Rina Cajayon owns Bunso Breads, the only Filipino bakery in the Tri-Valley. The bakery is located in Downtown Pleasanton, and the name reflects an aspect of Cajayon’s life. In Tagalog, “Bunso” is the common phrase for the youngest sibling; Rina is the youngest of six children in her family.
Cajayon grew up in Maryland, and her family has always been into cooking and baking. Later in life, she joined the U.S. Military as a Food Service Specialist and served for 28 years. She had only really started to get into baking after she attended the University of Hawaii and landed a part time job at Four Seasons hotel making pastries and bread. This was also where she earned her degrees in Culinary Arts and Advanced Baking in 1998. In 2010, she was deployed to Camp Parks and was active for three years before she was finally able to open one of the first official home bakeries in Northern California in 2013.
That same year, Governor Jerry Brown passed the Cottage Food Operations (CFO), which allowed businesses to be located at home. Because she was still a federal employee, she wanted to be able to open a baking business outside her main job, and has cited CFO for being the reason she wanted to remain in California instead of move back to Maryland.
There’s going to be a lot of challenges for every woman in the food service business, and even outside this business, but you have to keep driving on.”
Starting from friends, news of the at-home bakery spread from person to person, and caused her to gain more customers. From there, she started selling to places like San Ramon churches, and in 2019, was finally able to open a brick-and-mortar bakery, which enabled her to run an official business through the comfort of her own house.
“My biggest motivation [to open a brick-and-mortar] bakery was the customers. Those that found out about us usually did by word of mouth. But when they heard we were located at a house, they would always say ‘there’s no such thing,’ or ask ‘is this the right place?’” Cajayon explained.
Cajayon recognized that there isn’t much representation in the field as a woman—and a Filipino—since there was always a constant comparison between other bakeries, whether it be due to her background or bakery menu.
One of the greatest challenges Cajayon faced was the pandemic, which caused her brick-and-mortar bakery to open a year later than planned. She expressed her gratitude for being able to stay open, since she knows that many other bakeries had no choice but to close.
“There’s going to be a lot of challenges for every woman in the food service business, and even outside this business, but you have to keep driving on.”