Good food gone wild

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 has concluded its search for the country’s most undaunted and unstoppable entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters the Asian Institute of Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. BusinessWorld will feature each finalist in the next few weeks.

Ana de Ocampo
Wild Flour Bakery + Café Corp.

BORN into a family of entrepreneurs and food lovers, Ana Lorenzana de Ocampo, president of Wild Flour Bakery + Café Corp. (Wildflour), is no stranger to business. As a young girl, she spent her summers working the cash register at her grandmother’s bakery which spurred her own love for baked bread and pastries. Armed with her first KitchenAid at 13, she started selling cakes and cookies.

Such was her passion for business and food that Ms. De Ocampo went on to take up Hotel and Restaurant Administration at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. She further honed her craft at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London, earning a Le Grande Diplome culinary arts degree in 1996. Wanting to put her education to good use, Ms. De Ocampo dreamed of establishing her own bakery and café -— one inspired by her travels abroad, of comfort food done well, with breads and pastries baked fresh daily.

“Perhaps I was quite ambitious, but I approached all the well-known malls in Manila only to be rejected,” Ms. De Ocampo said. She eventually found an unassuming location at a new office building in then up-and-coming Bonifacio Global City, which still stands today as the company’s flagship branch.

“It was not easy being a new player in the competitive restaurant scene. Our first few days were met with empty tables, and we couldn’t help but wonder if we had just made the biggest financial mistake of our lives,” she recalled. Slowly, word-of-mouth spread, and the single corner bakery has since evolved into one of the most successful and acclaimed restaurant groups in Metro Manila.

Ms. De Ocampo’s entrepreneurial approach is one of fearlessness tempered with keen intuition, intuitively knowing what’s best for the business and doing everything in her power to make it a reality.

Wildflour became a household name in 2013 as one of the first to recreate the cronut (croissant-donut) sensation outside of the United States (gaining attention from international media like CNN and the Wall Street Journal, and with lines snaking around the block that forced a strict two-orders-per-person policy). Yet Ms. De Ocampo fearlessly decided to stop selling this star product one year into the peak of its popularity as she didn’t want Wildflour to be a one-trick pony when it has a long list of offerings yet to be enjoyed by many. This gutsy move paid off and 10 years later, Wildflour and its brands continue to delight discerning palates.

Ms. De Ocampo’s leadership and Wildflour’s ability to meet challenges were tested during the pandemic. The company learned to venture out of its comfort zone and meet customers at their homes, developing its Wildflour To-Go in-house delivery arm, its retail line The Wildflour Pantry, and its cloud kitchen concepts Wildflour Pizza, Wildflour Rotisserie Chicken, Wildflour Burger, and Wildflour breakfast, lunch, and dinner trays.

Understanding the need for flexibility and agility, Ms. De Ocampo rapidly transformed the business in this direction by expanding the team, enhancing e-commerce platforms, investing in packaging, and strengthening ties with delivery partners.

Her drive for excellence means that all business decisions are backed by data. “We’re big into analytics,” said Ms. De Ocampo, who relies on a team of industrial engineers tasked to do analytics for the cost driving part of the business. As a businesswoman, she is not afraid to ask for help. She would, in fact, request for the support in areas she admits she has very little experience in, like asking her husband to assist her in finance and accounting.

Wildflour is poised to sustain its growth in the years to come. The group has its sights set on further expanding its footprint, first by reaching every corner of Metro Manila through strategic new restaurant and cloud kitchen concepts in the most prime locations, and efficient long-distance delivery operations across multiple channels. It also aims to widen its customer base beyond the capital region and venturing overseas in the near future.

Wildflour has amassed a roster of successful concepts, including its homegrown restaurant brands — Wildflour Café + Bakery, Farmacy Ice Cream & Soda Fountain, Wild Flour Italian, Little Flour Café, Hotel Bar, and the only international franchise of US-based Pink’s Hotdogs. The company currently has a total of 15 stores (eight Wildflours, three Little Flours, two Pink’s, one Wild Flour Italian, one Farmacy Ice Cream), with three additional stores being built and more being planned which will bring the total to at least 18 stores within the next two quarters.

Hard work coupled with grit and the passion for unwavering excellence has resulted in numerous awards for Wildflour: Tatler’s 20 Best Restaurants from 2015-2022, Tatler’s 14 Most Resilient Restaurants 2022, Esquire’s Restaurant Group of the Year 2014 and 50 Top Pizza’s 38th Best Pizza Restaurant in Asia-Pacific 2022 (Wild Flour Italian).

Ms. De Ocampo has also received the following awards: GoNegosyo Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneur Award 2018, Tatler Asia’s Most Influential 2021, Tatler’s Restaurateur of the Year 2022, Lifestyle Asia’s List of 50 People that Persevered Amidst Adversity During the Pandemic and ASEAN Women Entrepreneur (AWEN) Awards 2022 as one of seven awardees from the Philippines.

Ms. De Ocampo originally wanted to put up a simple café, but the vision has grown alongside Wildflour’s success — to operate a proudly Filipino homegrown food business of world-class quality and worldwide renown that provides an unparalleled experience to each and every guest. To aspiring entrepreneurs, she advises: “Be passionate. Let your passion lead you to success.”

The media sponsors of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Gold Sponsors are SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., Uratex, and Navegar. Silver Sponsors are Intellicare, OneWorld Alliance Logistics Corp., and Regan Industrial Sales, Inc.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 will be announced on Nov. 21 in an awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The winner will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).