Raising your kids while running a business is no easy task. In fact, to say it is challenging would be an understatement. But for Elma V. Tejada, one can juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship and be great at both.After a failed marriage, she returned to her hometown with her two children in 1994 after living abroad for seven years. She then pursued her passion for fashion design and established a small dress shop. She run her new-found love for business and fashion design until 2014. Aside from managing her business, she also served as the Tourism Officer of the Local Government Unit of Mamburao in Occidental Mindoro for a couple of years.
Despite having a lot on her plate already, Tejada’s strength and determination from being a mother pushed her to venture into other forms of businesses.
Seeing the potential of the beach house she inherited from her parents, Tejada decided to venture into the hospitality industry and established Maru’s Food Lounge and Beachfront Rooms in 2012. "We started with just three rooms and converted the kitchen section of the house into a hall to cater to diners," She recalled.
Due to its native spa-like ambiance, cozy and clean rooms, friendly staff, and, above all, delectable food, the lounge became the talk of the town, attracting both locals and tourists. Rooms were always occupied and they started catering for large gatherings and events. The food lounge was always packed, especially during lunch and dinner. Through their savings from the income of the business, they were able to expand the hotel. They were able to construct seven additional rooms, a conference hall, and a swimming pool.
Despite having a demanding schedule as a mother and a business owner, she remained active in promoting the province's tourism industry and was eventually chosen to lead the Provincial Tourism Council.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the business world, especially the hospitality industry, and turned many hotel businesses upside down. Similar to many other hotels, Maru’s was forced to cease their operations.
After several months, Maru’s started to revive its operations as the government eased the restrictions and finally allowed hotels and restaurants to re-open as long as they follow the prescribed health protocols set by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
However, bouncing back after the pandemic is very challenging, especially for businesses like theirs. Hospitality sales after the pandemic will be hard to keep up. People are still afraid to travel or stay in a hotel. She kept on thinking about what she can do to boost their sales and make Maru’s a home away from home again.
Fortunately, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) invited her to attend their Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program, a 10-module mentorship and coaching program in partnership with Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship - Go Negosyo.
Through KMME, Tejada learned the value of digitization and e-commerce. According to her, the digital marketing module, especially the coaching and mentoring sessions on using various online platforms and content creation, has been very helpful in getting her business back on track. Now, she is able to promote Maru’s on social media and on several travel booking sites. Also, Maru’s now accepts electronic payments.
Moreover, Tejada affirmed that her participation in the KMME equipped her with the skills necessary to maintain her financial records and comprehend financial management, specifically financial statements and balance sheets, as well as taxation.
Also, Tejada and her staff participated in DTI-facilitated food safety management training. "It is not surprising that in the aftermath of the pandemic, cleanliness is the top concern of consumers. Hence, we should be more careful and attentive to ensure that the food we offer is safe for customers to come in and enjoy”, she emphasized. Maru's also obtained DOT accreditation, a certification given to a tourism enterprise by the agency that formally recognizes it as having met the minimum standards for the operation of tourism facilities and services.
Presently, the business is doing well and even surpassing its sales pre-pandemic. “Apart from learning from the mentors, I had a lot of fun interacting with my fellow mentees and learned a lot from them”, Ms. Tejada said.
"I hope more entrepreneurs get to experience the KMME program," she said, emphasizing that being an entrepreneur requires a lifelong commitment to learning and improvement. “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, your business will never cease to grow”, she continued.
When asked what advice she could give to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly to moms who are considering starting their businesses, she replied, "Never limit yourself." "Remain focused, and most importantly, never give up because the Lord works in mysterious ways”, she added.