In August of 2012, I was overweight, overworked, and desperate to eat healthier. I was working four jobs—hosting for events, teaching classes, acting for theater, doing shoots all over the country for two television shows I was hosting at the time—and barely had time to sleep or prepare meals.

As much as comfort hits the spot sometimes, I feel way better when I eat delicious healthy dishes. I needed food that was easy & empowering. So I searched for meal deliveries online, and at the time, the only two healthy meal delivery services that existed were way over my budget. I thought, “Healthy food should not be this expensive! Why is there no healthy ‘baon’ service that is affordable and can help me lose weight at the same time?” It was then that I realized, “If I need this, and this isn’t available yet, why don’t I start this?”

So I did, and Diet Diva was born on September 2012. We started with a simple concept: Healthy, Calorie-Counted, Portion-Controlled, Delicious, Affordable meals delivered to the homes or offices of busy, working Filipinos. From delivering to 12 clients, we are now serving an average 200+ subscribers daily. I am still amazed and very grateful to be here without training in business or culinary.

All I had was an idea I believed in, a drive to learn and deliver day-by-day, and the right people to support me at the right time. Everything else, I learned along the way. So if you’re thinking of starting a food business, here are 7 essential tips I’d like to share so you can get started.

1. Create a food business concept that is needed right now.

Do you have an idea right now that no one else has? If you start this tomorrow, is this what people would want/need and sign-up for? Are Filipinos ready for this kind of food today? Or baka naman next year pa? Ask yourself these questions. This way, you can also see if you are riding on a trend or actually providing a long-term product

2. Fast and proper timing is key.

If you are a pioneer, you get a head start in the market and build your brand right away. From the ideation stage, I got to work immediately and in a few weeks, I was operational. The earlier you begin, the better, so if you have an idea, get to work AS SOON AS POSSIBLE because if you don’t, someone else will. Sayang naman!

3. Protect your business and be official.

Seryosohan na, okay?  Be legit. Register your business with the Department of Trade & Industry—it’s very simple and easy. For your brand/product name, you have to register with the Intellectual Property of the Philippines. Search here for existing brands, see if your product name or idea is still available, and learn how to apply (online & in-person) for trademarks.

I recommend visiting the IPO office itself in Taguig for a more personal approach. For your staff & suppliers, make an NDA or a Non-Disclosure Agreement to ensure your trust and their cooperation. Call your lawyer friends for help in drafting one.

4. Make it “Do-It-Yourself.”

Since you’re just getting started, you’ll have to do-it-yourself—EVERYTHING—which is both challenging and rewarding. From groceries, suppliers, food styling, packing, deliveries, marketing, client messaging, social media activities, sales, customer calls, at kung anu-ano pa—I did it all! Eventually, you start hiring & teaching your team. We are lucky to live at a time where digitally, we can get also FREE support and assistance.

This means you can do your own marketing via Facebook & other social media channels, or even create your own website! You can use apps to help you from creating menus, making ads, organizing your schedule, and controlling finances. Try and see what will work best for you (We use MailChimp, Telegram, Canva & Calm, to name a few). 

5. Work hard with good business karma.

Yes, you will work very hard, probably the hardest in your life on the first two years of the business—because you have to ensure the flow of good business karma in your life. I made sure to create my own concept so I could offer something else delivery services did not provide.

I did not want to directly compete nor be a copycat. I know my business has inspired many others to follow suit, but we are still thriving. Credit the businesses that have inspired you. Give back to the community. Help the environment. Support local farmers and make them suppliers. Pray! Babalik yan lahat sa’yo, promise.

6. Get as much help and support.

Your people will be your greatest asset and I’ve found this to be true. Your team will make or break your business, especially in the early years. I’ve been blessed in this aspect to include friends, family, and staff members (who are now family) in the business.

My mom is my CFO & General Manager, my Chef Consultant is one of my best friends, and I met our amazing Lead Nutritionist at a bazaar. We have wonderful working relationships with our suppliers. Our ambassadors are clients first, and now are friends. Some can work with family and friends; some do not. It’s all about finding the balance of what will work for you and always, work with respect.

7. Let your business fund itself.

I truly believe in this philosophy! Start with what you have—even if it’s just P5,000. This was all I had when we bought ingredients that first week in September 2012. Then we started to work on the profits, which all went back into the business, making it grow. Rather than saving up for big capital and making a big investment, my experience taught me to start small. Wherever you are, you just have to keep the money moving and growing.

The profits will be your funding as the business grows and pays for itself. Similar to getting an insurance plan where you start paying off every month for the next x number of years, or saving a standard amount from your salary immediately before it goes to expenses, just start small and be consistent. This is also a good tracker of your growth and development, helps you to always monitor your finances, decide wisely on large expenses and find ways to save on costs. Let your dream and drive be bigger than your initial capital and as you see the business fund itself, you will find yourself seven years later as a successful and thriving entrepreneur.

The fundamentals of running your own business are courage, determination, a great support system, and hard work. It’s not an easy feat to set-up your own business but it is not impossible to do this. Whatever business you will decide to venture in, it is important to partner it with sound financial habits because being disciplined and smart in your spending is the key to the stability of your business.

Kakki Teodoro

Kakki Teodoro is the CEO & Founder of Diet Diva Foods Phils Inc. She's also an events host and actor for television, theater & film. She has performed for shows here & abroad, including original Filipino musicals such as "Rak of Aegis" and "Ang Huling El Bimbo".

She also produced and acted in this year's critically-acclaimed one-woman play "Every Brilliant Thing" and will soon be reprising her role as Nimia in the award-winning "Himala: Isang Musikal" (nominated: Best Featured Performance of an Actress in a Musical) this September to October 2019.