Name(s): Lloyd Ortuoste and Patricia Villanueva
How did you meet and how did you come up with the idea for #Baonanas?
Lloyd: I'm lucky enough to call Trisha my girlfriend. We've been dating for five years now, and how we started this business was pretty crazy. It basically involves two broke college kids, a busted yellow car, and just a bunch of friends and strangers on Instagram that decided to help us out.
My car was hit in front of my house. It was the only way I could get to school so a friend of mine suggested we sell our homemade banana pudding. It was always a hit at family parties. It's a recipe that Trisha created. I then messed it up but made it better somehow.
Trisha: When we first started dating, we called each other "Bao". It's Mandarin and often means to be full in the stomach and in the heart, so we thought it went really well when we were thinking of names for our company.
After you made enough money to fix your car, when did you decide that #Baonanas was a "real" business?
Lloyd: I don't even remember the exact moment. It was just another hobby for us. We got to hang out all the time. We both really like to bake and we both love food.
Trisha: And then we started making new flavors and it kind of just picked up momentum on its own.
What did you do next? What was the process?
Lloyd: We kind of just figured it out as we went along, but we were very lucky to have a lot of really talented and supportive friends. Since we started out on Instagram, we really felt that it had to be visually appealing and we had to make something that people would think of as cute or fun or something that they could relate to. So we decided to work with our friend, who's a graphic designer and artist to create our logo.
When did you start selling at farmer's markets?
Lloyd: Our first event was actually the Filipino Parade at Lincoln Park in Jersey City. I had a friend who asked if we were interested in selling #Baonanas. And that's when we realized all of the stuff you've got to do to become a vendor. Google was our best friend.
Trisha: The New Jersey Small Business Development Center is one of the first places that we visited. They were so nice. We really wished there was an incubator around here, because the research was the most difficult part of getting started along with looking for kitchen space.
Lloyd: When we couldn't find kitchen space, our friend, who was a chef at Ahri's Kitchen, suggested that we ask them to their kitchen, since they're closed on Tuesdays. Anna and Andy of Ahri's Kitchen are some of the nicest people that we know. They're so supportive of us.
There are around 14 #Baonanas flavors, is there a bestseller?
Lloyd: The OG is probably the strongest, then Oreo, strawberry and matcha green tea. The s'mores and the chocolate were real underdogs in the beginning, but now they're just flying off the shelves.
Did your wholesale partners come to you? Or did you seek them out?
Lloyd: We've had businesses inquire, and we have a nice list of restaurants and cafes that we targeted because we feel that they give something different to the community.
Have you collaborated with any other businesses?
Lloyd: Yes, we've collaborated with Ahri's Kitchen on a custom sweet potato flavor. And the door is always open. We're always trying to link up with like-minded businesses.
What's the most challenging thing about running your business?
Lloyd: The hardest thing when we first started out was time management…especially with school. Thank God Trisha bought me a Passion Planner. It's really saved my life. I bring that thing everywhere.
What lessons have you learn since starting this #Baonanas in 2014?
Lloyd: Well, one of the biggest things that I learned is just like food; you are what you digest, information-wise. All I do is I read books. I listen to podcasts to try and gain as much knowledge as I can about running this business. Also, utilizing your network is definitely important. We have a lot of great friends that have helped us out.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given since you started?
Trisha: I think it's that you shouldn't be afraid of pursuing your dreams. Work hard towards what you want to do, there's nothing that can stop you. That's something that we always ask people, "What are you #Baonanas for? What are you passionate for? What drives you?"
For more information about #Baonanas and to find out where you can purchase these delicious treats, visit baonanas.com.