Anna, 25, graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Music with a diploma in Creative and Performing Musical Arts in Asian Music under her belt. She’s married and has an adorable 20-month old daughter.
Anna is 1/3 of a performing jazz group, Baihana, and co-owner of Mrs. Graham’s Bakery of which she’s the namesake.
Baihana, the all-female vocal harmony trio, started out as a hobby when Anna was a fourth-year in college. But as the years passed by, it quickly morphed into becoming her “main job’; i.e., most other things revolve around scheduled gigs with the group. While the nature of the music industry has always been painted as unstable, it didn’t deter the ladies from pursuing it. They have had good paying gigs here and abroad and Anna counts herself lucky in that regard. From that accomplishment alone, coupled with her adorable family, one could say that she had it in spades.
But Anna is nothing if not a fount of creativity. Performing may be a major passion of hers but it wasn’t her only one. Anna is also a self-confessed foodie with a special fondness for French macarons. Unfortunately, as well anyone knows, these delicacies are a mite on the costly side and it isn’t practical to keep buying some every time you pass by a café that happened to have them—which is what Anna did. Sometime last year, she finally made up her mind to try baking them herself.
(B)AKING IT WORK
The mystery of why macarons come by as not the cheapest dessert option became apparent on the onset. Aside from the ingredients, one batch alone (which yields 10 pieces) can take 4-5 hours! Month in and month out, Anna toiled over the perfect blend of flavor and texture. Frustration became a constant along with headaches and of course, kitchen disasters. But all’s well that ends well and Anna came out smelling like a rose.
Equipped with her perfected recipe, Anna started baking more macarons for family gatherings, parties and to give away as gifts. Flavor ideas came in random inspiring bursts and showed in her work. Her first foray came with the liquor flavors which were hugely successful. Soon enough, family and friends were putting in orders for more of her unique macarons. Anna, who never really thought about selling them finally decided to make a business out of it with her husband’s help.
Anna became a permanent fixture in her mom’s kitchen which, fortunately for her, was already well-equipped for her baking needs. When they finally moved out, she and her husband had to dip into their savings to invest in the materials she needed for her own kitchen.
They officially started selling just March of this year to rave reviews. Anna and her husband set up shop in various food fairs and scoured the internet for several blogger events. Her clientele is now slowly expanding from the initial patronage of family and friends. Word of mouth spread like wildfire. One blogger even put them on the top of the list of the Best Macarons in Manila—a not too shabby feat for someone who never had any formal confectionary training.
With all the kitchen chaos going on from her startup business, Anna’s main job with Baihana never took a backseat and neither did spending time with her family. The industry being unstable as it is, Anna’s commitment to Baihana afforded her a very flexible schedule. There are weeks when they were full to the brim with gigs and there are weeks when the schedule was very light. That’s when she squeezes in baking and pick up days for Mrs. Graham clients. Customers are encouraged to order at least two days before pickup so she can move things around to fit everything else. The key is proper planning.
Of course, no matter how much you plan around, there will always be unexpected gigs/orders that crop up. Anna admits that it definitely takes time away from her family. She even confesses that part time jobs can even be more stressful because the hours are not defined. Sometimes, with Baihana, she would be days or weeks away for an event out of town or out of the country and missing family gatherings and get-togethers with friends.
As the lone baker of her home bakery, Anna sometimes has to decline orders despite the overwhelming need to do otherwise. She has had to learn to recognize her limits and where to draw the line and carve out time to rest and recover and spend time with her family. Anna counts herself very lucky to have a husband who supports her every step of the way and a little girl who always lights her up and everyone else around her with her antics.
“Find what you are really passionate about and plan well before you take the plunge…If it’s something you really want and believe in, work hard on it and success will follow.”
While Anna ended up pursuing her passions, they were far from mere leaps of faith. It took careful planning and options-weighing.
Anna never planned on being a professional singer or baker—singing and baking just happened to be hobbies. After graduating college, she taught for two years and then stopped when she got pregnant. After giving birth, she decided to focus on Baihana. As for the bakery, it simply stemmed from a craving for macarons and sprouted from there. For each, opportunity came and it took a lot of guts for her to grab and pursue them.
Anna and the rest of her trio are still hoping to make it big. They are currently planning Baihana’s independent album and hoping to join more jazz festivals abroad. For a group that caught the attention of international singer/songwriter Carly Ray Jepsen and recently opened for famed jazz artist, Renee Olstead, the ladies are on the right track.
As of now, Mrs. Graham’s Bakery is a home bakery that focuses on French macarons, offering unique flavors that come straight from Mrs. Graham’s imaginings. From your camping staple (Inside-out S’mores), to breakfast favorites (Pancake with Maple Buttercream, French Toast with Peanut Buttercream) to even your liquor cabinet (Baileys, Tequila Rose), Anna’s flare for translating food—and drinks—into macarons is nothing short of genius. So what’s next in line for Mrs. Graham?
“..to open my own bakery/café and for it [Mrs. Graham’s Bakery] to become a great established brand”.