From an aspiring Founder/CEO

How did you start the business?

This business is my childhood dream. In fact, at the age of 7, I already dreamt of designing something — anything! That was when the seeds of the brand were sown.

There was an episode in college that brought these dreams to my head. Back then my allowance wasn’t even enough to buy the headbands I really liked. I thought, “why not make them from scratch instead?” The passion for designing things, which was lying dormant at the time, blossomed again. When I started working — January 9, 2013 — the Maria Salvador brand began to take shape.


What's your core inspiration?

I guess the young me which loved doodling designs is my foremost inspiration. Then, there’s my dream of making the brand known throughout the fashion world. I want every Filipino to experience the quality of the Maria Salvador brand, and that’s a huge driving force in my work.

Of course, there’s that fact that the production process involves providing a stable income for our local craftsmen, too. Our weavers and shoemakers are integral in the success of Maria Salvador. Yes, being an entrepreneur is being able to build something from scratch, with your own blood, sweat, and tears. But on top of creating something that yields profit, being able to join in job generation and nation building is an amazing feeling.

Finally, the people surrounding the brand are all indispensable inspirations. Reaching out to customers, understanding the needs of the employees, lending a hand to the people in the community — all these add a whole new dimension to entrepreneurship. If I can become a transformative factor in my own little way, then that’s already a huge success. And that’s my greatest dream.


What was the story behind Maria Salvador's handcrafted bags?

I’ve always had the idea of using local materials on my bags, and over time that turned into a passion and a defining character for the brand. We have amazing weavers here in the Philippines, along with top-notch raw materials that the world ought to see. Our bags reflect bits and pieces of our culture, even these are things worth sharing as well.


What is the most challenging experience you've encountered with your line?

Like most starting entrepreneurs, it was a huge challenge to let go of my “stable” job just to follow my dreams. It took a lot of planning, false starts, and rationalizing. In the end, I realized the fact that at this rate, I am my own worst business rival! I am putting my own business down.


How did you cope with it?

I poured myself into studying the business, to resolve my fears of failing at my first try. I also took time to save for the capital, and laid the groundwork in terms of plans. Like most entrepreneurs, I thought I was shooting for the stars with this dream of founding a business. But I took my time and focused my energies in pursuing Maria Salvador. I slowly grew to believe that maybe this dream isn’t impossible, after all.

I finally steeled my resolve and jumped ship — life was never the same since!


What are the lessons you've learned before and during the business

One great lesson is that there is no such thing as “overnight success”. Another is that success can’t be attained through luck.

The reality is that “luck” is just a manifestation of hard work in practice. The more experience we gain, the more we are capable of turning around our luck. This is the result of consistent actions, patience, and perseverance. These are key ingredients for any entrepreneur.

Business success can finally hit one day, but it was not made in just that day. It’s pretty much like boxing — a single punch can turn one into a champion, but it’s all those punches that came before that did all the important work. We can even trace that success as far back as the boxer’s training, and all the sacrifices he made. His focus and self-control, and of course his coach, all became vital in enabling him to throw that winning punch.

The “winning moment” in the world of business — that huge windfall that catapults you to fame in one go — is a little too overhyped. In my opinion, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Too many people set sights on it, and when they can’t reach it they lose heart. Don’t rush! Take time to plan and strategize. Study the field, the market, your competitors. Understand your customers. Persist in the face of failures. Get the right team on your side. And most importantly, continue developing yourself in order do grow your business.


What is your secret to success?

I never quit! I think that’s the top reason business people fail. But here’s a little secret — most of them quit without knowing how near they are to their goals. When they hit a huge wall, they just pack up and go home. In fact, the thickest, tallest walls are built right next to the grand prize.

Imagine quitting a game when you’re in the final stage. I faced that stage myself once, but I went on. I kept thinking from the start that I can succeed, and I affirmed that each step of the way. That’s the primary reason I’m here.

Most people think that success is just that shiny pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But that’s not true at all! The rainbow itself is made up of little successes. So when you climb up there with an intent to see things through, you’ve already succeeded in your own way. Success begins at the time we choose to achieve it.

In a practical sense, success begins when we decide on the right business to start. This is why when starting a business, find one that you just can’t quit!


What would be your message to young people who want to start their own enterprise?

The simplest is the age-old idea — if others can do it, so can you! You don’t have to be a special snowflake to start a business. You don’t have to be rich, and you don’t have to be a genius. You don’t need to have highly-specialized skills (though further down the line you should invest in them). All you need to have is endless determination, and an unbreakable mindset geared to tackle whatever challenges will come your way.

And make no mistake, there will be lots of these challenges, of all shapes and sizes. But once you’ve set foot in the arena, you have to own it!

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