Whether you're a die-hard fashion girl or not, admit it, shopping for a new top or a new pair of shoes is always a nice distraction from the busy college life. Now, what if we told you that your love for shopping can actually make you some moolah? Don't believe us? Read on to find out how young entrepreneur Dianne Alejo turned her love for shoes into a real business.
How it started. "I've always loved shoes and I tend to hoard them. I buy a pair or two every single month. Until I realized, why not create my own line of shoes? I started checking out manufacturers July 2015, but it wasn't until early 2016 when I became really serious in starting my own shoe line. Then April 2016, I released my first ever collection of sandals and slip-ons."
Why Meraki? "Sandals are a staple in every girl's closet, so I decided to focus on selling sandals. My first sandal collection in April 2016 was actually not made of vegan leather. Apparently, the manufacturer ran out of my initial choice of material, so they suggested using vegan leather as an alternative. Looking back, I think it was a wonderful stroke of luck since after its release, the consumers preferred it. Consequently, I started using vegan leather solely for my sandals as well as for my bag collection, which is fairly new."
Young entrepreneur. "It's very hard to be a young entrepreneur. You face a lot of challenges in the initial stage and people tend not to take you seriously. I think every entrepreneur has faced these kinds of issues when they were starting—especially at a young age. However, as millennials, we are fortunate to live in the digital age. Almost everything can be done faster and easier. We should utilize and maximize things like the internet, so we can say that being a young entrepreneur also has its pros."
Drawing inspiration. "Aside from, of course, my family, and my boyfriend, I draw inspiration from my love for wearable fashion, which I would like to share with women from all walks of life."
Flying solo. I do everything on my own: from marketing, styling, designing, taking orders, etc. except driving! I’m just very blessed to receive such an overwhelming support from my family and my boyfriend. I believe I won’t be here without them, the people who trust Meraki, what it stands for, and how it patronizes our local shoemakers.
Little challenges. "At first, I thought looking for trustworthy manufacturers was the hardest challenge I had to overcome. My boyfriend and I scouted Marikina for weeks looking for manufacturers who can create the designs I have visualized. However, I realized, selling my designs and putting my brand out there is a much bigger challenge. There are a lot of other existing brands when I started, so it was hard to compete with them. In addition to that, it was hard for me to manage my time since I also work full time. So aside from my 8-hour desk job, I have to juggle managing my business, which entails a lot of sacrifices."
Staying original. "For one, I can honestly say that I really love my craft. That's why I chose the brand name "Meraki," which is derived from a Greek term meaning "to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put something of yourself into your work." My brand is basically a reflection of myself and how I want to represent women of this generation: simple and classy. This, I think, sets me apart from the rest."
What's next? "At the start of 2017, my goals for Meraki were to add a line of bags and to transition to selling offline. Fortunately, before January ended, I was able to release my first collection of vegan leather sling bags. It was surprising because it received good market feedback. So now that my first goal has been reached, it is time to focus on selling my products offline. We have frequent pop-up events, but having a physical store is definitely on top of my priorities for my brand. Fingers crossed to joining a physical concept store before 2017 ends."
Entrepreneurial philosophy. "Be passionate about what you do, and work hard for what you want to achieve with realistic expectations in mind.
Listen to your customers, and surround yourself with people who have the same philosophy as yours."
To young budding entrepreneurs. I saw this quote online: "Your success will be determined by how well you can overcome hardship." I guess that would be my advice to other entrepreneurs out there. Just believe in your brand and you can overcome any challenge as long as you persevere and put your heart on it. You also have to have a lot of patience, as it won't always be an overnight success.
Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!