Designer and founder Joana Gube talks business, family, and style
“In business, I’ve found that stasis is the same as deterioration. It’s essential to find ways to provoke the status quo in order to spur innovation,” says Joana Gube, founder and designer of local accessory brand Heyjow. The brand recently celebrated its eighth anniversary, a feat especially for a brand that started before e-commerce was necessary, let alone trendy. Eight years ago, brands and designers were still testing out the possibility of selling their works with only square frames as their windows and direct messaging as customer service. And to most it seemed like a system that would stay as it is or even bow out to the next trend.
Today, clients and shoppers can buy with ease from Heyjow’s site. And Heyjow boasts of partnerships with some of the country’s most creative minds and tastemakers such as Rajo Laurel, Aranaz, Zarah Juan, the late Mikka Padua, Joey Mead King, Maggie Wilson-Consunji, and Pia Wurtzbach.
With its anniversary, Heyjow reveals a brand update. “It was essential for us to keep, and further accentuate, the aura of the Heyjow brand; the aura of elegance and being down-to-earth,” says Joana, now a wife and mother of two. Heyjow has seen Joana’s personal life grow as well and just like its founder, the brand has only flourished every year.
“I wear many hats: I’m a designer, business owner, employer, mother, wife, and much more. Juggling all of those roles can be overwhelming, and, by necessity, I’ve had to learn and evolve into a person who can focus her efforts on the key things that matter most,” says Joana.
Read below Joana’s candid interview on building a brand, what’s next for Heyjow, being a family and businesswoman, and the lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur in these times.
Congratulations on your 8th anniversary! Can you tell us about your new look/brand update? Where did you find inspiration? How did you turn it into reality?
Earlier this year, I had this desire to refresh our brand visuals. I just felt that it was the perfect time to introduce a fresh new look for our brand.
I’ve always been a fan of the creative duo behind Craftsmith Guild. Their design tastes meshes with ours, so we sought to work with them for this brand update. It was essential for us to keep, and further accentuate, the aura of the Heyjow brand; the aura of elegance and being down-to-earth. We feel that our new look communicates this concept well.
What are will we see more of with Heyjow? Or what new things can we expect and what will remain?
If we look at Heyjow pieces throughout the years, we’ll see this consistent thread of elegance, spontaneity, and uniqueness counter-balanced with practicality and versatility. We pride ourselves in designing unique but versatile pieces that can be an accompaniment in any occasion; pieces that won’t look out of place in a boardroom meeting, at the beach, at a wedding, or a casual date with your significant other.
You know those niche, occasion-specific fashion pieces that we all have in our wardrobe? The ones that are too over-the-top for a casual night out with friends, too ostentatious for a business meeting, and too impractical to wear during a day out with your kids? The pieces you’d wear only when 10 criterions are met–like the weather has to be sunny, the event has to be indoors, your date has to be wearing a red bowtie, etc.? I’m not very keen on making those types of pieces.
Instead, I enjoy crafting pieces that can be worn at any time, and on any occasion. For example, we recently launched our multi-wear collection that features pieces that can be worn in a wide variety of ways, and it’s always such a treat to see women wearing the pieces in unique ways.
That idea of elegance and versatility will always remain in our designs, and what you can expect in the future are different and creative ways in which we express that core concept.
In the future, we’re thinking of venturing out beyond fashion jewelry because we feel that the Heyjow design philosophy will work well in other contexts. It’s a bit too early to get into specifics because we’re still very much in the early stages of this idea, but I hope to tell you more about it soon!
Eight years is a feat, especially for a jewelry brand that started on e-commerce even before it was necessary as is in the pandemic. What are some of your top lessons as an entrepreneur in these eight years?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past eight years is the need for constant innovation. Never stay the same. Never rest on your laurels. Stay hungry, and outside of your comfort zone. In business, I’ve found that stasis is the same as deterioration. It’s essential to find ways to provoke the status quo in order to spur innovation.
What’s a business lesson you wish you’d learned sooner?
