While the prevailing philosophy of the Atenean entrepreneur is to create and sell an original product without sacrificing the delight of doing what you love, it gets harder to make a statement when everyone else seems bent on going for the same thing.
Still, these four businesses, though having been started amidst crammed exams and org activities, have come a long way from being just another blueprint idea.
A sweet destination
The term “Travel Cakes” brings to mind either cakes-on-wheels or even travel-sized cakes as a form of business. But senior Sabs Bengzon’s business began with a backpacking plan across Southeast Asia without the backup fund from her folks.
Inspired by boyfriend Nicky Daez who had the idea of selling cakes, and having sold almost 100 cheesecakes to fund the 10-day vacation, Sabs and Nicky realized they were on the road for a more long-term business of cake-making.
Each recipe they churn out is original. Try, for example, AraBIAn Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Strawberry Topping, a request from and subsequently named after a friend called Bia.
Soon the business branched out to selling cookies and other pastries, hence the transformation to Travel Cakes & Co. “I thought that people were buying it just for favors,” says Sabs. “But people would actually [buy] it—like strangers, people we don’t know.”
At first, it had been just Sabs who spent time in the kitchen. But as their business grew, Nicky found himself concerned with more than just the marketing. “I have had baking experience because I worked in the States for a while, in a bakery,” he says. “I remembered how scared I was when [Sabs] had to leave me alone in the kitchen and I had to bake the cake in exactly the same quality as the way she makes them. Now it’s easy and fun.”
Soon, with advertising via word-of-mouth and Facebook, Travel Cakes & Co. received raving reviews from newspapers and radio stations, and even offers for affiliations with restaurants.
“I enjoy food a lot. She enjoys food, the process,” says Nicky. “You really have to love it because you have to be ready to do the work.”
Even without a store or an official website, they are bent on one thing: deviating themselves from amateurs, and making their business take off the ground on their own.
It entered the fashion industry with a classy swimsuit collection in March 2009. Several university bazaars, a handful of features in magazines, a Multiply site, and five collections later, Poisonberry brought its clothing line to trendier shores.
A play on the real fruit boysenberry—the one found in the Knotts Berry Farm logo—Poisonberry’s expansion followed with a variety of themes, from printed tulip skirts and colorful tutus that suggest a fun and carefree girly vibe, to sequined vests and metallic blazers that emanate sophistication and class.
“We just get our inspirations from everyday people we see, from trends and magazines,” says co-owner Rachel Lim. It has been a shared passion for fashion between her and business partner Lyca Ong.
Originally, Rachel had thought of infusing shoes into their products. “I really love shoes and I’m thinking of expanding to shoes,” she says. “But the problem with shoes is it has a lot of sizes unlike clothes [with only] small, medium, and large.”
And despite their pre-success slip-ups—“There are a lot of bogus buyers, sometimes they disappear during payment time”—the duo have their own share of highs. Just imagine getting free advertising every time bigwigs like Bianca Gonzalez wear their products.
Nonetheless, Poisonberry is nowhere near settling down for mediocrity. Even when the other half of Poisonberry is helping out from Australia, Rachel says the production is still well under way, with a few surprises to boot. The summer brings their launch of a men’s line this summer, as well as a fashion course for Rachel in New York that would hopefully give their line an edge in the cutthroat industry.
“There are a lot of people starting their own fashion line,” she says. “But if you do your branding well and really plan out your strategy, you won’t be just any other ordinary Multiply online shop.”
While the Spanish may associate “Telebasura” to reality TV and talk shows that spread negative values and promote sensationalism, the term now holds another meaning to hip Filipino teens: a kind of eclectic fashion created by three close friends.
Seniors Pat Bautista, Kris Caguiat, and Chantal Tee’s own mantra for fashion has evolved. From just conducting numerous experiments and shopping sprees, they are now creating handmade accessories and apparel “wearable for the normal person who wants to stand out, but not to the point of looking crazy.”
Telebasura has gone through several unpredictable turns, shifting from loud neon colors—“Our logo had a skull and a TV; when we were younger, we were more into that,” according to Chantal—to a subtler, more elegant look for everyday wear.
Now with its black and white color motif, Telebasura’s designs aim for simplicity and sophistication, as shown by their trademark fringe necklaces, body chains, and embroidered button pins.
After being included in a modeling event on campus, Telebasura has since then been featured in teen magazines and sold in bazaars. The inexpensive designs may be found in the fashion boutique Looking for Lola in Power Plant Mall.
Fame has not gotten the limelight of their business, as the trio insists that money is just an accessory perk in their gig. “You have to know what your priorities are—if you want to start the business as an artist and you want to reach out to people because of your art, or because you just want to earn money,” says Kris. “It would really affect your output. If you’re just interested in money, you would only use cheap materials and you would not really care about what it looks like anymore.”
Something to look forward to from the girls of Telebasura? Says Pat, “We want to have our own boutique some time soon.”
With accessories taking on a trend in the fashion industry, personal style is crucial to standout. This is what All Buttoned Up, an online accessory shop, offers their customers. The bonus is that the pieces are not mass-produced. Each one is personally hand-made.
“A lot of the items are made to order,” says co-owner Denise Lim. “If you want to customize, you can ask for a specific length, color or style.”
For instance, there is the Alien Invasion, a necklace with knitted aliens as pendants. However, this seems contrary to its concept name. “Originally, we were thinking of making accessories out of buttons,” says Denise. “We thought it would be nice if the concept revolved around buttons.”
Though the plan didn’t push through, she and co-owner Bianca Li boasts of having over 4,491 sales via online transactions and bazaars.
Most of their designs have been inspired by Hollywood celebrities and fashion magazines. “Chain Reaction was inspired by Madonna in one of her music videos where she was wearing a chain necklace,” says Denise.
Yet the ladies of All Buttoned Up are also adept to going with the trend. With the growing popularity of nationalistic themes came an “Honoring Pinoy Pride” edition of accessories, which featured rings and earrings inspired by Imelda Marcos, Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and Maria Clara. Even the UAAP season gave birth to series bracelets a la green and blue.
With graduation ahead, the future of All Buttoned Up looks promising. “As soon as we graduate, we would have more time for the business, to make more designs because now we’re just reproducing [our old] designs,” says Denise.