By Eleanore O. Hatta

Herbs & Spices PH is a small enterprise owned and run by Mrs. Lea Lorraine Del Rosario. Lea started dabbling in business in 2019 and used to consider gardening as simply a hobby to pursue. But nowadays, Lea is committed to making her Herbs & Spices PH business work.

Lea currently considers her business as a “nursery and seedlings” supplier, yet may expand this to a bigger market eventually because she will go into processing herbs. She also dreams of expanding her service and product lines to include bottled honey under her Nectar & Pollen brand. What is interesting about this move to expand her products and services is that the honey is harvested from stingless bees.

This makes her product a standout in a market that is full of different honey brands from much larger and more competitive enterprises. She also has some ideas about bee-derived products that she and her husband Arthur Del Rosario may eventually start producing and selling as well.

Lea started this hobby 2 years ago and since then has converted it into a business.

This shows that Lea and her husband Arthur are already exploring the importance of strategic planning in their particular industry. Whereas before, it was not so important to have a master plan, nowadays it is imperative to plan, prioritize, and execute her business plans precisely to conserve resources amidst an increasingly competitive business environment. Yes, that’s how it is, even with the plant biz these days.

But how was it before with Lea and her passion for plants? Why did she enter the plant biz in the first place? “I became fascinated with herbs because when I lived in Dubai, a hotpot for different cultures and cuisines,” says Lea. “I was able to taste foods that are rich in different herbs and spices in their meals. When I came home, I researched more of it and fell in love with the smell, taste, and even medicinal properties of herbs.”

Some of the herbs & spices plants that are being sold in Parañaque.

But why did she eventually start becoming a honey producer and marketer? And why focus on stingless bee honey when so many other beekeepers are into regular honey bees instead? Lea explains it this way: “I wanted to complement the herbs. The herbs and spices produce flowers and I want the bees to pollinate it as their food. So, it is a symbiotic relationship. Then I discovered stingless bees that are more suited for my plants because even if their flowers are so tiny, the stingless bees can get their nectar and pollen.” 

How does Lea find her customers? “I always start with family and friends. I also post on social media and ecommerce sites”, she explains.

It is interesting that Lea didn’t have a formal business planning phase before she launched Herbs & Spices PH and the Nectar & Pollen brands. For the former business, she watched YouTube videos and attended seminars. She then took formal training at the UP Los Banos Bee Center to become a certified beekeeper.

Stingless Bee honey, the sweet-sour honey produced by the stingless bees.

As we all know, business startups do encounter their fair share of problems. Lea has been a careful manager of her Herbs & Spices PH business and the Nectar & Pollen brands. But one problem that she discovered in the nursery and seedling plants business is that the market can be limited to local consumers only. This is because plants are living creatures that can be harmed en route to the customer, especially with the advent of motorcycle courier delivery businesses. 

To make it less risky, Lea confines her plant biz to local markets only. On the other hand, she is pleased with the performance so far of the Nectar & Pollen stingless bee honey though she does admit that this livelihood is still in its infancy stage. Lea dreams of being able to acquire more hives so that she can harvest more honey to bottle and market. Lea also acknowledges that she needs to hire employees since, in her own words “I only have two hands, two feet and 24 hours per day. I need support to grow the business.”

Lea, the beekeeper, splitting a boxed colony.

Her vision for her two businesses is to eventually develop a worldwide presence in the global market.

Does she feel that she has succeeded already as a business owner, or are there any other business goals she needs to pursue? “For me not yet, I just started out Herbs & Spices PH two years ago as a hobby. There’s a lot of things to learn, to polish, to implement. My business goal is for this brand to be the brand of choice for herbs, spices, honey and related products.” This explains why it is now important for Lea and Arthur to conduct Strategic Planning if they are to take their business to the next level.

Photos by Arthur Del Rosario