Nothing beats the strength of independent and resilient businesswomen with brands that reflect their life’s passion and philosophy.
Here are the inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs who persevered amid the lockdown:
Joanna Morden of Avyanna Athleisure
Joanna Morden, along with her partner KQ Quiray, founded Avyanna Athleisure through their passion for fitness. Avyanna, which means “strong, powerful, beautiful woman,” aims to offer high-quality activewear apparel that exemplifies those same three qualities. Each of their pieces — from sports bras to leggings — is carefully selected and meticulously tested to withstand various physical activities.
“We started in 2019 and back then, there weren’t that many choices for good quality activewear in the local market, and foreign brands tend to be really pricey so we went to look for suppliers who could provide quality at reasonable price points,” shared Morden.
From an online shop, it grew to having three pop-ups, brand partnerships, a space at the Retail Lab store, consignments with two yoga studios, and being a part of online curated marketplaces like Seek the Uniq and Par8de. Morden shares that Avyanna Athleisure has become more than what they expected. Even if they’re a two-woman team, they’re still both very hands-on in dealing with the struggles that come along with running their business — shipment errors, some challenging customers, and dealing with customs.
However, during the start of the lockdown, Morden said that Avyanna Athleisure had to stop operations because shipping was challenging. But they received a lot of inquiries as to when they’ll start taking orders again, and they decided to accommodate Metro Manila customers again. And surprisingly, their sales in April 2020 was twice as many as their sales in December 2019.
“If you want to start a business, I believe it has to be something that you are really passionate about because it’s not just about making money, you have to enjoy it also and your heart must be in it. If you’re thinking of starting a business, ask yourself if it’s something that you picture yourself doing every day for a long period of time,” Morden expressed. “The formula is heart, preparation, and hard work. If you have all those, then go start that business!”
Caitlin Young, Andrea Borbe, Francine Qua, Jermaine Pua, Michelle Ong of Dolce Fresca
For Dolce Fresca, five young Chinoy entrepreneurs came together to produce versatile and locally made beverages that are appealing for alcohol connoisseurs and non-drinkers alike. Believe it or not — it all started in Italy.
Andrea Borbe, one of the co-founders of the business, spent a semester abroad in Europe. During her stay there, Borbe learned how to make Italian limoncello, a special lemon fruit liqueur from the town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Upon returning to the Philippines, she decided to share this with her team. Together, they eventually combined the limoncello concept with the need to help Filipino farmers.
Dolce Fresca sells premium fruit liqueurs that use natural ingredients, locally sourced fruit to support local farmers, and sustainable packaging like glass bottles, honeycomb wrap, and biodegradable paper bags. For their quality 30% ABV beverages, they use locally sourced organic lemons and Philippine alcohol. These are all the results from experimenting with endemic fruits like dayap, and ultimately, personifying classic Italian tradition and modern Filipino flavors.
Despite being a relatively new business, they were surprised to get plenty of orders from people — newbies that are eager to taste limoncello and seasoned travelers who miss the Italian beverage. However, maintaining good quality comes with huge responsibility.
“The problem is only 1-2 people can do the arduous task of grating lemons and infusing them in alcohol for weeks,” Caitlin Young said. “This is for quality control and for safety and health purposes. It’s a very labor-intensive task, as one needs to sterilize glass bottles and package it one by one.”
Regardless, they were still able to successfully keep the business alive by being resourceful and by working together as a team. But during the pandemic, they faced more challenges as their logistics became quite tricky. They also overcame this struggle by spreading their stocks across several locations to be able to deliver them more easily.
And so for young entrepreneurs, all five of Dolce Fresca owners advised, “Dare to dream big! You should believe in your own ideas because the market is full of opportunities — you just have to listen. Times might get rough, but that will help you learn how to adjust and adapt to present circumstances and turn these into strengths. At the end of the day, work hard and trust the process in order to succeed.”
Kim Jao of Robes by Kim
Out of her passion for fashion, Kim Jao started her business, Robes by Kim, wherein she designs and sells fashionable cover-ups and kimonos for casual and formal wear. She would sell through online platforms and even make it a point to join bazaars in Rockwell. To her surprise, the designs eventually became a hit.
Looking up to her grandparents and the life lessons they would always teach her, Jao decided to grow her business through adding bridal robes to the collection. Robes by Kim then started catering to a bigger market, providing wonderfully made and high-quality robes for any special event.
“The mission of Robes by Kim is to make weddings even more special and memorable, not just for the bride, but also for the special women in her life,” Jao said.
When the pandemic hit, the business was affected since physical weddings and events were postponed and moved online. But Jao knew that it wasn’t the end of the world. To overcome this struggle and maintain the sustainability of the business, she designed and produced stylish PPEs in different colors to help protect people from the virus when they go out.
“As my grandparents would say, ‘Hardships are part of building a business,'” Jao shared. “But by being patient and not giving up easily, I was able to use the time to develop my skills further until intimate weddings [have] become the norm nowadays.”