The lesson I’m still learning relates to focus and prioritization. I tend to be overly enthusiastic about many ideas and projects; it’s just my nature. However, it’s also my nature to be a doer, and when something grips my imagination or an opportunity presents itself, I have to act immediately. As a result, I find myself over-committing constantly. Throughout the years, I’ve learned how to better identify and prioritize the most essential ideas.
I wear many hats: I’m a designer, business owner, employer, mother, wife, and much more. Juggling all of those roles can be overwhelming, and, by necessity, I’ve had to learn and evolve into a person who can focus her efforts on the key things that matter most.
Any advice for entrepreneurs who are also family women/family men? How can they make both work?
You can be an excellent entrepreneur and have an equally excellent family life. It can be challenging at times, but with hard work, resilience, and faith, you can achieve anything!
The most essential trait of an entrepreneur is that she’s a challenge-seeker. Successful entrepreneurs love challenges; it’s what drives them to work hard. They love being faced with a tricky situation or a setback and then–armed with their creativity and ingenuity–recast the situation into a growth opportunity.
To make it all work, you must first know what is valuable to you. You’ll have to say “no” a lot, not only to opportunities other people offer you, but also to yourself, and to most of your ideas.
What are some of Heyjow’s highlights in the past eight years? Do you have any goals before or by your first decade?
Every single day is a highlight and a blessing!
I remember that our team enjoyed being in the 2019 Manila FAME, which I think was the last retail show we did before the pandemic.
Throughout the years, we’ve been so blessed to collaborate with some amazingly creative people and brands such as Aranaz, Rajo Laurel, Zarah Juan, the late Mikka Padua, and so many more spectacular individuals. Heyjow pieces have been worn by extremely talented and beautiful women such as Joey Mead King, Maggie Wilson-Consunji, and Pia Wurtzbach.
Whenever I think of all the great people we’ve had the chance to work with, it’s like a dream; I still can’t believe it!
What are you most proud of in Heyjow?
To be able to bring so much joy and smiles to thousands of women throughout the years is what I’m most proud of.
Every day, I get messages and read posts from my clients about how happy a particular piece made them feel, or how wearing a Heyjow piece brightened up their day, or how confident and “normal” it made them feel during a tumultuous period in their lives. It’s an indescribably fulfilling feeling.
I made a lot of new friends too who helped me a lot with my journey as a mom and entrepreneur.
Which pieces are your personal favorites from Heyjow? The ones in your own closet and why?
I can describe my personal aesthetic preference as being simple, elegant, and down-to-earth. In all of my design concepts, the woman is the centerpiece, and the jewelry simply accentuates the beautiful and amazing woman that’s already there. So you probably won’t see me wearing (or creating) excessively ostentatious designs that take attention away from the centerpiece (the wearer).
The pieces in my own closet consist of design prototypes–works-in-progress–of what may or may not eventually become Heyjow pieces. I’m always testing new materials and new design ideas, so my personal collection doesn’t stay the same for long.
The only jewelry in my collection that aren’t Heyjow pieces is my wedding ring and engagement ring. I love these pieces because they’re made up of several of my mother-in-law’s old jewelry that we reformed and redesigned into my wedding and engagement rings.
How do you stay ahead when it comes to trends?
I stay deeply tuned into the Heyjow community and I try to notice how we’ve collectively evolved throughout the years. Since Heyjow has been in business for eight years, I’ve been a witness to the milestones of thousands of Heyjow women, including my own milestones and evolution. Being attuned to the community helps me come up with my design concepts. I also receive plenty of feedback from my clients, and many of my design ideas have come about as a result of those conversations.
Any tips for entrepreneurs at this time?
A positive outlook is essential in these trying times. Always keep in mind that challenges are the drivers of growth, learning, resourcefulness, and creativity.
Heyjow gives us a taste of what to look out for–the same elegant, timeless, and yet down-to-earth design philosophy branching out to other areas. Perhaps the home? Judging by the past eight years, Joana and Heyjow’s next steps won’t miss a beat.