Since the beginning of the pandemic, people on lockdown have turned to different hobbies to keep themselves occupied as well as to calm rattled nerves. Baking offers this kind of comfort. The number of home bakers have grown exponentially, either providing their family and friends with their daily bread or a means to make a living.

One is never too old nor too young for entrepreneurship, it seems, as young students are making pastries good enough to actually sell. What they may lack in years is not a reflection of their expertise. Home baker Natalia Araneta, 19, for instance, has close to a decade in actual work experience.

“When I was around 10 years old, I made empanadas with my yaya and started selling them,” she explains. Since both of her parents are “not big on cooking,” the Marketing Management major from De La Salle University actually developed her love of baking by watching and learning from their longtime cook she fondly calls her “yaya.” With nothing to do during the lockdown, Araneta turned to her old hobby and started experimenting with new recipes to keep her busy. This resulted in her online business she called @bynatacoco on Instagram where she sells her baked goods.

For Fordham University student Emmanuel Meer, his online business called The Good Batch is a product of a long-running love affair with desserts. The nineteen-year-old shares that he would always have sweets after a meal, and that even after dinners at home they would sometimes find themselves at Cafe Breton for crepes. His mom’s home-baked cookies were such a hit during recess in high school that even his teachers would offer to buy them from him. “This was when I decided to bake my own cookies and set up The Good Batch,” Meer explains. “I loved coming up with new and crazy recipes and following what my sweet tooth loved and wanted ever since I was a kid.”

Customers just could not get enough of Meer’s gooey Nutella Cookie that gets a pleasant contrast from the sprinkling of salt on top. He narrates: “There was a time when everyone was so surprised we sprinkled salt on top of our cookies, but now customers actually ask for extra salt or for salt to be added to other flavors.” When asked which product on her menu is a must-try, Araneta is quick to put her Monkey Bread front-and-center. “Monkey bread is like a better version of cinnamon rolls, it’s made into one big bun and it has a gooey center. It’s special because I haven’t seen anyone else in Manila sell something like that and it was part of my first few products.”

Aside from the monetary rewards of their businesses, baking has given these students some intangible benefits. For Meer, it allowed him to give back to frontliners by donating extra batches of his cookies to nearby hospitals, complete with personalized notes containing words of encouragement. As for Araneta, baking has provided her a welcome respite during these uncertain times, “a time for me to relax and keep myself busy at the same time. It’s fun testing out new recipes. My favorite part is when my customers reorder again.”