In Good Taste: Hernan And Marivic Fuentes, Co-Founders, Pies Basket

Perhaps best known for the soft and fluffy ensaymada that it sells, Pies Basket is a Sharjah-based bakery specializing in different kinds of Filipino breads, cakes, and pastries.

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This article is a part of In Good Taste, a special feature built for the August 2021 issue of Entrepreneur Middle East showcasing 10 of the UAE's most promising homegrown food brands. 

Pies Basket
Hernan and Marivic Fuentes, co-founders, Pies Basket

Perhaps best known for the soft and fluffy ensaymada that it sells, Pies Basket is a Sharjah-based bakery specializing in different kinds of Filipino breads, cakes, and pastries. Founded by husband-and-wife duo Hernan and Marivic Fuentes in 2006, Pies Basket’s offerings are today seen as a mainstay of the Filipino expat population in the UAE- but that’s not to say that the rest of the country’s residents aren’t catching on to this enterprise’s delicious offerings. After all, as a business that declares all of its products to have been “made with love,” it’s hard for anyone, Filipino or otherwise, to turn away from, say, the custardy goodness of Pies Basket’s inipit, or the flaky flavor of its hopia monggo.

Source: Pies Basket

“Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of having a business, of owning my own bakery,” Marivic says. “Our little business started along with a friend, who had a background in baking, where we baked bread from our home kitchen, until we officially launched it on May 23, 2006. We were the first bakery at the time to provide ensaymada on supermarket shelves, and since then, we’ve seen demand for all our bread- even from non-Filipinos.”

To understand Pies Basket’s fan following in the UAE, a closer look at the principles with which Marivic and her team go about making and selling their various products is probably necessary. “We at Pies Basket pride ourselves on producing quality Filipino bread at affordable prices,” she explains. “We are proud to say that every item that customers purchase at the shelves were all handmade with love. Ever since we launched our business, we have strived to maintain our prices, despite the fluctuations in the economy, because we passionately believe in our mission to provide our bread to as many as possible. It has not been an easy journey, and even though we still struggle today, we do what we can to stay true. It’s also challenging to keep our heads above water, due to the growing competition in the market, so we are constantly finding ways in order to expand our reach.”

Source: Pies Basket

Indeed, Pies Basket’s success in the UAE has led to the rise of other players in the country wanting to copy what it does, and while that’s resulted in a tough landscape to navigate, the small business has maintained its presence in the market by staying true to the values it was founded with. “One of the major challenges that we face is that when the rest of the market saw the demand for similar bread, the bigger bakeries were able to command larger production, because they had the capital for automating the processes,” Marivic notes. “As we are a smaller company, our production is limited, because every single bread is handmade. However, one thing that I am constantly proud of is that the quality of our bread can compete with other well-known brands, and that our loyal customers continue to patronize our products- because they recognize the difference in the quality that we provide.”

It should be quite apparent by now that Marivic’s personal values are a guiding force for Pies Basket as a business, and it’s heartening to see how they have played a key role in her journey as a self-made entrepreneur as well. “Personally, I didn’t have a background in business, so I had to learn everything the hard way,” she says. “We didn’t, and still don’t have, a public relations officer (PRO) to conduct all our legal affairs, so I am still the one who handles all the necessary requirements and ensures compliance with government regulations."

"As a woman, I also found it particularly challenging when having to deal with legal departments, but I’m not afraid to ask for help, especially in areas that I am not familiar with. I firmly believe that we are doing good and honest work, so there is no reason to be afraid in seeking counsel, and it just so happens that we have always been brought to good people who have helped us along the way.” Marivic’s notion, therefore, seems to be that “good begets good,” and I guess it’s something that more of us should consider taking to heart, both in our lives and our work. 

Related: In Good Taste: Annika D'Souza, Founder, Crumb & Co.

Source: Pies Basket

BAKE UP A STORM

Pies Basket co-founder Marivic Fuentes shares her tips for wannabe entrepreneurs aiming to follow her lead

1. Be honest in all your dealings. “We believe that honesty may not always be the quickest way to get rich, but the rewards in knowing that there is no deception in the products/services that you provide is greater than anything that money can buy.”

2. Love what you do. “I always had a love for bread, and it was a blessing that I was able to find a way to turn my passion into something that would provide materially for my family. The love that you show in your products/services will always be seen by those who will consume it.”

3. Believe in your God-given gifts. “We at Pies Basket also believe that our company is a way for us to give back to the community. There is more value when one creates a product that will be beneficial for the entire community, than just for oneself.”

4. Invest in quality- especially in the F&B industry. “We, as a company, believe that taking shortcuts to create profit, but sacrificing quality, will not only hurt our brand, but will hurt our consumers as well.”

Related: In Good Taste: Mhon Lee, Founder, The Kakao Guy

Aby Sam Thomas

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Entrepreneur Staff

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.