Entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly popular career path for Canadians, and for most, it’s a way to both pursue a passion and achieve financial freedom.
Ownr, a leading Canadian business and legal management platform and a venture within RBCx, recently released its end-of-year entrepreneurship survey on 2022 Canadian small business trends. It found that the number one stage of life that Canadians started considering entrepreneurship is while in a full-time career (45.1%), and that 45.6 per cent of small business owners left a corporate job to pursue entrepreneurship.
Natasha Acuba-Bailey is one of many such entrepreneurs – she began a side hustle during the pandemic that led to her recently leaving her corporate job to pursue it as a full-time business. At the age of 19, Natasha moved from Manila to Vancouver with her family, bringing her love of her culture and food. She is the third generation in her family to learn to make traditional adobo flakes, a Filipino classic made from dried shredded pork.
Looking for a side hustle during the pandemic, Natasha began selling the homemade dish to her friends. After registering her business with Ownr, things really took off – last year, Natasha quit her job in retail management to pursue her own business full time, Telly’s Manila Kitchen.
What motivated you to leave your position in retail management to turn your side hustle into a full-time business?
What really motivated me to leave my position in retail management was when I saw the potential of our product to elevate and expand the Filipino product assortment in Canada. As a product that is both very unique and very Filipino, I believed in our product as it is recognizable to Filipinos with an element of something new that the younger generation will be proud of. I knew in my heart that, for it to be a successful full-time business, I needed to leave my job to give my full attention to my growing business.
You started your business at a pivotal time during the pandemic – looking back, do you wish you started sooner?
I have always believed that timing is everything. When I started the business, I wanted to have the cushion of having a full-time job while starting a side hustle. As a result, it took me two years to build the brand and get our product to as many people as possible before taking the leap to do it full-time.
Looking back, I would have started at the same time. If I started earlier, I don’t think I would have been as focused, as I was still entertaining the notion of climbing up the corporate retail ladder.
When I left my job in retail management, I felt it was time because I knew in myself that I learned what I needed to learn – I had hit a ceiling in my career. I also felt the need to pursue something else, and that’s when I started learning how to make Adobo with the guidance of my mom. When I saw that my side hustle was accelerating due to word of mouth and our continued following, I knew it was time to make it my full-time focus.
How long did it take you to go from having the idea to start a side hustle to launching your business, and what was involved in the process?
From conceptualization to full-time business, it took up to 2 years. There were many steps involved, from the conceptualization of our packaging to deciding where we would sell the product. Once we established our timeline and business plan (which has since evolved!), I registered and incorporated the business with Ownr which took care of all the document filings for me – I was able to check this important task off my list in starting my business with ease thanks to their easy to navigate website. In planning our start-up costs, this was an efficient option for us at a minimal cost.
After the logistics were in order, we moved onto setting up the brand’s social media accounts and approaching content creators and foodie influencers to try out the product. We continue to grow our business as progress and unlock new sets of learnings.
This year we were in the stage of building/scaling. In January, I had to sit down and plan out what our first full year of business will look like. It involved a lot of research as I needed certifications, licenses and approvals from Health Officers in all the cities that we were doing Farmers Markets, pop ups and events.
I had to plan each step of our processes from production, quality assurance, packaging, supply chain, marketing including revamping our website for ease and most of all, the client service that we provide in markets, pop ups and deliveries.
Despite a challenging economic climate, Telly’s Manila Kitchen recently hit a major milestone with your products now being stocked in a local grocery store. As we enter 2023, what is your outlook for the new year?
In 2023, Telly’s Manila Kitchen’s plan is to be able to distribute across BC and Canada in both Filipino and Speciality Retail stores. We will still continue to do farmers markets and pop up events to gain more exposure and help our customers put a face behind our business. While our goal is to ultimately drive traffic to the retail stores that carry our products, it’s also a great opportunity to educate consumers – having them sample our flakes – and help them understand how to use it in their cooking at home.
We are also planning to come out with vegetarian adobo flakes but we are still in the research and development phase as we want to ensure that we keep the integrity of my grandmother’s recipe.