All about having her cake By Grace Bondad Nicolas
Cakes are considered as staples in just about every occasion for most Filipinos. For Merle Mendoza Balicao, it is literally her bread and butter as her brand has become a landmark at her hometown in Los Baños Laguna.
Merle started Mer-Nel’s Cake House and Variety Shop in 1996. Mer-Nel is a combination of her name and that of supportive husband, Nelson. With the lofty objective to make Mer-Nel’s known nationwide and to become part of every Filipino occasion and celebration, Merle focused on her mission to provide fine customer service and put emphasis on offering high quality and affordable products while providing more job opportunities as their business continues to grow.
Merle started her career as a food service employee in a canteen at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, Laguna from 1979 to 1989, while Nelson started as a baker at the International Rice Research Institute cafeteria, also in the same town. So, they do know a thing or two about the industry they’re involved in.
Starting with just three employees in 1986, Mer-Nel’s now operates with three branches in Laguna with over 100 employees. The branch includes a multiple-story events place and restaurant along Barangay Maahas, Los Baños, one branch at SM Calamba City and one at Barangay Batong Malake in Los Baños, Laguna.
When asked if she considered herself as an entrepreneur, Merle said; “Entrepreneurs are people who choose to run their own business rather than work as employees. An entrepreneur is someone who creates a business from scratch, with all the risks and rewards it implies. It is my personal conviction that, yes, I consider myself as entrepreneur.”
Merle inspiration is her family, her children and her clients, and still see herself establishing additional shops in every town in Laguna and beyond. “I see myself helping many people and putting up bigger commissary and into franchising,” she added.
When asked about what makes Mer-Nel’s different from other similar pastry establishments,”I always wanted to give my best and I listened to our customers concern and their advices. My husband is very hardworking, my children are also in our company. The lord has also given us loyal and hardworking employees.”
Because of the success of Mer-Nel’s, its operations was featured on several television. Merle has also been recognized with several awards already, the latest of which was the special award under Asia Leaders Awards 2018 held at Makati Shangrila Hotel last November.
As for her advice to budding entrepreneurs? “You must be hardworking, persevere, listen to your customers, love your employees, be a strong leader, focus, keep on learning new technologies, you must have passion, know what you’re doing, be honest to your customers, do not spend more than you’re earning, be humble, and lastly, always pray.”