Ailene Co, www.aileneco.com

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“I used to have my own brand of business wear for women. I did that for 10 years but eventually had to close it down because it was not sustainable anymore. It was around the time when more affordable products made in China became ubiquitous in Manila. I went back to the corporate world for five years focusing on handling jewelry brands and event management. About six months ago, I had enough and went back to being my own boss. I set up my own business consultancy firm to help small companies with business development, refine their business model, assess profitability, and start-ups with crafting a sound business plan and setting up operations. I also co-founded Trend Hotspot two years ago, an online lifestyle magazine that helps brands communicate their message and features what’s hot and in-trend in Manila and abroad. I am also the Travel and Luxe editor at Experienced Travel Living, a print-only travel magazine. I have always considered myself an entrepreneur so it’s great to being back to it.”
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  • “My fashion brand was called‘U.R.U’. It was versatile business attire that you could wear in the office but also in the evening by accessorizing it. I had several branches and supplied Manila’s largest malls and smaller malls in the provinces. When Chinese products started penetrating the Filipino market, I lost a lot of clients because people could get similar products for cheaper. We were targeting a market that was very price sensitive so for them a 100 or 200 pesos difference was more important than better quality or brand loyalty. We used to sell through a platform called Multiply, which was very big at that time but then closed down. It felt as a failure because I had to close it down after 10 years.”
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  • “One of things I have learned from my previous business experience is not to be over-confident. You need to hire the right people and delegate. With my fashion business, I didn’t have someone that I could trust managing it; I hired low-skilled people and handled everything myself. It wasn’t sustainable. I also raised capital from friends and because there was an emotional involvement, terms were not negotiated well. It was not a good deal for me and I didn’t get the guidance and support that the right investors should provide.”
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  • “The toughest challenge for me was when I had to choose between my family and my business. When my fashion company was in trouble, I had it assessed and my legal advisor told me that I should choose between my business and my family. At that time I was trying to revive it and I could have possibly done it but it was going to take maybe two years of non-stop work. I was already spending very little time with my family so it was a very tough decision for me. It had been 10 years of my life.”
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  “Do not let others dictate your limitations. Do you own due diligence to make sure your business will really work. You can earn from your passion if you put enough work and persevere. Budgeting and contingency planning are very, very important in a business. Marketing and sales need to go hand in hand. It’s important to have a good marketing budget and measure what your marketing is generating in terms of sales. There will come a time in business where you will be tried and tested. You have to secure yourself. You need to have a set budget and include your salary in it, like you do for all your employees. If you seek investors, make sure you agree on how you are going to repay them if the business is not making money.”
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  • “It has become a passion of mine to help out other businesses. I didn’t have mentors during my first business so now I want to offer my experience and mentor others, particularly other women. I am part of Synergeia, a coalition of individuals, institutions and organizations led by Mr. Washington Sycyp to improve the quality of basic education in the Philippines. We support kids that cannot put themselves through school. I am also an active member of the Business & Professional Women network (BPW).  I am a firm believer of sharing, second chances, and not allowing other people to sidetrack you from your goals.”

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