Something about success stories make them seem so final. The way we talk about and define it generally puts it on such a pedestal that makes the human aspect of it so disconnected. That’s why it’s so humbling and refreshing to hear a person talk so specifically and candidly about their work, even when it’s becoming bigger than what they anticipated it to be.
Chrissie Torres is the owner of Mana Bites, a healthy snack brand that also does zero waste subscription service. What began as her own desire to bring healthy, organic, raw food from Bali to the motherland turned into a business that really served a local market that’s looking for exactly what she offered.
What the Philippines lacked in health food, Bali had plenty. It’s for the island’s abundance of brunch spots and infinite supply of fresh, raw food that Chrissie simply couldn’t bear knowing it existed in some part of the world and not have it at home.
“When we started out, I was kind of scared because I’m pretty sure not everybody’s into this. What I found was people started coming to me when they were interested in healthy stuff. Instead of me trying to convince people, I found that there was a market that was already struggling to find healthy food. We just want to cater to it better.”
For all her iffiness about organic ingredients saying, “health food is easy to replicate and it’s ‘in’ now so anyone can just [say something’s organic when] it’s not,” she found her way into making her own.
Somehow the value of a product goes back to sourcing—where health food is involved, there’s no way ingredients should be compromised. With Mana Bites, they intentionally try to source it consciously and locally.
You’d know something came from them if it involved a self-made ingredient, or any other extra step in the creation process. It’s just the way Chrissie built Mana Bites to be. They try “to do [their] best to process as little as possible.” In that way it shows how particular she is about her methods in running the business.
That was reinforced after she told us it was hard to throw away ingredients from a new recipe that turned out to be horrible,and follows it up with: “Sometimes I pray over those ‘killed’ ingredients and I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry I did this to you.’” But even in jest, there’s a hint of precision behind her words that is true to how she handles Mana Bites, and what we’d later discover, to her general approach in life.
Dealing with raw healthy snacks, the process goes more complex in making new recipes than preparing finalized ones that are already on the menu, underlining the challenge of “how the flavors go together.”
On the business side, the real test of resilience lies in what she plans to do with it in the future. As Chrissie says, “it’s adulting.” They’re at an “awkward stage in growth” wherein she has to weigh in options about expanding. For someone who’s used to having a “perfect and specific” image of what she wanted her life to be, it takes every effort to push back her idealist tendencies when it comes to decision-making.
She’s the absolute type A person, but one that’s found the balance between listening to her perfectionist instinct and letting life show her the ropes.
All credit goes to years of allowing herself explore and experiment with unconventional jobs after unconventional jobs, confronting the struggle of not knowing what to do, and at the same time, fighting off having a specific, fantasized picture of reality.
“The one thing I’d say is that the more you do, the more mistakes you make too; the more you’re able to discover about yourself and what you’re good at and what will work for you.”
A generous amount of gumption is required in running a business as it is, and “as a woman, there’s a bit more of a challenge.” For Chrissie, she takes it as an incentive because being a successful woman in her own stride is incomparable to what most would consider the best things in life.
“I was really happy when I found this because it was successful, which meant I felt like life was pointing me in that direction.” It opened her up to being a fitness and yoga instructor.
To Chrissie, this time of her life is for health and fitness, but there’s room for other creative things in the future, probably in the realm of drawing and music. This doesn’t mean she’s seeing an end to Mana Bites. It just proves that she knows not to limit herself, which the rest of us could take as a message to not settle for what’s convenient.
“There are certain things that you might regret later in life and you don’t want it to be that,” referring to the crippling what ifs.
As for the next steps with Mana Bites, she’s considering the possibility of expanding to Siargao and taking up a Raw Food Certification course in Bali. But for whatever plan she has, what she found to be her motto for the business, is: “Even if it’s not perfect, just go for it because if you’re gonna wait for it to be perfect, it’s going to take forever.”