With 12 company-owned branches and five franchised outlets, Marydae Hannah Ramos, owner and franchisor of ChizMozza Food Corner, is proof that age doesn’t matter in field of entrepreneurship.
Being her own boss was always Hannah’s goal, believing that having a business would give her unlimited opportunities. She shares, “When I was still in school, I would sell tutubi for five pesos each. I would bring a water jug during PE and sell water for one peso per lagok. I would offer CD-burning services, sell a one- peso banana cue, do garage sales, etc. I loved the feeling of earning something from selling anything.”
But Hannah, although passionate, is also practical. She needed experience before taking the plunge. After graduation, she held down two jobs.
“I worked as an account executive for a publication company for almost two years, and worked as a marketing supervisor at an electronics company. My only goal that time was to earn money that could help me pursue my ultimate goal—to start my own food cart business.”
Work also gave her the opportunity to learn new skills. She says, “I learned how to close a sale, analyze profit and loss, provide good customer service, and other things. As a marketing supervisor, I learned the importance of identifying your target market and prepare promos based on their preferences.”
Change the Plan, Never the Goal
Hannah had always been set on putting up a food cart. Compared to other types of business, it’s easy to expand, move around, and franchise. By 2013, she had developed a business plan to sell pancakes to go. She says, “I discussed the idea with my mom, who was going to be my initial investor. She asked me to think of a better concept.”
Rather than being disheartened, Hannah kept at it. She stayed employed, gaining valuable experience.
One time, what was supposed to be her usual time online scrolling through her Facebook news feed turned out to be her breakthrough—she chanced upon a video about mozzarella sticks, and the idea hit her instantly.
She resigned from her job, giving her the courage to take a risk and create her business plan in a month. It included everything, from the initial investment she needed, down to the menu plan and target market. “I resigned in February 2016, and opened my first branch in May 2016.”
She is grateful to everyone who helped her, especially her mother who invested in the business. She adds, “My family became my recipe testers so I can come up with the right ingredients. My Facebook friends answered online surveys about the business. My boyfriend helped me in designing and constructing the first kiosk—he’s the reason why the brand name ChizMozza exists.”
Hits and Misses
While Hannah was guided by her entrepreneurial talent, success did not come easy. Finding the right suppliers and contractors was a challenge; the contractor for her first branch proved difficult to work with. She says, “There was a time that I stayed in the construction site and slept near the area to make sure they did what needed to be done! I actually thought that God didn’t want me to pursue the business. Fortunately, when the store opened, we achieved 200 percent of the target sales.”
In the beginning, Hannah handled inventory, delivery, and production almost on a daily basis. “I was just focused on opening branches so I can earn more, but I failed to make a comprehensive and detailed system and standards that made me lose money. But eventually, I found my footing, and gusto ko ‘to, kaya kahit nakakapagod, I was happy.”
Making Millennials Proud
Hannah has come a long way from 2016. She opened ChizMozza for franchising this year, but runs 12 branches herself.
She enjoys everything about her job. She finds it funny when people are surprised about what she does and how old she is. “Based on my observation, some millennials would just rant before they act. They complain about their job, their lives, etc. But doing this can change the way people think about you, promote negativity, and discourage you from achieving your goal.”
Hannah, who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth, knows the struggle is real—but the struggle makes achieving the goal all the more sweeter.
She achieved her goals by knowing the difference between needs and wants. “When I was employed, I would save and deposit almost 70 percent of my salary every month before I could spend it. I only spent 30 to 50 percent of my net income. I got my insurance policy when I was 20. I didn’t prioritize leisure, travel, and gadgets until such a time that I already could. Know your passion first. Motivate yourself in achieving your goal and pursuing your passion at the same time. Kaya naman masabay pareho.”
Nowadays, Hannah is working to expand ChizMozza.
“I love what I’m doing, and this gives me courage. One time, I visited one of my stores and saw a kid asking her dad to buy him nine pieces of mozzarella sticks. The excitement that you see doon sa bata, priceless. I hope that this could inspire other people to start their own business, because if kaya ko, kaya rin nila!”
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