No mountain too high

Bogel Kaupa runs a successful catering firm in Lae city.

Despite not making it past Grade 6, she is living a dream that came true through sheer determination, hard work and commitment.

BMT stands for Blue Mountain Trading, and the Kaupas come from the blue mountains of the Sinasina-Yonggomugl district of Simbu Province.

Bogel Kaupa and her husband, Brasty, have lived in Lae for over 30 years.

12 years ago, she was just a house wife at Kamkumung, running the house and looking after their children while her husband went to work.

In the mornings, Bogel would bake buns for breakfast as well as pack some for her children’s lunch.

“Mekim disla go na ol neibas sa lukim ol pikinini kaikai ban go na ol sa askim, yupla baim ban ya lo we? Na mi tok no, mi wokim lo haus na ol kisim. Then ol continue lo askim lo baim so mi mekim extra na ol baim.” (Kept on doing that and neighbours would ask, where did you buy the bun? I would reply, no, I baked them. They kept asking so I made extra batches and they bought them.)

Bogel started off with a kilogram of flour but word soon spread so she increased production to 2 kilograms then on to 5kg.

Bogel soon had to ask her husband to get her a drum oven when she started baking 10kg of buns every morning.

From there the family moved to a more spacious location, where they got another drum oven and Bogel started baking with 50kg flour.

“So mipla gat tupla drum oven na mipla sa go brukim faia wud lo Markham Bridge,” she stated. “Taim masta pinis wok na kam, em sa go loadim faia wud lo hap. (So we had two drum ovens and we would get firewood from Markham Bridge. After work, my husband would go there and load the firewood.) 

“Mipla wokim displa klostu wanpla yia-plas nau mi tok ok, mi nidim wanpla mixer bikos mi pansim go na han pen.” (After doing that for over a year, I said ok, we need a mixer because my hands are hurting from kneading the dough.)

Realising that she needed additional support for an already growing business, Bogel visited the National Development Bank.

With NDB’s support, the family built a mini bakery and would deliver their baked goods using their bus. However, they suffered a massive setback in 2015 when their bus was damaged.

“Ol drunkard lain draiv krangi na ol bamim bas blo mipla. Disla nau mekim mipla muv go slow gen. Bat driman na tingting i stap yet so mipla still continue mekim go.” (Drunkards bumped our bus. Business started slowing because of that but our dream was still there so we shouldered on.)

Needing more manpower, Bogel challenged her husband to step out of his comfort zone and do something for himself. Brasty resigned from his job and started working with his wife.

While she slowed down on the baking front, her catering service picked up speed when she was contracted by three corporate clients to cater at their on-site kitchens.

She was soon able to open her BMT Café in February this year at Lae’s Third Street, where her focus was on quality and affordable food.

“Mi no wokim planti display or promotion, word of mouth tasol. Mi lukim ol ofis lain sa kam enjoyim breakfast blo ol, ol kam enjoyim lunch blo ol, na mi jas satisfied stret.” (I never did any display or promotion; it was all word of mouth. I get a sense of satisfaction when I see working class people coming here to enjoy their breakfast and lunch.)

Operating in the heart of the city has its challenges but the BMT family are more than capable of handling them, saying discipline and God’s grace played a major role in their success.

Bogel dropped out in 1988, stayed home for a year then went to the Rebiamul Vocational Centre at Mt Hagen, where she learnt how to bake and cook. She said if you want something, you take the first step and God will do the rest.

BMT has 24 employees working at the café and their corporate clients’ kitchens. They also take in students from technical and vocational schools for on-the-job training.

Carmella Gware