Profiles, Stories

Q & A With Modern Tao Ke Denice Sy-Munez On Finding The Beauty In Working With Family

Denice Sy-Munez understands the pressure of not only being the child of a prominent businessman but also the possibility of being next in line. Her father Dioceldo founded Ever Bilena Cosmetics, with its affordable products shaking up the makeup industry.

After graduating from the University of California Berkeley in 2014, she decided to return to the family business. She started at entry-level and worked her way up, eventually becoming Ever Bilena’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer. Today, she effectively juggles her time between being a wife, mother, daughter, writer, and chief marketer.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing challenges to Ever Bilena, Munez led the way of innovating the company from within with her father Dioceldo and uncle, COO Siliman Sy, guiding her.

Read on how Munez started out in her family business and produced new innovations in Ever Bilena in the midst of the pandemic in this Q&A from the Create. Modern Tao Ke. | Mindanao Edition session.

Q: How did you get on board with your father’s business?

A: After graduating in 2014, I started working at the company in September. My first job was as an Accounts Supervisor handling a chain of convenience stores. I would always ask questions and I would slowly be given more responsibility as time went by. From a chain of convenience stores, I eventually was assigned to handle supermarket accounts [and] drugstores until I handled one of our biggest accounts, Watson’s. From there, I got involved in product development marketing, and recently, in January, [I] was promoted to Sales & Marketing Officer.

Q: You are young, but you’re already in line in Ever Bilena’s succession and are already playing an indispensable role in it. Do you see yourself taking over completely in the near future or are you looking into doing something on your own?

A: When I first joined the business in 2014, I actually had wanted to work in the U.S. beforehand, but before coming in, I had to debate with myself internally, so I was talking to my dad about possibly entering the business. My dad poured his heart and soul into the company. The company provided livelihoods for us and for so many employees, so it’s the heart to give back to the people who helped bring the company where it is now. That’s one of the reasons why I stayed on board. Ever Bilena as a company has been helping me create [my] own little ventures that I’m able to pursue through the company. One venture is Hello Glow, which is a new skincare brand I personally developed that my dad supported. It is actually helping us generate income during this difficult time.

In terms of finding my own sideline or my own other ventures, I think it’s something I can do well being with the company and merging it with the company. In terms of taking over any time soon, I hope I don’t have to, especially right now. I really appreciate having my dad present and guiding me because it’s such a difficult time. I’m blessed to have my dad mentor me through this pandemic.

Q: Your father might be retiring soon. How do you see yourself continuing the business in the face of the pandemic?

A: My dad likes to use the words, ‘Let’s cross the bridge when we get there,’ but on my end, I like to always have contingencies in place. Just like when I first joined the business, I always focused on the work that needed to be done, asked questions, and learned about things I had to figure out along the way. Right now, in the midst of the pandemic, I’ve been doing fieldwork while practicing social distancing, since it’s really important for me to know what’s going on the ground.

Throughout this pandemic, we’re able to create a new channel that we had not worked on in the past. We have a retail channel, a direct selling channel, and a recently-developed online networking channel. So far, we have these three channels in place to help provide us contingencies in case traffic in retail doesn’t pick up any time soon. They’re also helpful for us because we’re able to continue generating some income and livelihood for our reselling partners.

Q: What are the innovations, product developments, and promotions that you made as head of Marketing?

A: Definitely during COVID and with more people having less income, you have to be more competitive in marketing to at least convince them to get your product over others. In direct selling, we did the usual approach just offering boosters, which is pretty common in the direct selling market – just small promotions to entice our dealers to buy more. For retail, we did not offer any promotions. Because there’s limited access to testers, and we no longer recommend testers in retail, we use acetate films where people can manually swatch the lipsticks to see how they look like on their skins. We also offer alcohol prepared in our stalls to at least make the shopping experience feel safe and hygienic.

For online, my dad is strongly against marking down, so we started bundling more. We offered some markdowns for the bundles so at least customers will feel added value when they purchase our products. For online reselling, we are innovating by creating a lot more different products for this new channel. Some of the new products we’re working on are slimming coffee and some sheet masks. I find it motivating to be developing new products at this time, and it’s a blessing where we are able to have a new channel where we can offer new products. Whereas other retail brands are struggling and liquidating, we’re here investing in new product development. That’s something I’m happy that we’re able to do, and I hope we can continue generating more revenue for this.

Q: As you are in succession to your father’s business, can you share other lessons about family business over the years as you’re being mentored by your father?

A: I learned that’s it’s okay to have disagreements for as long as your heart is genuinely for the company. That’s how I’ve been able to work really well with my dad despite all our arguments. We talk about work every day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and because we live together, we talk about work 24/7. I see some articles online about people not recommending that – how that’s actually unhealthy, but personally, I’ve always been a workaholic, so that feeds my passion a bit more. When my dad argues with me and disagrees with me, it convinces me to find more ways to defend my stance. In finding reasons to defend it, sometimes I find myself correcting myself or find myself justifying it more. It helps me generate more data and gather more justification, and it helps us agree on a better direction moving forward. Somehow, our dynamics of arguing a lot and forcing me to defend my recommendations help me be more data-driven and factual with my recommendations.

Q: Do your disagreements affect your relationship with your dad?

A: I find that when I justify using data, and when I justify objectively, it takes away the emotion and it makes things less personal. That’s how I approach work all the time. I don’t take anything personally. I always justify and use data for everything, so that when disagree, and we agree to move forward regardless of whether it’s a direction that I had suggested or if it’s a direction that leans away from my suggestion, I always agree with the board. I always mention the contingencies or risks involved in that action plan. There’s no ‘I told you so,’ but more ‘If we decide to push through with this action plan, these are the things that might happen.’ Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. We always revert back to the boardroom, because what can be done moving forward? It’s not always the boardroom when it comes to my dad and I. Sometimes we argue in the dining room, but it’s always only about work. It’s funny how we talk about work in every bite, then thirty seconds later we talk about my son. It shifts really quickly when we shift from business mode to family mode, and it’s working for us pretty okay, I think.

Q: Once the pandemic is over, will the investments in going digital and other workarounds during the pandemic season be futile?

A: I don’t think any effort done is ever futile, but I do think there might be some changes in long-term behavior moving forward. There are people who would prefer to shop online forever because they enjoy the experience. There will be people who would prefer to go back to retail to shop in person because they miss doing that and it gives them back a sense of normalcy. I don’t think any effort is futile, but I do think the dynamic is very dynamic. It changes so fast, all the time.

From my end, for example, my investment in the online reseller market is something I hope to continue moving forward. If ever it slows down compared to the current movement, then that means I have to find ways to excite whichever market is generating more demand. It’s not so much wasted effort, but more pushing effort where there is demand currently. The market is there, but it’s shrinking, so you have to chase after where the market’s going in order for your company to stay afloat.

In the Create. Modern Tao Ke. webinar, Denice Sy-Munez shared her passion to give back to her father and Ever Bilena’s employees, innovating the systems and products of amid the pandemic, and her advice on how she maintains a healthy work relationship with her father.

The Create. Modern Tao Ke. | Mindanao Edition was the third webinar under the Saludo SMEs Campaign presented by Globe myBusiness in cooperation with CHiNOY TV. Through the Saludo SMEs campaign, and the resulting webinars, Globe myBusiness equipped the Chinese-Filipino community with the right knowledge and business solutions to rebuild their businesses, especially at this time where many Tao Kes are in the middle of reopening their doors in the new normal.

Watch the full webinar in CHiNOY TV’s Facebook page here, and stay tuned in CHiNOY TV’s website for more Q&As with the Create. Modern Tao Ke. webinar speakers!

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