merienda in Pampanga.

Stella Marie J. Vicente, the person behind Stella’s Cuisine, narrated that it all started with their small family gatherings every Sunday where they always serve kakanins. Sometimes they would invite some of their friends over and let them bring home some of their kakanins.

Positive word of mouth coming not just from their friends, but friends of their friends who have tasted their kakanins pushed them to start a food business.

“Why kasi sa dinami-dami nang food businesses they usually offer foreign cuisines, why not pure Filipino food, Filipino merienda,” she said.

She also said that their kakanins through their business is one way of promoting the Philippines and the Filipino culture.

“Ang dating sa akin kasi parang related to family. Magsalo-salo pag Sunday may kakanin,” she said.

Asked on why their kakanins stand out among the rest? Stella confidently answered: “We cook with love and passion.” And it’s indeed true because they practice the traditional and complete way of cooking their kakanins without shortcuts.

It was no wonder that in 2018, Stella’s Cuisine grew and expanded to eight branches.

“But unfortunately nag-close sila one by one during the pandemic, with the last one closing branch in SM City,” Stella narrated.

But she was quick to add that they could not remain closed because there were still a lot of patrons who go to their house in Catalunan Pequeño or at their main store at Tulip Drive, which remained open, to order their most sought-after kananins.

“During pandemic, nakakapagod siya kasi kahit nag-close kami ay marami pa din ang orders like it was a December. Since malaki ang kusina namin sa bahay, doon kami lahat, pati ang delivery riders andon nagtitipon-tipon para sa mga orders for delivery,” Stella narrated, adding that their business was not significantly affected by the pandemic.

“Kay daghan (Because there were a lot of) deliveries so doon ko na-realize na kaya pala siya. So pi-nush na namin (we pushed the business).

Stella also described their typical December. “Diyos ko walang tulogan, especially the last days of December? Pati ako (Even I), I thought I will just supervise the workers, maapil ko’g trabaho, naga-balot or nagaluto, aside sa pagka-cashier kay sobra kadaghan ang orders! (I will work, do the wrapping, cooking, aside from being a cashier, because the orders are overwhelming!)” Stella said.

She also recalled the feedback of their customers when they come and order kakanins from Stella’s Cuisines.

“’Ma-remember ko yung lola ko, or yung family ko or province namin,’ or ‘Hindi pwede mawala ang kakanin ni Stella’s pag may occasion,’ ‘yan palagi sinasabi nila kapag bumibili sila ng kakanin sa amin,” Stella said.

Some of their customers bring their kakanins abroad such as to Japan, Qatar, Canada, and even to the USA as pasalubong. There was a foreigner who told them that he feels their business will be a big hit abroad should they expand overseas.

As to their suppliers, Stella said they supply from local and small businesses as a way to support them.

In expanding their family business, Stella admitted that they didn’t realize there’s a lot of things to consider that they were not able to control, reaching the point that the quality, especially in handling their employees, are compromised.

“We realize we need to establish a better system especially in this time of pandemic,” she said.

This is why Stella’s Cuisine is tying up with Adaholic Ventures Co., a business solutions company, to create a suitable and doable system for their business.

“We can act as their HR department, including all its functions, hiring and recruitment, to training, discipline and wages and benefits; bookkeeping and accounting services as well as tax filing, including marketing like branding and even advertising. Even software development. Since Stella’s Cuisine has many offers to expand their business or for franchising, we are readying them for future expansion by working hand in hand with them to adapt to the modern times, mag innovate sila at the same time butangan nato’g sistema ilang negusyo (we will help them innovate and at the same time put in place a system for their business) and preparing them to accept franchise,” Dhawell Miñoza, chief executive officer (CEO) of Adaholic, said.

For Stella, trust is very important, and they trust Adaholic in their planned business expansion.

Meanwhile, Miñoza said Adaholic’s main goal is to help the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) “because sometimes they have a problem that will greatly affect their business, but that problem is so simple. It’s just that owners don’t know how to do it, or if they do they don’t know how to do it right, and that’s where Adaholic comes in.”