The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about uncertainty for businesses around the country. However, FEU AB Communication alumna Marydae Hannah Ramos was no stranger to this and even managed to grow her business ChizMozza.

Established in 2016, ChizMozza is the first fried MOZZARELLA CHEESE food stand in the Philippines and already has over 30 outlets in various locations. The business was a winner in the 2020 NextGen in Franchising Philippines Competition organized by the Philippine Franchise Association and Franchise Asia Philippines. Hannah shares the story of how she gambled in independently establishing ChizMozza.

1. How did you establish ChizMozza?

Starting my own food cart business was my plan since High School. Compared to other businesses, I felt the “food cart” was easier to franchise and to relocate. My initial concept was to have a pancake stand but my mother disagreed. I came up with “ChizMozza” when I was browsing through Facebook newsfeeds and saw a video about “mozzarella sticks”. This product is commonly available at select restaurants but can be very expensive.

Starting this business was not easy because I had to do everything from scratch, and I could not refer to any existing businesses since this was the first mozzarella food stand in the Philippines. I left my job and started to do everything. Design the logo, purchased the equipment, developed the recipe, and the systems.  

I was very passionate ONE WOMAN TEAM. To promote my products, I took photos of the mozzarella sticks I cooked. I made a “ChizMozza” page to start promote the store. Surprisingly, there were inquiries on how to order the products, even though I did not really plan to sell online. This gave me the idea to try online selling and I received orders from different places.

With the success of my online business, I decided to open my first branch at Fisher Mall in May 2016. The opening of my store was delayed for five days because the contractor of my kiosk lied to me about the status of the construction. To make sure that they were working on the project, I stayed in the construction area for several days.

I told myself “Baka hindi para sa akin to, dapat hindi ko nalang sinubukan.” Surprisingly, when we opened our store, the total sales were three times more than what I projected.

2. What are the things you learned in FEU that helped you to persevere during uncertain times?

I graduated AB in Mass Communication at Far Eastern University. I may not have had the background in entrepreneurship but my program in FEU taught me a lot of things that helped me manage this business during these uncertain times. When the first lockdown happened, all my stores had to close, and I needed to think of another way to sell my products to avoid spoilage.

I had to come up with different strategies to keep my business going. I decided to sell my products as “READY TO COOK” and promoted them online. I grabbed my camera, took some photos and videos to help me attract customers online. I took order from customers as well.

I learned all these skills at FEU.

3. What are the major adjustments you had to do during the pandemic?

Adjusting to the NEW NORMAL has been challenging. The foot traffic in malls has declined tremendously, even until now.  Compared to other types of businesses, Food cart, kiosk, counter concepts cannot rely on delivery platforms because of limited offerings/items on menus. We rely on mall goers who love to eat snacks while shopping, watching movies or while strolling in the mall.

But these activities were no longer allowed.

Because of this, we launched our “CALL TO DELIVER” service to encourage customers to directly order from us.

4. What’s you advise to anybody who wants to establish a business regardless of their age? 

I achieved my goal 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 did not prioritize leisure, travel, and gadgets until such a time that I already could. I was motivated to start my own business, so I was able to SAVE MONEY.

I resigned from my job in February2016 and took the risk. I created everything, from the initial investment I needed, down to the menu plan and target market. I opened my first branch in May. If are also willing to risk it, then JUST DO IT, start your own business.