The smallest of ideas may just turn out to be the best ones. For mompreneur Ethel Cuerpo-Bernales, it all started with accessories for her daughter Celestina’s hair.
In 2011, Ethel had a baby girl. Because she liked styling her baby, she naturally wanted good quality hair accessories. But when she couldn’t find any in the local market, she just made them herself, sourcing materials to create one-of-a-kind hairpieces for her daughter.
Ethel always had an entrepreneurial streak. When she was single, she always had something going on the side even as she worked for the family business. She adds, “I realized early on that working in a corporate environment does not really suit me. I’ve always kept that entrepreneurial spirit especially after having kids of my own. I liked the idea of being hands-on with my children and the flexibility of running my own business.”
It was natural then for Ethel to start a Multiply site offering hair accessories under the Celestina & Co. brand. Celestina is the name that her daughter shares with Ethel’s paternal grandmother.
When orders started coming in the first week she went online, Ethel was pleasantly surprised. She says, “I realized there were other moms like me who were looking for the same thing. My fellow moms were happy with the quality of the accessories and our customer base kept growing. I was encouraged to continue and expand.”
Like most mompreneurs, she made things up as she went along. Because her enterprise was a one-woman show, she took the time to learn all she could about running a business. Ethel says, “It was very helpful. It was an advantage for me that I know how everything is done from product development to delivery of goods. Later on, I tried to figure out a system for everything. This became very helpful when the orders increased and I needed to get help. I was able to hire someone and transfer some of the workload to her.”
As Celestina & Co. made a name for itself, Ethel discovered another need: “Moms of boys will always go to our booth and ask about accessories for their sons.”
Eventually, Ethel developed boys’ accessories under the Lil Rocketman brand. While Lil Rocketman experienced the same birth pains as other brands, things were a bit easier as it rode on the credibility of its sister brand, Celestina & Co.
Ethel adds, “Also, because the demand for boy’s accessories is not as big compared to the girl’s, I treated Lil Rocketman as an auxiliary brand. This helped me managed my expectations and not deem it as a failure just because it’s not doing as well as the girl’s line. It also guided me with the products we develop and lessened the pressure for us to constantly develop new stuff.”
In conjunction with the launch of the Lil Rocketman brand, Ethel also established a new online home, Style Me Little. This boutique store will carry all of Ethel’s other brands.
That Ethel is passionate about being a mompreneur is evident. She says, “You sort of see the development and milestones of your business the same way you do with your kids. Since my business is primarily inspired by my daughter, I’ve seen my product line evolve as she grows older each year.”
But because family will always be Ethel’s priority, she sometimes finds her schedule in a tangle.
“I would usually make a week-long plan of the things I need to do but would end up not being able to accomplish everything because of changes in the kids schedules,” she says.
“But it’s something that I prepared myself for. As much as I want to work and grow my business, my family’s needs come first. I became a mompreneur because I wanted the flexibility that it affords me.”
Moms who want to start their own business should just go for it, says Ethel.
“Start small, experiment, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I always made mistakes but I make sure I learned from them.”
It is also important to manage your enterprise with a big business mindset. Have a plan. Keep to a schedule. Professionalize tasks. This may not always be easy as in most cases, you’re the only person in your business, Ethel says. But stay the course so that your small business is prepared for the big time.
As for Style Me Little, Ethel she has plans, a lot of them.
“I am currently working on a bigger space for our boutique/showroom where I can hopefully share the space with other like-minded brands. I still have a long way to go in terms of running a full-pledged e-commerce website so I am hoping to work on that too. After launching the three brands, I’m now trying to bring everything all together for Style Me Little, Celestina & Co., and Lil Rocketman to have a more cohesive look with the branding, packaging, etc. There are still so many things but I’m just glad to be able to do it one step at a time.”