On her personal blog entry “When I Didn’t Do What My Parents Wanted,” Maricar Reyes-Poon wrote, “On Sunday, my staff’s rest day, I sometimes sit in the middle of my small-but-growing kitchen. I get teary eyed, because this was my dream—to save and invest in a business of my own. I have a great job, a product that I love to eat, and a business team that is strong in areas I am weak.”
This perfectly sumed up her happiness when it comes to her new-found calling. But when Maricar first joined showbiz more than a decade ago, it almost seemed more likely that she would end up joining beauty pageants before delving into her own business. With a degree in Medicine from the University of Santo Tomas, Maricar admits she could just as easily followed her parents dreams of having her become a practicing physician, but fate had other plans for her.
One year after getting married to Richard Poon, she decided it was time to start a new venture. “In 2014, my husband and I really just wanted to start something for ourselves. Both of us at that time were very dependent on our careers. He was a singer, I was an actress. Business just seemed like the next logical step. A lot of actors get into that after nakaipon ng konti. You start something of your own. So 'yun yung main push. Plus, I really love sweets,” she says.
[related: Beauty Inspo: The 8 Va-Va-Voom Ways Maricar Reyes-Poon Has Styled Her Pixie Hair]
Even with her svelte figure, Maricar admits she has always had a sweet tooth since her youth. “I love sweets. My favorite was chocolate. I love yung mga KitKat, M&Ms, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, you name it. Pero effort i-maintain ito (body ko). Feeling ko if I don’t have the job that I have now, I wouldn’t be able to maintain this. This is super effort itong figure ko, but yes I love sweets. Totoo yung sinasabi nila na fitness is 80% diet, 20% workout. I think for teenagers they can eat whatever they want pa and then workout and then okay na. Pero pag kami na, talagang diet talaga,” she shares.
Prior to the launch of their chocolate cake business Maricar’s Chocolate Cakes (originally named Chocoliquor Cakes) in 2015, Maricar recalls asking for help from her husband’s cousin Franklin Poon. He has been with them since day one, she says. “The recipe that we’ve had since 2015 took eight months to perfect the chocolate. Suyang suya ka na sa taste test. Hurt na hurt ka lalo na in the early stages 'pag pinapatikim mo sa friends mo and then your friends are like, ‘Uh, okay lang.’ So we go back and try again. When we started out, our commissary was just inside the house. I think a lot of home bakers who are starting out, they’re going to feel like ang daming hugasin, pero ganyan talaga. There came a time I had no space for my own plates anymore (laughs),” she recalls.
Maricar admits she went through a lot of challenges and learnings while handling the business. “I never expected to see so clearly what my weaknesses are. Ang ganda. It’s humbling and exciting at the same time. Kasi parang you’ll see where you’re weakness is. All this time I thought I was so good with numbers and organizing, because I was able to do it in my own little world being a showbiz person. Pero iba pala when you’re in a business. So that was both challenging and interesting. My business partner is so much better at numbers than me so pagdating sa numbers mas siya. Ako mas strength ko is talking to people, finding out ano yung pulso ng customer pag may complaints or may concerns, ako mag-ha-handle nun. I take it very personally. That’s why our tagline is “Make People Feel Special.” That’s actually largely because of me. That’s my personality. I really want people to feel special and that really bleeds out into our company,” she explains.
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As a boss, the Kapamilya actress admits she sometimes gets mistaken for being strict. Although, that couldn’t be further from the truth, she points out. “Hindi ako scary although sabi nila I have a taray face like if I’m serious and that is scary. I think that is the face that they will see in teleseryes, yung mga maldita face ko. When I get in that mode, nakakatakot nag daw ako but when you talk to me, I soften up, eh. I’m really a softie after a while. Mas magaling mag-discipline yung husband ko. To be honest, I’m not a very alpha person. So actually I’m really, really chill. But if stress does come, parang try to find a wall para you don’t take it personally. If you’re criticized for work, it’s not an attack on your person. You’re not a bad person. It’s just that you did bad work. People do bad work. So what’s the big deal? Just fix it,” she declares.
Handling crisis at work is also something Maricar is used to and her approach is always to not allow it to stress her out. “Meron ding concerns from customers. Some are valid. Some are not so valid," she laughs. "But with the valid ones, we make sure to really talk to the customer. Lalo na yung the ones that are nice about it. Parang we really address what their concern is. When you start out, you actually have to make mistakes in order to get better. Those complaints actually helped us to get better and we like to see it that way. Na parang dahil sa reklamo mo, nakaisip kami ng sistema para hindi na mangyari yung nangyari sayo ulit. So we’re actually grateful for that,” she says.
From food production to marketing their cakes at events, Maricar enjoys being at the forefront and dealing with customers face-to-face. So, even before they opened their permanent stall at SM Megamall, it was not uncommon sight to see her welcoming customers at their booth during food bazaars and special events during the early years of the business. “I loved that part. But now I can’t be there as much as I’d like. Siyempre I have to do other things. But I really loved that. I think that’s really the best part of the job, yung you actually meet who’s consuming your cake and I like talking to them and asking them what they think of it. And really getting their feedback, if they give the cakes as gifts or is it for their own consumption? You really get to know the market so we can really tailor it for them and what they want,” she adds.
Unlike other food businesses that tend to expand their product line regularly, Maricar says that they put a lot of thought into the development process so they take their time putting out new items. She credits her husband for coming up with food ideas. “We’re always evaluating out recipes so here was one time si Richard may natikman siya where he said he can improve on. So aside from lowering the alcohol, may chinange pa kaming iba. It’s always a continuous process. To be honest, the uniqueness of our flavor, when people taste our cake they say there’s something unique about it, and that’s really Richard. Weirdo head nya yun. He’s really creative in that area. So ako naman I like to do research and certain recipes on how to make the cake softer. This year, we’re currently developing a new product. I can’t really tell you anong sort of flavor siya but this one’s exciting,” she says.
With her business continually growing every year, Maricar admits her schedule has also gotten busier. But she has never had regrets because she was able to fulfill her dream of having her own business. “Hindi ko akalain it would become like this. We had our launch so many years ago. Our dream is to make it available to the world. But we’re just so happy to be still alive and getting new customers and still be interesting to people for five years. Kasi ang dami na naming kakilala na nag-business, who tried to put up something and they had to close down or whatever. So it’s really hard to be an entrepreneur when you’re in the Philippines actually. Challenging sya. We have a website and social media so mas ako yung nag-ma-manage nun and I have to discuss with my team kung anong content ang ilalabas namin. We want not just to be a product, we want something more interactive, something more personal. So the marketing and social media side of our business is important and that’s what I deal with,” she explains.
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Produced by Camille Santiago | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Makeup by Elrick Gatbonton | Hair by Jonas Sadsad | Styling by Aldrin Ramos | Shot on location at The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences | Special thanks to Carissa Gomez of The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences, Ira Lesaca, Star Magic, and Vania Edralin