This Sister Duo Shows How to Get a Biz Rolling Even with Zero Experience in Business
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.
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Today, I am sharing my mother's story. I wish my mother was a constant in my life, like an angel who guards you to sleep and comes right there when you called. But angels come back home too, in heaven where they always belonged, and my mother went back a little early. My mother died when I was 13 years old. My last memory of my mother: Letting go when you are not yet ready is a very cruel thing that one has to ever experience. It is a sudden wave of total sadness and desperation crashing into your very core.
On the 28th of July 2013, we went to a resort in Bataan for the employees’ getaway. My parents own a 7-11 franchise, and it had always been a tradition to give their store clerks a get-together every year. I remember very well the last breakfast I had with my mother. The Sunday morning sky was clear and sunny, and the sea was calm and tranquil as we ate our breakfast on a cottage under the tall palm trees. She shared with us a strange dream she had the other night. She dreamt about an unknown woman holding an ice pick chasing her down on a dimly lit street, then she woke up just before the woman could grab her arm. We never knew what that dream exactly meant and now, I wished I never knew its meaning. After breakfast, my family and our employees decided to take a swim at the beach. The day was nice. The morning air may be chilly but the sun’s kiss on our skins gave us warmth. It was perfect. Everything is fine and the tides are low which made it very enjoyable to swim. We swam a little farther from the shore and we stopped to the point where the water reached our shoulders. We were talking about the good things in life and reminiscing the good old days. Those are the things that I’ve always loved about my family because I never had a meaningless conversation with them.
A few moments later, we heard a panicking call for help from one of our store clerks. It was Rachel. She was struggling to keep her head above water. She was already drowning but the odd thing was, she was only a few feet away from us. At first, we thought she was just playing around until we felt the sand in our toes dissolving like powder. It felt like as if the seafloor submerged deeper. I remembered sighting the shore and it seemed so close yet very far away. We were all panicking at that time. No one knew how to swim except my mother so without having second thoughts she swam towards Rachel and called out to my father, “Yung mga anak mo! Dalhin mo sa pampang yung mga anak mo!” and I never thought I already heard my mother’s last words to my father. I was paddling like a dog, gasping for air, as I say a little prayer to God to take us all back to safety. I felt my father grabbing our swimsuits, trying to lift our bodies so we can breathe even though he was also struggling to keep himself alive. Once I felt my toes touch the ground, there came a veil of relief that covered my whole body. As soon as my father and my sister made it to the shore we started calling out for help. There were no lifeguards on duty at that time, no personnel, nor guards. I saw my mother already floating in her stomach. We sighted a boat sailing nearby, we waved our hands and called for their attention. They almost ignored us because they cannot comprehend what we were trying to relay but the good thing was a passenger in the boat noticed my mother and Rachel in the water.
My mother’s body was laid on the shore. She was unconscious and her whole body was pale as white. My father performed CPR but my mother couldn’t get the water come out of her mouth because the food she ate earlier got stuck in her throat and blocked the passage. A concerned tourist offered his car to deliver my mom in a nearby health center or a clinic of some sort since the hospital was miles away from the beach and she needs immediate care. My father told us to stay in the hotel room and prepare mom’s belongings so that if she wakes up she has fresh clothes to change into. My sister and I finished packing our things and waited for our father to pick us up from the hotel. I was crying and I couldn’t stop myself because I was afraid to lose my mother. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if I lose her that day. Moments lasted until we heard a knock on the door and it was my father, crying, and apologizing to us. He hugged me and my sister tightly and saying, “Sorry, anak, sorry hindi na uuwi si mommy, sorry hindi ko nasagip si mommy”. And that was the moment I felt sinking into the ground. I never knew what to feel at first. I was numb because my worries were now actually a reality that I have to live in. I was at shock because I am now one of the kids in those cliche teleseryes who lost a mother at an early age. We went to the health center to settle everything. The clinic was very small and it sure did lack equipment. He told us to stay in the car. I wanted to see my mom, but I know he never wanted us to see her like that. I didn’t know what to feel. I was having high anxiety levels that my stomach is churning and I wanted to vomit. I got off the car and entered the health center to find the restroom. When I was finding my way around, I passed by the emergency room. I saw my mother lying in a foldable bed, lifeless, her hands dangling from the side of the bed, she has violet bruises on her skin, and her body was partially covered with a white towel.
That is when it sunk into me that she’s dead and never coming back. My father asked the others to just commute back to Manila because what we need right now is comfort from our family. The drive back home was one of the most painful memory I had as a kid. My father was in the steering wheel crying his eyes out. We drove from Bataan to Pampanga. We went home to my grandmother’s house, the nearest house that we can call “home” because how are we still going to be “home” without her?
Once we reached Pampanga, we stopped over to the gas station and my father made some calls to our loved ones to tell them that my mother passed away. He then called my aunt to help him arrange for the funeral. We got home and my grandmother hugged us and told us to get some rest. Already tired of crying, I went to sleep for a while. I woke up and for a second, I thought everything that happened the other day was all just a dream. That she was there in Manila, sitting on the couch reading some furniture magazine, waiting for us to go home. But that’s how cruel life is, right? I got up and weirdly, I felt sands in the bed. It was gray, just like the ones on the beach. I thought maybe it was just dirt but it was a fair amount to believe that maybe she visited us before she left. - ?
- The part of how I conquered the grief of her passing is shared in my personal blog. I felt the need to share my story with everyone since she's the woman I look up to. Feel free to visit my personal blog too when you have the time. I love writing my stories. Thank You! link: http://qkathreece.wixsite.com/kathreecequizon/post/breaking-waves
Hello! Sharing my first story in Wattpad!
TITLE: Whisper to the Stars AUTHOR: https://www.wattpad.com/user/withniji
GENRE: Teen Fiction/Romance STORY LINK: https://my.w.tt/Y3HeLPe9K7
Description: Ingrid Gianna "Gigi", a breadwinner of her family, has kept her feelings hidden for Hayme, her long time high school crush, because she has too much responsibilities in life; believing that she has no time for love. But, no matter how hard she tries to suppressed it for years, fate always finds its way....like it was already written in the stars.