Marvin and Irmalyn Vicedo were both government employees when they started Ben & Lyn Chocolate Inc., a home-based enterprise in Agus-us, Indang, Cavite engaged in manufacturing cacao-based products.
That was in 2014 when they decided to go full time on an on-and- off business which they were doing on the side as early as 2002.
For Irmalyn, it was the need to augment their income to support a growing family that prompted them to put up their own business.
Both had the background in agriculture.
Irmalyn, who hails from Pangasinan, finished BS in Agricultural Education while Marvin, a native of Indang, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Food Technology at the Cavite State University. He was also a food blogger and trainor in food processing.
Irmalyn said at the start, the couple had to deal with the difficulties in sourcing good quality cacao and in obtaining machineries.
She said due to limited capital, they resorted to designing and fabricating their own machine rather than import.
The couple pooled their income and took out a loan to fabricate their own equipment to make tablea.
They now have two of these machines supporting their production.
Ben & Lyn addressed the need for good quality cacao beans through outsourcing. About 80 percent of the cacao they use comes from Davao and the rest from Calabarzon.
Irmalyn said the company buys directly from individual farmers or cooperatives.
On the average, they produce 500 kilos to 1 ton a month.
Ben & Lyn’s cacao products include 70% dark, 75% with nibs, 75% with muscovado sugar, 78% with coco sugar, 100% pure cacao, pure tablea (unsweetened), cacao nibs, choco nibbles and brittle. All use just two natural ingredients, cacao and sugar.
According to Irmalyn, their products are geared towards the A, B and C markets. The products are also ideal for health conscious individuals such as those on keto diet.
For now, Ben & Lyn relies on pasalubong centers, hotels and restaurants and online sales via social media for product distribution.
To hone their skills further and widen their network, the couple also participates in exhibits.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Irmalyn in 2018, Irmalyn participated in the third batch of DTI-Cavite’s Kapatid Mentor Micro-Entrepreneurs (KMME) program.
Ben & Lyn also participated in Kalakal Calabarzon 2016, a regional trade fair organized by DTI-IVA.
The couple also attended seminars on good manufacturing practices and FDA registration.
The DTI said before joining the agency’s programs, Ben & Lyn only had a gross sales of P100,000. This grew up to P160,000 per month after being part of KMME.
Irmalyn said the company continues to innovate its products through research in order to stay competitive.
The couple aims to have their own kiosk or physical store.