By Jojie Alcantara (published in SunStar Davao on May 11, 2018)
Flo Dollaga, in her early forties, started her journey with pastries from a factory which made flavored bread sticks back in 2004. This was the year when she was invited to be one of the city caterers for the government of Davao.
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“I worked as their caterer for nine years, serving city councilors during special meetings, committee hearings, etc. Pastel was what I mainly served during dessert, and the officials liked our product and main dishes with affordable rates,” she relates. Pastel is a small soft dough bun with sweet fillings good for snacks.
Soon the private sectors tapped Flo to personally cater for them in various occasions. Clients clamored for the pastel because apart from its soft bun, it has the right amount of sweetness using all natural ingredients and no preservatives. This inspired her to put up her specialty shop called Sweet Dough.
She names her family as her main inspiration. Her father taught her to work hard and strive for a better future for her daughter. Her mom was her first teacher, who pushed her to keep baking and cooking with love, inspiring her to create what she wants and to share with others.
“The start of my business really goes back to my mother, our homemaker extraordinaire — the quiet, gentle unifying force of our family. We believe that the heart she puts in every ordinary task as a mother and a wife make everything extra special in our humble home. There is always the desire to give more of herself so more is felt, seen, tasted in the littlest and simplest of things she does – and food is the most interesting. She has been graced with the gift of good taste in food. Our meals are always extra special, not because expensive ingredients make up her market lists. Rather, it is the joy and love she feels when her hands get busy and dirty in our tiny kitchen, turning her food creations magical, adventurous, gratifying, remarkable,” Flo talks lovingly about her mentor.
Although life wasn’t as smooth sailing as a single mother, her daughter has been her guiding light when things would not go as planned. She brings joy to her life, reminding her every day to become a better cook and a better person. She cites that one of the biggest challenges she constantly faces is competition with other products because the baking industry grows every year. Lately, she has been blessed with recognition for her hard work.
“I have been the pastel provider for Mabuhay Class passengers in Philippine Airlines for almost two years now. Last March 3rd, I was proclaimed champion in the wedding cake category during the first Mindanao Baker’s Fest held in SMX Lanang,”she says, proudly showing her trophy and award winning black based fondant wedding cake filled with delicately crafted, authentic looking sugar flowers. She also creates custom made cakes for weddings, baptisms and birthdays. Flo also has the desire to teach, and now holds private classes, teaching edible sugar art like flowers and character toppers, while also teaching at a training school for aspiring sugar artists.
Sweet Dough’s main product is homemade pastel, freshly made daily without preservatives. Her best seller is the yema-filled pastel, along with regular flavors chocolate, cinnamon, ensaimada, cookies and cream and cheese. Sweet Dough also uses fruit flavors that are abundant in Davao, such as durian, mangosteen, macapuno, ube, pineapple and mango. Other “must try” delicacies are the torta and coconut macaroon. A box of 12 pieces pastel regular filling costs P160, while the special filling box of six costs P185, an ideal snack pasalubong for friends and families.
“These pastries are original recipes from my mother, which she passed on to me. From there, I incorporated other techniques and flavors into her recipes,” she explains.
Currently, she has had invitations for mall displays and kiosks but she still plans to retain her small bake shop along Corner Tionko-Arellano, beside Central Bank.
Any tips for young entrepreneurs? “Continue to explore and learn, take risks, do not compete but be inspired. Do not forget to give back for the blessings received,” she says with a smile.
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