Kenneth and Shiela Reyes-Lao were tech-entrepreneurs based in Manila. They ran a tech startup company funded by Globe Telecoms under Kickstart Ventures in 2013. They decided to move to Davao City in 2016 seeking a new pace and lifestyle away from the busy corporate and technology startup scene. Looking for opportunities, they found themselves attending agricultural seminars hosted by local organizations. They did not have any experience in agriculture but fell madly in love with Cacao and the idea that they can grow their own chocolate. They jumped into the opportunity and never looked back.
Ken is the eldest son of entrepreneurial parents. They started a bakery in their garage the same year that Ken was born. He grew up seeing how hard his parents work to grow the business. He would realize later on that being an entrepreneur is in his blood and the lessons and habits he learned from his parents still help him to this day.
Ken is a graduate of the Ateneo De Manila University with an MBA from Asian Institute of Management. He has extensive background in business operations and started out his career as a Plant Manager for Liwayway Marketing Corporation, the makers of the snack food Oishi. He became an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in one of their China processing plants at a young age of 23. After working in China for 4 years, he came home and went on to have a career in IT Operations Management and Sales, working for companies like Transnational Diversified Group and Zendesk. He has credited this experience in his life as a big influence in his leadership and management skills. Now he balances his time overseeing Cacao Culture, exploring new opportunities and business consulting.
Shiela is the youngest of a typical OFW family. Her father worked as a seaman for many years, and she grew up seeing more and more of her family members becoming OFWs or emigrating out of the Philippines for better opportunities abroad. Shiela thought that this would probably be the same path for her to take but when the opportunity to work abroad came, she decided to stay and explore opportunities locally. Shiela has since started different companies with Ken and they continue to explore more opportunities.
Shiela, a De La Salle University-Manila graduate, has broad experience in project management, business process analysis and strategic planning. With over 10 years experience working in the IT industry, she started her career with Transnational Diversified Group, a local conglomerate involved in various businesses, like logistics, shipping, travel, information technology and ecommerce where she worked with different company executives in making them understand how technology can help their businesses. Shiela has also worked for companies in Davao City as an IT project manager doing custom software development for different industries like fitness, fintech and bitcoin. Now, Shiela is mainly focused on Cacao Culture’s ecommerce, digital marketing and overall operations. She also found her passion in chocolates and is now the Chief Chocolate Maker of Cacao Culture.