From Employee to Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It’s risky, it’s stressful and the success rate for new businesses really isn’t all that flattering. But that didn’t stop Mon Pestana, Managing Director of The Lifestyle Store, from turning his passion into one of the most successful e-commerce sites in the Philippines.
“It all started from a great need, just like how everyone else starts out. To be quite honest, there was a time when my family had a few setbacks on certain things. I was working then as a corporate individual simply trying to make a career out for myself,” said Mon Pestana. “Thats where my inspiration to provide more for my family came from,” he added.
At some point during his career, Mon had the opportunity to travel abroad. “One of my friends toured me around, we went shopping and I was able to come across places where I found really good deals on branded items that I normally wouldn’t buy for myself. Bit by bit, I learned the ABC’s on which brands are good and what are the best places to buy from. And at some point, I thought what if I bring some of these back in the Philippines to sell to my friends and some people I know that would be interested to purchase luxury bags at this price range.”
While working, Mon continued to travel and bought a few items on a small budget. “I didn’t sold the bags right away because of my timid personality. Though I’m the type who support my friends by buying the products or services they sell, I can’t easily say ‘kaibigan, bili ka’. Instead, I began selling by creating a page on Sulit.com”
“We did everything very crudely in the beginning. Product pictures were all shot either on a bench or on a bed,” Mon stated while laughing. “Some of the customers also didn’t want shipping so I did meet ups and took long drives from Antipolo to places as far as Batangas. Luckily, many people bought the items and I earned profit within 1-2 weeks,” he added.
“For three months it went on and it actually started to affect my work. That’s when I started to pray for guidance. Thankfully, the revenue finally matched my monthly salary and it was at this point that the entrepreneurial spirit within me fully took control. At first my boss, Mrs. Ruth Que, didn’t want me to leave. She even gave me the freedom to use my leaves to think about it thoroughly. One day I made up my mind, submitted my resignation and the rest was history.”
The Birth of a Fashion Retail Hub
“We started out as The BagMaster Philippines. My sister Carol played a big role in influencing me to pursue this online venture. She’s the one who had an online store first and taught me the ins and outs of selling on Facebook and Instagram.”
Since day one, The BagMaster has sought to deliver affordable luxury for every Filipino by selling items from iconic brands such as Longchamp, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Coach, Guess and Nine West for a fraction of the original price found in retail shops. “Our goal is simple: To make it possible for the average ‘Juan’ to make a stylish impression everyday without breaking the bank,” said Mon Pestana.
“Before all this, we joined a bazaar at Evia Center and sold items at the trunk of my car. Since then, we’ve always had a Noel Bazaar in Filinvest. Now, we also go SMX to maintain our presence because it provided us the avenue to reach a wider audience. For me, one of the defining points in our history was the day when Zalora gave us a call and invited us to sell through their platform. We went from a small business selling our goods on Sulit.com and Facebook to a certified store in Zalora – and it was marvelous,” he added.
Transitioning into a Lifestyle Label
As his retail business grew, Mon began expanding his product line and included luxury watches, fashion apparel and even kid’s clothing into the mix which eventually led to the introduction of The WatchMaster, The FashionBuddy101, and Jsofia Clothing respectively.
“Our vision is clear – to be a one-stop fashion hub in the Philippines. Unfortunately, shoppers started to get confused due to the multiple store names that we promoted on our page. Every day, we’d get questions like ‘Are you connected to The WatchMaster?, ‘Is The FashionBuddy101 a sister brand?’ – and so on. So one day, we decided to sit down, went back to our roots and rebranded ourselves into The Lifestyle Store. A fitting name that truly encapsulates what our company stands for,” said Pestana.
Today, The Lifestyle Store carries over 30 of the most sought-after luxury brands in the world –
Calvin Klein, Emporio Armani, Cath Kidston, Charles & Keith, Coach, Daniel Wellington, Forever 21, Guess, Herschel, Kate Spade, Kipling, Lacoste, Longchamp, Mango, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Peppered Gravy, Anne Klein and even Victoria’s Secret.
Success in the Bag: What’s Next for The Lifestyle Store?
Now on its fifth year of operation, the company sets its sights on establishing retail outlets around Metro Manila, a strategic move that will further increase the store’s reach by capturing customers who prefer to see the products for themselves before making any purchases.
While local expansion via physical stores is currently underway, The Lifestyle Store is also making bold moves to go international. “Since we also have an online presence, we can basically tap new markets across Southeast Asia. In fact, some of our frequent customers are foreigners.”
In addition to the labels that The Lifestyle Store carries, the company has created its own branded fashion goods. “We want to be known more than just a retail store. We want our brand to be a lifestyle icon. So we set out and designed our very own home-grown fashion goods from inside-out. As a matter of fact, the first batch of TLS-branded leather bags were sold out in just a few weeks. We couldn’t be any happier,” Mon explained.
Takeaways for Every Fashion-preneur
Starting a business from scratch isn’t easy. There will always be speculative customers, the ones who question the authenticity of a product, and there are those who are hard to convince to shop online.
“My simple piece of advice – exhaust all means possible to fully explain what you sell and let the customers check the items because at the end of the day, their purchase decision is all that matters. We give our customers 1-year Warranty, a 30-day Money back guarantee and a Returns policy in place for their peace of mind. At The Lifestyle Store, our business is not just to make money. Establishing a continuous trusting relationship with our customers is what defines and gives meaning to our daily operations.
“I like to inspire people and mentor them, and I believe I can do that by sharing my story. And on that note, I’ll say this to every aspiring entrepreneur: Whatever drives you to succeed, it should always be who you do it for. There’s no drive more powerful than one that is made out of love,” Mon affirmed.
Laura Lehmann is ready for the world