As an often-used Eleanor Roosevelt quote goes: “Women are like tea bags—put them in hot water and they get stronger.” The past months has proven this true again and again. While the pandemic has put families and businesses in troubled waters, it has highlighted a mompreneur’s strength, wisdom, and versatility. Learn the stories of the businesswomen and their brands who have risen to the occasion and prove that moms just won’t quit.
“We just launched four months before the pandemic,” recounts Princess Pastoril, owner of children’s wear brand Elementary Basics. “We didn’t have much followers yet and our 2020 business plan was to join events and bazaars, which obviously all got cancelled.”
The mother-of-three didn’t allow the pandemic to faze her. While her shop is just nearly a year old, Princess isn’t new to the business world. She has been running the seafood restaurant Bag O’ Shrimp for the past six years.
Elementary Basics was born out of that busy lifestyle. This on-the-go woman often brought her children with her to meetings and errands. She saw the need for comfortable basics suited for kids on the go—not to mention the humid weather. What she created were straightforward pieces that were fun to match, easy to move in, and effortlessly fit a busy family’s lifestyle (quarantine or not).
Coupled with business savvy, it was her job as a mom that inspired her next steps for Elementary Basics in the time of COVID-19. “First I waited it out. Well as a mom, it came natural to wait things out. I took my time because I was also going through my own anxieties as well. I think every mom had their own roller coaster of emotions about this pandemic,” she muses. This deep understanding of fellow moms propelled her game plan: “I was active on social media but was sensitive and conscious on captions to use which still had to be relatable to the current situation of the world. And that sensitivity from me then somehow made moms feel a connection with our brand.”
Princess sought to make her brand more visible in social media, mommy groups, and virtual events. One of these platforms is Mommy Mundo, which she has been following since she had baby number 1. “I knew they were the perfect community to be a part of,” she shares. “For one, the people I’ve met in the community have been amazing support group during this trying time. The talks are really great help to keep me calm and centered, being able to focus on my next business steps.”
Princess plans to continue making fun designs to suit children’s changing indoor activities. The goal is to provide basic clothes not only for the new normal, but well after the pandemic. “A mompreneur, I realized, is pretty much being like a mom. You don’t just quit being a mom. You don’t quit on your kids. You can’t quit. You don’t quit on your business especially if you have staff that rely on you. Their families rely on you too” she emphasizes. “You just gotta keep trying, keep learning, and keep fighting for the families behind your business.”
One of a mom’s most special talents is adaptiveness—and it’s a winning ingredient that mompreneurs apply in business. “Adapt, adapt, adapt. The only thing constant is change and that makes a change-adverse person like me so anxious,” Gretch Lee ponders about the pandemic. Though seemingly adverse to life’s plot twists, the go-getter mom has definitely shined through big changes.
Armed with an MBA degree and management training at an international bank, Gretch had a flourishing career in marketing and events. “My life did a complete 180 when I gave birth to my medically-complex little boy. With much deliberation, I decided to leave my career to focus on becoming a full-time mom,” she narrates.
However, business opportunities didn’t go unnoticed. “I experienced the baby sleep problems that come with being a new mother and much more–including newborn reflux and sleep apnea,” she recalls. She embarked on a quest to help her son, consulting doctors and industry experts, doing her own research, and exploring the world of sleep. She found herself building a business specializing on non-toxic, hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial mattresses that are certified by pediatric therapists. “I founded Tiny Winks to address the needs that us parents and our little ones have for better, safer sleep.”, Gretch stays innovative as her son grows and his needs evolve. In fact, she has added another business in her roster and partnered with Korean brand Keenz, a company known for intelligently designed strollers and baby gear.
Gretch feels grateful for her experience in the Mompreneur Lab, a mentorship program by Mommy Mundo. She recounts how the mentors have guided her in preparing press kits and finetuning the brand direction. “I am most thankful to Janice Villanueva (CEO of Mommy Mundo) for sharing with us her platform and building a network of supportive mompreneur friends.”
Doing business in the pandemic does come with a whole new set of challenges. “We absolutely do not want to compromise the safety of our staff, our products, and our customers,” says Gretch. She explains the need to apply government protocols, overhaul the production system (to minimize physical handling), and administer sanitization for their facilities. The major struggle was in logistics where her team had to find trustworthy partners in lieu of the usual couriers who weren’t taking on small orders. There’s a lot to do and a lot of questions raised daily—from the quarantine level to the areas on lockdown. Gretch remains thankful that her team’s small size can quickly adjust, and her customers continue to be understanding.
Through the many uncertainties in the pandemic, she tries to focus on what’s most essential: “By the term itself, a mompreneur is a mom first and an entrepreneur second. It’s a very delicate and, to be honest, often stressful balance. We wear so many hats this quarantine–mommy, wife, teacher, nurse, business woman to name a few. I realize that my number one priority is the health and wellness of my family. Without which, I could not focus on our growing business.”
It takes a lot of courage to be an entrepreneur. In a time when her partner stores were closing down, Mia Tiongson was also put at a crossroads. “My core business operates online, and while the pandemic protocols did not shut us down, the couriers were held up by that. I had new products about to launch that time and hesitated whether to push through,” she says of the challenges that came with the lockdown. “Good thing I went ahead, and I am beyond grateful because our customers supported us full on even if they will have to wait over a month to get their orders.”
Mia’s business was inspired by her child, Laurel Marianna. She explains, “Laurel & Co was born out of a simple need to find a headband that tamed my baby’s thick, unruly hair and will not leave marks on her head. My search led me to the cutest headwraps and there was nothing like them available in the local market. They were perfect and looked very nice on Laurel.” From there, she shared her discovery to other moms, who wanted to get wraps for their own children.
This brand for baby accessories soon grew to include footwear, sparked when her daughter began walking. Her most recent venture was teaming up with Princess of Elementary Basics. “Collaborating with other brands is one of my favorites because of the cross-promotion. There’s definitely a boost in sales when we introduce multi-brand product pairings.” Joining Mommy Mundo and ExpoMom has allowed her to build connections with other parenting brands, mompreneurs, and customers alike. And that kind of support motivates mompreneurs to keep going.
As Mia plans to build her brand it as her Laurel grows, she keeps a positive attitude through it all. “As much as we have to be resilient, we have to be grateful everyday of the things that we have.,” she says about her realizations in this trying times. A former Montessori teacher who enjoys traveling, Mia never imagined doing a business full-time. However, she finds happiness in how her daughter and her business help her grow.
“What I love about what I do now is all these new things I’m discovering about myself, that I can do so much more than I thought with Laurel as my inspiration to pursue being the best that I can be. Also a big bonus is starting new friendships with clients as well other getting to know other mompreneurs!”
Happening this August 29 to 30, ExpoMom is a Mommy Mundo lifestyle event that brings together industry experts and premier parenting brands for an online conference-and-bazaar in one. The community has made a name for building a community for moms and entrepreneurs alike, and continues to do so even amidst the pandemic.
As Kit Malvar-Llamas, Mommy Mundo’s Community Program Director, explains, “We want to be able to also provide a safe space for mompreneurs to help each other, to be brave together, and to heal together through stories, sharing, learnings, an innovative platform that ignite creativity and unity.”