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Take risks, the smart way

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut to grow your business. Learn from this cake maker who took chances as they came.
By Peter Imbong |

There are people who test the waters before jumping in, but Marta Mari Matute jumped into the water first and worried about other things later. “My mother says that when I make decisions, I’m ‘Ready, fire, aim,’ when it should be, “Ready, aim, fire.’” The 43-year-old entrepreneur owns Marta’s Cakes, a posh bakery and dessert café that specializes in customized treats. “There are opportunities that come only once. These are the ones you need to grab.” Here are some of Matute’s business rules:

 

Be flexible.

In 1995, Matute was newly married and was done with the corporate world. She found herself baking in the kitchen of the family apartment in Alabang. “It began out of a passion to do something at home and stay with the kids,” she says. The kids, however, didn’t come until three years later. “You could say this business was my first baby,” she says with a laugh.

 

Matute started out by baking cakes for friends, and little by little she got “more and more orders until the business began to grow.” The demand was more than what a tiny apartment kitchen could handle, so she and her family had to hire more employees and change residences—more than once. Matute and her staff of three to four bakers and decorators would do deliveries and pick-ups from her home base to customers in nearby villages and cities.

 

Don’t study things too much.

In 2006, when she was faced with an important decision: “Do we expand, or do we keep the business small and just say no to other orders?” It was only when somebody introduced her to a course at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) that the answer became clear. “It opened my eyes to the world of expansion.”

 

She adds: “It had been 10 years of tried and tested products. We also had a big customer base that was loyal to the home business. I thought, if I opened a branch closer to where these people lived, I might bring in more new customers while making it convenient for my existing ones.” After that, she decided to try out a small 12 sq m space in Pasig City.

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Marta’s business philosophy is simple: “I try not to study things too much. There’s just that feeling that tells you, ‘Go for it. You might not get this chance again.’ And if it becomes a mistake later on, it’s not worth the time to look back and say, ‘I shouldn’t have done it.’ You just take your chances and then try to fix it.”

 

Look at the numbers,  but don’t dwell on them.

Matute faced another turning point in 2006: she was offered the chance to open a full-blown store at Serendra Piazza, a posh strip mall at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. By then, she had decided to close her Pasig outlet. Going with her gut, she went for it. “Our move to Serendra just made it more convenient for the people living in the Makati area to enjoy our projects,” she explains.

 

With her store doing better than expected, she decided to move her business and into a space of its own. In 2008, Matute—by then a mother of two—opened a commissary in the Alabang area. “Looking at the numbers too long and studying them too much could bring about a fear in you. You end up saying to yourself, ‘Forget it too scary,’ and you back out. Then you might miss a great opportunity,“ she relates.

 

Be open to anything.

Three years later, Matute was to make her biggest business decision yet. “In January 2011, an Arab national began to e-mail me asking if he could franchise my concept abroad. I was thrilled, surprised, and really excited! Has my baby grown so much that it could be accepted overseas?”

 

Because she had little knowledge of franchising and absolutely no experience in expanding to another country, Matute needed a little more convincing. “There had already been two international inquiries before that one but I just brushed them aside; we weren’t ready. But when this third one came in, I thought about considering it.”

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