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Side hustle turns into full-time passion for B.C. entrepreneur

Natasha Acuba-Bailey created Manila Kitchen as a secondary source of income
Natasha Acuba-Bailey (centre), her husband Mark (left), and mother Telly (right), selling adobo flakes at Robson Square (Contributed Natasha Acuba-Bailey).

Like many Canadians worrying about their income, Vancouver local Natasha Acuba-Bailey found her passion while looking to make extra money.

She had been the assistant manager at the local Sephora for 12 years and that salary wasn’t keeping up with inflation.

Her idea came in 2020, when Acuba-Bailey created Telly’s Manila Kitchen, a Filipino food business. She said that she initially needed the money to take care of her grandma.

“One night I decided that I wanted to do something for my grandma to help her pay for the medical bills because she needed 24-hour care.”

Telly’s Manila Kitchen began as a side hustle, but now it’s a full-time business – and Acuba-Bailey isn’t the only Canadian to have a secondary source of income.

A recent survey from the Angus Reid Institute found that many Canadians are struggling with living costs.

A study from H&R Block Canada backs this up, finding that 85 per cent of Canadians are concerned that their job isn’t enough to deal with inflation. It also found that 28 per cent of adult Canadians were taking a second job to support their earnings – 13 per cent more than in 2022.

READ MORE: B.C. new ‘C-’ budget smacked by province’s top business organizations

Acuba-Bailey is one of the lucky ones; she was able to quit her full-time job in January 2022 to focus on Telly’s Manila Kitchen.

Her job with Sephora may be gone with the wind, but Acuba-Bailey uses her skills in cosmetics and salesmanship to advertise her product: adobo flakes.

Adobo is a traditional Filipino meat dish, usually served with garlic fried rice and fresh tomatoes. Adobo flakes are a twist on this dish; Acuba-Bailey says they’re like “bacon bites.”

“It’s not a spice, it can be used as a topping but not a condiment,” said Acuba-Bailey. “The most common misconception about it is that it’s spicy because when you hear adobo you’re like, oh, the Mexican adobo, like the chilies.”

Acuba-Bailey sells both pork and chicken adobo flakes. After getting her food safety certificate, along with all other necessary paperwork, she purchased a commissary kitchen and began bringing Telly’s Malina Kitchen to farmer’s markets.

“I looked up all the markets, all the festivals, all the pop up events, to see where I can get myself in,” Acuba-Bailey said, adding that includes anywhere from Langley to North Vancouver.

After three years of hard work, Telly’s Manila Kitchen has a solid customer base. Acuba-Bailey is determined to find the best deals for herself so that she doesn’t have to raise her own prices for customers.

“It just takes a little bit of research and some phone calls … and I’ll do a tally,” Acuba-Bailey said. “If I find that Costco has the best deal then I’ll just stick with Costco.”

Most recently, Acuba-Bailey participated in Philippines Independence Day celebrations in Vancouver.