Cafe Mary Grace’s first store opened in 2002 and the first cafe in 2006. Food entrepreneur Grace Dimacali began with the end in mind: to create an ensaymada so beloved that it would be a Noche Buena staple in each household. For some, Cafe Mary Grace has become the go-to place for comforting tsokolate paired with their pillowy ensaymada.
Mary Grace Dimacali offers some tips for those who are thinking of venturing into the food business:
1 Be dependable.
Mary Grace acknowledges that there are other good ensaymadas out there, but her vision of being the ensaymada that graces people’s tables during Noche Buena has kept her focused and committed. This has meant selling in the kiosks and cafés even on December 24 and 25 because customers rely on Mary Grace. “It means not having enjoyed our Christmases—that’s a sacrifice I have to make.”
2 Crunch numbers!
Mary Grace considers most entrepreneurs to be creative and intuitive, but not necessarily business savvy. “You also have to learn how to project the numbers. It can be tedious, but you have to do external analysis as well: Survey the environment, compare prices.”
3 Go the extra mile.
Giving a little more to the customer is something Mary Grace believes in. “While you control the costs, you also have to think of the customer. I think the bottom line now is also driven by the customer, by his needs.” In Café Mary Grace, the setting is homey, full of warm decor and positive messages, and notably, not every empty space is allocated for a table, such as the children’s corner in the Greenbelt 2 branch. “We could have had another table, which means more money, but you have to balance it.”
4 Have the capacity for pain.
For Mary Grace, her kiosks and cafés are all the product of hard work. “I was selling in bazaars for almost eight years, standing on my feet. I recall selling under the rain, under the heat. You’re pushing all the time because you don’t want to come home with unsold boxes because you’re all about freshness. You come home late, you wake up early, and you’re off again. It’s not easy. Nothing comes easy.”
This story was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Yummy magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Yummy.ph editors.