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BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt MARCH 30 • 2017
sees export potential
Now that businesswoman
Maria Borneo has a com-
fortable footing in her do-
mestic market in T&T sell-
ing pastelles, she is ready
to deepen her footprint
regionally and internationally by exporting
the meat-filled, corn-wrapped delicacy. An
employer of 10, her pastelle sells for $15 per
unit at Massy Stores.
Trading as Maria's Country Style Ltd, her
business is housed in the same compound
where she lives in Lopinot. Her strategic intent
is to get an independent property for the busi-
ness and to eventually list on the T&T Stock
Exchange as a small and medium enterprise.
Borneo spoke to the Business Guardian last
Friday about some of her accomplishments.
Guyana, Suriname and Columbia are some
of the markets Borneo wants to enter, but she
has yet to determine her strategy. What is clear,
she said, is that her business is export ready.
"In November 2016, we visited Canada and
did a lot of ground work. Canadians paid us
and we were able to deliver pastelles to their
families in T&T.
"I looked at manufacturing companies in
Canada, their cold storage, the availability
of getting banana leaves in Mexico, proba-
bly setting up shop there and looking at the
regulations to move from Canada to the UK as
opposed to moving goods from T&T to those
With established brands of pastelle already
in the market, competition can be conquered
because it is all about having the right pricing
and packaging strategy in order to increase
demand for her product, she said.
Apart from the meat, the ingredients that go
into her pastelles are all natural. This means
her marketing and branding strategy is one
that promotes healthy eating at a reasonable
Borneo said she is certain that there are no
pastel manufacturers who operate at the scale
that her business operates. Most of them are
operating on a smaller scale, she said.
"I noticed since we entered the market,
we have not been seeing the other pastelle
manufacturers. We have gained traction on
the ground; demand is through out the year."
As with all food manufacturers in T&T, there
are labelling rules and regulations that Borneo
must abide by. Explaining the accuracy and
precision that the Chemistry Food and Drug
Administration requires, she said the approval
process can be tough.
"Initial testing would have been done with
Chemistry Food and Drug but their labs have
been closed for a while. The testing was done
at Cariri and certification at Chemistry Food
and Drugs who would guide you in terms of
the requirements for the labelling. There are
guidelines as to what is needed on each label.
If the label isn't approved, the product would
not get the certificate to be displayed in the
Borneo added that even though the process
of obtaining approval for the label is tough,
manufacturers must be persistent until the
labelling is suitable. She had to through six
or seven changes in order to get the labelling
correct for her product, she said.
After the labelling challenges were over-
come, Borneo had to undergo a taste-testing
stage at Massy before the product was put on
"There was a lot of disappointment. At my
first testing I had to do two trials before meet-
ing the store's requirements. It did not meet
Massy's requirements at first. I remember the
rejection. I parked at the side of the road and
cried," said Borneo.
She is comforted by the fact that there is a
lot of support for businesspeople here with
institutions like Youth Business T&T.
Getting workers with the right skills is an-
other challenge for her because it is a spe-
cialised field but it is not a major challenge
Every month, banana trees must be planted
to ensure there are enough leaves in storage to
wrap the pastelles. This means hiring people
to plant the banana trees on available land on
the compound of her home.
Asked what happens when the company
runs low on supply of leaves, Borneo said the
company source leaves from suppliers as far
as Rio Claro and Mayaro.
"A leaf can cost $2 but 10 pieces to wrap 10
pastelles can be cut from one leaf. The cost
price of a pastel is $7 and can sell for $15."
Although Borneo's marketing strategy can-
not immediately accommodate an integrated
marketing strategy, she has budgeted $30,000
per month to market her product and has been
using Facebook which has been effective for
The company is a pastel factory and Borneo
believes it has the capability to tap into the
"Once we are able to set up a factory like a
winery, you have a factory where you can see
the process, (for making pastelles) going on
and purchase pastelles all year long. We can
also integrate a pastelle restaurant. We would
eventually look for a property in Lopinot and
set up a cottage/factory."
Making headway into another supermarket
chain is another goal for 2017.
For the meanwhile, Borneo advises entre-
preneurs: "don't be afraid of the challenges,
the obstacles are the driving force of success.
Every obstacle I encountered strengthened
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
"Once we are able to set up a factory...you can
see the process, (for making pastelles) and
purchase pastelles all year long. We can also
integrate a pastelle restaurant.
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