Friday, June 30, 2006

"Turning fun hobbies into serious money”

Written by Paul Farol last year for Cut Unlimited

Some people actually fall in love with a hobby which later turns out to be a profitable business. It is in this mode of thinking that the idea of entrepreneurship comes serendipitously. The unusual ease with which things just come together, the first bouts of inspiration and a passion for doing or making things better has a way of grabbing people from out of the blue.

Searching the internet for articles on entrepreneurship, one comes across a notion of entrepreneurship as the capitalist equivalent of a guerilla led revolution. It points to the work of economist Joseph Schumpeter who says that an entrepreneur is a person who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation. Entrepreneurship forces "creative destruction" across markets and industries. In other words, it’s a situation where a small shop owner beats big business R & D with a product designed and manufactured from a small room at home. This may be very much truer in the fashion realm where small shops do better than corporations.

As a venue for the first forays into setting a fashion revolution, bazaars are among the friendliest seed beds for fomenting new movements in fine taste and scrumptious designs. It is in this sense that Cut Unlimited’s annual Noel Discovery Bazaar becomes quite an apt name for a bazaar because as far as fashion is concerned, if it’s new and absolutely to die for… you’ll discover it at Noel.

Beauty and the Beads proprietor Tess Carlos, one of the concessionaires in the upcoming Noel Discovery Bazaar on November 25 – 27 and December 21 - 23, confides that one of the best friends a new business can have is a good bazaar. Having paid her dues in the fashion business, her experience with a previous business venture allows her to compare the advantages of testing out business ideas at a bazaar rather than going whole hog with a shop at a mall.

“When we were still operating Pintura, where we sold hand-painted shirts and caps in a number of malls all over Metro Manila, we had to shell out as much as P2,000,000 just to get a shop up and running. Bazaars, on the other hand, involve substantially smaller costs that are more quickly recovered,” said Tess who opened up Beauty and the Beads about four years ago after deciding to close up Pintura.

From hand painted shirts, she has gone into jewelry making. Pearls and semi-precious stones strung out in handmade silver work and other materials make up her repertoire of wearable art. She confesses to thinking of herself as a couturier in the sense that all her jewelry are hand crafted and the designs are almost always one offs.

Joining just any bazaar won’t be enough to do the trick, though. There are certain things you have to look for.

“Among bazaars, Noel Discovery Bazaar is among the best organized and well attended with a good mixture of people. Maraming pakulo that’s why it attracts a huge crowd and another thing that got to me to join is the organizer’s good reputation, which is also quite important,” said Tess. She also explains that people who go to bazaars are more often in a buying mood.

Emily Fenix of Ala Mode, another concessionaire in the upcoming Noel Discovery Bazaar this year, also points out that choosing the World Trade Center near Roxas Boulevard as a venue is a big plus.

“People really go there and I know because I went there several times last year, there’s always a crowd,” said Emily a 23 year-old who had started out by designing and making bags way back when she was still a freshman at Ateneo.

There is also kind of freedom from knowing that you are truly working for yourself and doing what you love. In what seems like a snap of a finger, you find yourself being rewarded on several levels all at once.

Right after finishing interdisciplinary studies, Emily first got a job managing a store at a mall and confides feeling that her heart was not in what she was doing. Even while she was still working for the store, Emily and her friends were already designing, making, and selling bags as a hobby of sorts. With some money saved from her salary as store manager and some money borrowed from an Aunt, she came out with Ala Mode.

“I think of bags as amulets or talismans that make you feel good just by holding it. But what is even more important is not to lose sight of building in functionality and robust craftsmanship in your product,” says Emily who intimates that she owns between fifty and a hundred bags.

When coming up with designs for her bags, she always makes it a point to go people watching, keeping an eye out for what bags people are using and how they use their bags. With that in mind, one would guess that her two in one bag was probably inspired by a trip to Boracay. Roomy with lots of pockets, the overnighter number also features a detachable mini-bag.

Emily plans to debut her two in one bag and other creations at Noel Discovery Bazaar as will Tess Carlos who, apart from featuring her hand crafted fashion jewelry, will also showcase the next sure-fire rave – cell phone bracelets.

When comparing Tess and Emily, obvious differences in circumstances are the easiest to spot. One is a veteran businesswoman who caters to the exacting tastes in jewelry of strong women types and the other is a relative newbie to the world of business with an eye for coming up with designs for real life. However, what one gets a sense of and can’t ignore is the smile in their voices as they talk of being rewarded for doing what they love. (END)

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