State of Residence: New York
Occupation: Catering Business Owner
NS: Briefly describe your role at SweetHabana.
A: I own SweetHabana. I’m the cook. I don’t really call myself “chef” as I didn’t go to Culinary School. I’m in charge of everything — from grocery shopping, to cutting, to the end product, and the books.
NS: How long have you been in this role?
A: I started this business 11 years ago in California. I initiated by preparing lunch boxes for my clients. I delivered to nearby hospitals and health facilities. Most of my clients were nurses. Back then I would sell each box for only $5; it had 1 staple, 2 side dishes, 1 dessert, and a drink. I made 50-100 boxes per day.
NS: Describe SweetHabana products and offerings?
A: I am Filipino, but my clientele consist of different nationalities, therefore I cook dishes of different cuisines. It really depends on what a client wants. Although I really love cooking heavy dishes, I also enjoy making desserts. Especially cakes. I used to make custom cakes, but I don’t have the time anymore. And, now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m experimenting on new flavors for my SweetHabana ice cream line. I cannot possibly describe the excitement when I’m concocting new and different flavors…or modifying a classic recipe. There’s magic in taking something raw and making it into a product that is unexplored, unique, and simply delicious. So, it doesn’t matter whether I’m cooking lumpia, adobo, a roll of sushi, or baking muffins…I cook from the heart. Always.
A: My son, Kael.
Truth is, I never really thought of myself as a business-minded person. Growing up, I was surrounded by family and relatives who did so well in their respective business(es). But, to say the least, money doesn’t always bring people together.
However, when I gave birth to my son, I fell in love with this little angel and it was so hard to be away from him even for a mintue. My educational background is in Journalism, but working an 8-to-5 job was not an option at the time. I didn’t have a problem with being employed, but I realized that it meant that I was not in control of my time. I detested the thought of missing my son’s milestones. So, catering…it had to be.
NS: Is there any advice that you can offer to those interested in a similar path in this industry?
A: Passion. Love. It might sound cliche, but it’s true. Catering is a very demanding kind of business/work — physically, emotionally, and mentally. You have to have a love for cooking. You have to be passionate about doing the strenuous work. It’s good and it helps if you’re a skilled cook from an expensive Culinary school, but I believe there has to be so much more than just skills. I mean, really, how does one figure when he/she has provided superb gastronomical experience to their consumer(s)? It’s easily seen in their facial expressions. It’s obvious in their smile. A fulfilled smile just doesn’t lie. You have to have a burning desire to see that child-like smile after a client has tasted your food. Oh! The sight of it still elates me. And, I get inspired more and more. All in all, cook with love and be realistic about your goals.
A: Over the years, I relied on word-of-mouth marketing. But with the abundance of social media nowadays, I have extended my style of advertisement through different platforms. So, for now, I’m in the process of building my clientele within the tri-state area. It’s been very good, most definitely. On a more ambitious note, I’m trying to see how I can put a SweetHabana “best-seller” in grocery freezers. My fingers and toes are crossed.
NS: What’s your secret to success?
A: Candor and sincerity toward people. Not just my clients/consumers, but people in general. I don’t believe in the saying, “it’s just business.” For me, true success in any business means getting personal with your clients. Clients can’t be visible only at the time that they order something from you. You have to keep in touch, build a relationship, and show them that you truly care. What is gaining money when you can’t gain friends? What is having money when you don’t share it? How can you enjoy success when you see hungry mouths to feed? It doesn’t make sense.
NS: What does beauty mean to you?
A: Beauty is, in all honesty, something that comes from within. Peace of mind and a joyful heart influence so much what others see on the outside. No matter how I accessorize myself or how much makeup I have on, when I don’t have peace of mind or a joyful heart, I feel like the ugliest duckling. True story. Whatever is inside is always bound to come out. The more you mask it, the cakier it looks.
NS: What’s your favorite beauty routine?
A: Simple. Washing my face and putting on moisturizer.
NS: Do you have a beauty tip that you would like to share?
A: Hydrate. For so many years, I replaced the necessity to drink water with drinking 12 cups of coffee a day. Not good. Now, I know better.
NS: How can we stay connected with you?
A: My email address for my catering is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Blog: www.justcliqit.com (Kay Habana)
Special thanks to Kay for sharing!