How A Single Mother’s Grit Produced a Seven-Figure Food Venture

Mum’s Lasagna is a story of how a single mother’s resolve to provide for her five children transformed a simple home business into a multimillion peso success.

Mum’s Lasagna is a testament to how a single mother’s passion and resolve to provide for her five children transformed a simple home business into a multimillion peso success.

In the highly competitive food industry, how does a business set itself apart? For Mum’s Lasagna, it was in finding a higher purpose in the business, which was not just about revenues but about spreading happiness to Filipino families through their product. Thousands of loyal customers say they get it, and attest that they can actually see and taste the difference.

The result is a multimillion peso food enterprise, built by a self-taught and self-made single mother who fought her way to financial freedom and success.

Starting from Passion

Settling down at the young age of 18, Ping Tan chose to start a family early on, rather than have a career. But her desire for financial independence later encouraged her to think of ways to make her own money.

Having developed a passion for cooking and baking, she started with the simple side hustle of selling cookies. “I realized that there was potential in food. As long as it’s good, they will keep coming back,” she shares. True enough, her moist and chewy cookies generated a small following among family and friends, enabling her to get regular orders.

But their family kept growing, and she constantly found herself pregnant. Tan decided to put her business plans on hold and instead focus on her family. She channeled her passion for cooking and baking to experiment in the kitchen, improve her craft, and serve her delighted family with her new specialties.

After 10 years, Tan tried her hand at business once more. Having honed her cooking skills for many years, she decided to expand into ready-to-cook dishes. Since this was the time before social media and cellular phones, she pulled out her phone directory and patiently called each of her contacts on her landline, just to offer her products. “I called all my contacts from letters A to Z,” she recalls. “I knew it was a bit embarrassing but I figured, so what? They don’t have to buy, but at least they would be informed,” she says, lightheartedly.

Because she was particular about the ingredients and quality, her products got good feedback. She soon developed a loyal clientele mainly through word-of-mouth, averaging 300 orders per week.

In addition to being a mother of five kids, Tan was now also working full-time for her husband in the family business. To find time for her own small business, Tan would work until late in the evenings just to fulfill her orders. “My motivation was wanting to augment my salary. I didn’t want to just keep asking for money when I wanted to get things for the kids,” she explains. “Plus I wanted the kids to learn how to have a business and save.”

One time, one of her sons encouraged her to market her baked lasagna, which was a constant hit at family gatherings and parties. “Every party, it would be consumed first and the dish would be cleaned out. But I initially didn’t consider it, because it was very tedious to make,” shares Tan. Fortunately, her kids were eventually able to convince her to give it a try.

Her son was right. Her trial run garnered good feedback and re-orders. With a starting capital of only PHP 40,000, Mum’s Lasagna was born in their home kitchen in 2018.

The investment was shared between Tan and her three older children, with an equal sharing of only PHP 10,000 each. Tan explains that since she married young, she quickly realized how difficult it was to make a living and learned how to value money more. This is why she wanted her children to learn these lessons early on. “I wanted them to know how to be independent and have their own business while they were still young,” she says.

Initially they were just averaging five to 10 orders per day. But as word spread about their product, demand grew consistently. Tan had to give up her other dishes and focus solely on lasagna as orders rose to 20 trays per day.

Hitting Rock Bottom

But while the business was growing, things were unfortunately not doing as well at home. After 27 years of marriage, Tan and her husband had to separate.

By her own choice, she went from living a privileged life, residing in a big house with a driver and eight helpers, to being on her own, with no home and no support.

Tan knew her micro business was hardly enough to provide for her children. While her eldest was already independent and living overseas, her four other children were still in school. The second eldest was studying abroad, while the remaining three were in exclusive private schools. Their expensive tuition alone easily wiped out her savings in a matter of months, and for the first time, she found herself in debt. “Many nights I would find myself sitting on the floor, hugging my knees and rocking myself, while agonizing over how to keep us afloat,” she recalls.

Fighting Back

But if life was giving her lemons, she was determined to juice them dry. Tan worked tirelessly, even accepting orders late in the evening to establish their business. “My children would tell me to stop answering my phone and rest,” admits Tan. “But I felt that I didn’t have a right to refuse orders because we were just starting.”

One time she even answered a call at two in the morning. “It was a pregnant woman with a really bad craving for lasagna,” she says with a chuckle. The order was ready later that morning.

This attitude of going above and beyond, coupled with Tan’s high quality standards, kept customers coming back. “I wanted to make sure [the] families who received our products were happy. I figured, even though I was depressed, at least I could make others happy with our food,” explains Tan.

Despite their financial constraints, she also refused to compromise on quality and never scrimped on ingredients and portion sizes. The product had to be exactly how her children enjoyed her lasagna at home. “I have not changed the measurements since we started in 2018,” she shares proudly.

Building a Brand

Her efforts eventually paid off. Influencers started to take notice and showered her with rave reviews. Tan was soon able to pay off her debt and expand the business.

In 2022, Mum’s Lasagna opened its first official commissary and pick-up store at Scout Borromeo, Quezon City. Although their meaty lasagnas remained the main attraction, they have since added a few more dishes to their menu.

Their team has also grown from just two helpers assisting Tan in their home kitchen, to a staff of 18 people producing an average of 80 trays per day. The business earns seven figures in monthly sales.

But being a single mother, Tan still had no plans of slowing down, until her health gave her the ultimatum. After many years of being overworked and getting little sleep, Tan had a heart attack. It was then that she realized that she was literally working herself to death. “I was not stopping,” she recalls. “Hilamos ka lang, ligo ka lang, balik na ulit sa trabaho [I would just wash my face or take a shower and spring back to work]. I was so driven to provide for my kids that I just overexerted myself.”

Better Days

Today, she has learned to delegate and share the load. Now that her children are older, her third child Dwight helps manage their day-to-day operations and product development.

As the children start to take over, Mum’s Lasagna continues its expansion. Their next project is to open a café, in response to requests from patrons who would also like to enjoy their food onsite.

Business Lessons from Mum's Lasagna:
1. Choose a business you're passionate about
2. You will never find the right people. You need to train & develop them.
3. Be hands-on.
4. Don't neglect your health.
5. Find a purpose beyond just profit. The market can tell the difference.

Love in Every Bite

Despite the past challenges, Tan says it has only made her more grateful for what they have today, and motivates her more to spread happiness through the food they make.

“The product represents our family,” says her son, Dwight. “Customers say they feel the sincerity in our product. One customer even said it brought back memories of the lasagna her mother used to bake for her as a child.”

“Another one had said our food feels like a big, warm hug,” adds Tan.

So there lies Mum’s Lasagna’s secret to success—being able to use one’s pain for good, and triumphantly transforming it into something that brings happiness and love to others.

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