Starting a business when you have zero experience can be intimidating—especially when you're still in school. But this sister duo proves that with the right amount of confidence, dedication, and pure passion for your brand, nothing is imposible. Read on as the sassy sisters Keisha and Kaitlin Lao shares with us how they started Giovanne the Label.
How it started. "Back when we were thinking of creating our own leather bag business, we actually doubted our capabilities of being able to source materials and scout for suppliers since we really had no experience whatsoever in the leather business. Building the brand was a mere idea that we didn't really look into. However, there was this one night when I was doing my usual midnight Instagram stalking and I stumbled upon this photo of an eye-catching synthetic leather rolls for sale. So I woke my sister up and told her all about what I had found and how we could easily contact this person. That’s when Giovanne the Label started."
Why Giovanne the Label? "The retail market is saturated with clothing—from crop tops to tailored trousers, and even knitted sweaters, you name it! From a customer's perspective, we realized that the market actually lacks a certain product which is both affordable and stylish—synthetic leather bags. A number of people believe that leather bags must always be made with genuine leather alone and doing otherwise will reduce the overall quality and look of the bag. Giovanne the Label, however, believes otherwise. We reject the idea of using animal skin for our products and instead, use alternatives such as vegan or man-made leather."
Young entrepreneur. "Being a young entrepreneur is definitely no easy feat. It requires hard work, dedication, and time. Plus, you definitely need to learn how to balance both schoolwork and business and find ways to make it work even if everything seems to go awry. For us, it was definitely not a smooth ride when we started the brand. We sought for help from successful entrepreneurs and did a lot of research in order to meet the demands of the customers. Apart from that, dividing our time between school and work has been difficult since we constantly join bazaars every now and then, which interfere with our class schedules."
Drawing inspiration. "We actually get our inspiration from the bags we see while walking around the mall, in the Ateneo campus, on Instagram, Facebook, or random ideas that float around our heads. We start collating all these ideas through an app called Paper. It has all these precise brushes and hues, which we work around with to get our collection’s color palette."
Hand in hand. "My sister and I work as a team! Since we came up with the concept together, we believed it was right to make all the other decisions together as well. From the designs of the bags, to the way we market our products, everything is agreed upon. But don't get us wrong, starting a business with your sister can still be challenging. We had been through countless fights and misunderstandings because of our contrasting opinions, clashing schedules, and more. But these problems have proven to be helpful in the end since we developed a certain attitude towards our work and has also made us stronger as a team. We always have to look for common ground so both of us can end up with a solid idea that can ultimately help the business grow."
Little challenges. "Having to look for a supplier was one of the problems we had to face. Everything was ten times more difficult because we had to start from scratch. We didn't know any manufacturer, we didn't know how to work with leather, and it was our first time to start our own business. We had to rely on the people around us and the people who knew a thing or two about the business we were about to start. It was actually those challenges that led us to our success today."
Staying original. "Giovanne the Label veers away from the ordinary. Fast fashion has dominated the retail market and we do not want to be a brand that is remembered as such. With this in mind, we always think of designs that are unique but classic. Another important aspect which makes our brand different is our marketing strategy. Marketing your brand's image is one of the most essential things that should be looked at in a business and we ensure that we do not overlook this. Marketing for Giovanne the Label entails having constant product shoots or occasional photoshoots every now and then, making sure that all photos fit with the overall look of Giovanne, which is simple yet elegant."
What's next? "At the moment we only have an online store, where customers can view our product catalogue as well as order their very own bag. In the near future, however, we hope to have our very own store boutique, where all our bags can be displayed and viewed as well as an actual website for international customers."
"Don't stop when you're tired, stop when you're done."
To young budding entrepreneurs. "Don't be afraid to start from scratch. It gets intimidating, yes. A lot of people are entering this market all at the same time. Some more experienced than others, yet we're all at the same playing field. At the end of the day, you just have to be unique and discover what sets you apart from all the competition. From that, work towards your goal.
Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!