Indeed, necessity is the mother of all inventions - or a new venture, as in the case of Cai Sio, owner of online party supplies store paperchicstudio.com. Planning her firstborn Yukie’s birthday party, Cai realized that the materials and designs she wanted – mostly made out of paper – were not available locally. “I was looking at party blogs in the US, pero wala akong mahanap dito,” she relates.
Cai thus decided to take matters into her own hands. While pregnant with her second child, she began toying with the idea of putting up her own party supplies business, but didn’t really act on it until her husband gave her a nudge. “He said, ‘Kung palagi mo syang iisipin at wala kang gagawin, wala talagang mangyayari,’ so that’s when I really began to take it seriously.”
Cai knew exactly what she wanted for her business: “One stop shop na everything is made of paper para eco-friendly”. With this objective, she set out sourcing for suppliers in June 2012, and the Internet became her best friend. “Marami ako hinanapan na suppliers. Lahat ng samples, gumastos ako para mapadala dito [from] iba’t-ibang suppliers. Meron akong nasubukan, yung straws binabad ko sa tubig, after ilang hours, kalas-kalas na. May na-try naman ako from Divisoria na paper straws, hindi sya nagkalas-kalas pero sobrang dikit, hindi ka sigurado kung ano ang ginamit na glue.” After spending many hours trying a wide assortment of samples, Cai found what she was looking for. Thus, it can be said that Cai herself can vouch for the quality of her products – “Everything is food-grade, from the glue, to the ink used, and we also have a Certification of Quality from the supplier that states that the materials used on these items can be consumed.”
Marketing the products Developing products is one thing, and marketing them is another. For the latter, she joined a few bazaars to break in her new venture, but got only a few curious inquiries with no serious buyers.
She thus consulted with friend and fellow blogger Martine de Luna, who taught her the importance of branding and design. “I worked with a designer to come up with a logo and website for Paper Chic Studio.” When she was ready, Cai turned to something that she knew will work: social media.
“I contacted Daphne Osena-Paez to blog about it, and sent her some products. Daphne likes to help out small businesses, so she wrote about it in her blog Daphne.ph in December. Nung nag-blog sya, ang dami nang nag-Like sa Facebook, nag-email, nag-inquire.” Soon after, other famous bloggers as Patty Laurel and Tin Dychiao also blogged about Paper Chic Studio, and in less than two months, Cai says she is close to recovering her initial capital investment of P80,000.
Balancing work and family Cai works full-time as an IT programmer concurrent to running Paper Chic Studio, and so we wonder: how does she manage to do everything?
“Twenty-four hours is not enough,” Cai says in jest, “pero una lagi yung kids ko,” referring to her two children – a 2-year old daughter and an 8-month old son, who aren’t quite used to seeing her leave for work every morning – “iiyak talaga sila pag aalis na ako.” At work, she is able to take advantage of lunch break to take orders by email. Her husband is also very hands-on with the business, for which Cai is very grateful. “Pag gabi, ipa-pack na namin yung orders for shipping the following day.”
Cai, who once tried her hand at business when she was fresh out of college, isn’t new to the routine. While waiting for employment, she sold accessories and bags through Multiply, but had to give up the venture in favor of a corporate job soon enough, a decision she later regretted.
In the near future, Cai says she wants to look after Paper Chic Studio full-time and expand their product line. What’s on the horizon for the next few months? “Maybe new products like paper plates and loot bags,” although Cai isn’t very keen on having a physical store just yet. She shares some nuggets of wisdom for mompreneur-wannabes:
1. Look for something that you like. 2. Believe in the products that you’re selling 3. Find your niche.
To end, Cai says, “Masaya ang may extra income, kailangan lang gusto mo yung ginagawa mo.” These words ring true, no doubt, especially from a woman whose job involves making fun happen at kiddie parties.
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Photos by Majoy Siason, except where otherwise indicated