From Students to Entrepreneurs (Homegrown.ph)

(This feature was published in Homegrown.ph last June 3, 2013)

These days, there are more college-age kids who create their own opportunities and start working on them at an early age. This new breed of go-getters have the chance to conceptualize a business idea while still in school and try it out in the real world after.

As a kid, you might have dreamt of someday becoming a doctor, a lawyer, an executive, or perhaps, the president of the country. Some people just know what they want to be when they grow up. Others finish school without even knowing.

Others start their businesses while still in college. Meet a few inspiring young people who have successfully turned their school projects into actual businesses.

Ylla Shoes: Socially responsible style

A play on the word “island”, Ylla Shoes is all about socially responsible footwear that is 100% Philippine-made.

Co-founder and Brand Manager, Kat Buyoc, shares, “We use materials from all parts of the Philippines, we thought of incorporating this into all aspects of our business, especially our brand name. Also, “ylla” (yllä) in Finnish means “above”, which aptly represents what we envision for our brand—to cross all boundaries and be aspirational yet still accessible to all.”

Ylla Shoes produces fashionable footwear that caters to female college students and young to middle-age professionals. The shoe styles range from the classic ballerina flats, to the traditional Mary Janes, and even tasseled loafers.

What’s unique about this proud Filipino brand is that it uses indigenous, hand-loomed and upcycled fabrics—and all are handcrafted by the experienced shoemakers from Marikina. Not all brands can claim that they could also create awareness on environmental and cultural concerns.

Buyoc has always been interested in social entrepreneurship, which made it fortunate that she was given the chance to work on a venture towards this path. She combined her advocacy and her passion for fashion, which allowed her to express her creativity, make a living, and support a good cause. Buyoc conceptualized this business during her junior year in Ateneo de Manila University and has since been in the industry; over five years now.

“I believe that having a business is not just about our own growth and financial profitability and sustainability, it is also important to be active in helping other local businesses achieve this too. It’s really a win-win situation for all—for us as a business, for our partners (local suppliers, small-scale factories and the communities that we support), and for our customers.”

Although she has a day job, she manages to balance her time between her work and passion. She designs the footwear and gets inspiration from different sources—from the people she meets, her travels, literature, social media, and organic forms and structures from nature.

For her, it helps to be aware of the environment and to be perceptive of her surroundings, as well as to be amongst creative peers and like-minded people. “Even the littlest of details can set off creativity and imagination.”

Buyoc envisions for Ylla Shoes to, “Have a stronger international presence and continue to gain relevance to more people on a global scale.”

FILED: Trendy organization

Homework, term papers, thesis… Students have to learn to keep track as all the paperwork will pile up.

Then came FILED, a response to the organization needs of students and young professionals by actual students.

It was during their junior year as Business Management majors in Ateneo de Manila when Stephanie Lim and her group mates came up with this business concept.

“We wanted something functional and relevant to us as students, and we brainstormed our way into the FILED Folders,” says Lim. “We realized that a lot of students are still struggling with disorganization, and most of the available supplies for organizing are too simple and plain. This is how the brand really started.”

Lim is quite passionate about it since she is a self-confessed obsessive compulsive and she feels that it is important to always be organized to be more efficient.

The items of FILED come in all colors of the rainbow. There are flip folders and file folders to aid in organizing different documents. Everything looks fun, chic and far from boring. The group gets design inspirations from current fashion trends, but had to strike a balance between answering the needs of their audience yet being different from what is already existing in the market.

It has been almost five years now since FILED was born. After college, the group members entered the corporate world, but worked in FILED part-time.

According to Lim, “Things were good, until we realized that FILED had such a great potential for growth and we couldn’t fully explore that if we had day jobs. It was a really hard decision, and we did have many hesitations because resigning from our jobs meant halting our corporate careers. It was also a big risk financially. In the end, we knew that nothing would happen if we didn’t try.” In their ongoing business journey, they experienced some trial-and-error but learned along the way as well.

Today, both students and young professionals who realize the need to be organized and stylish patronize FILED. It hopes to be the top-of-mind student lifestyle brand for organization—with its own retail stores someday.