Frankie General Store’s Jammy San Juan-Magsino on How the Smallest Choices Can Make the Biggest Impact | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Over the past seven years, Frankie General Store has quietly established itself as a retail powerhouse for its mindful and conscious practices. 

What started off as a startup agency, CEO and Co-Founder Jammy San Juan-Magsino and husband Luis Magsino slowly curated what they liked to call “neighborhood pop-ups.” 

“Back in 2016, we did a lot of fairs,” she says. “That’s where we got to know a lot of these amazing local brands, how we discovered so much good craftsmanship from different provinces or even within Manila,” A marketplace for ethical and conscious brands, Frankie General Store’s first pop-up opened in 2018 at SM Aura, which later expanded into a permanent space. Now, they house over 200 brands and offer an array of products, from homeware to clothing and accessories. 

Four stores, several pop-ups, and a thriving online marketplace later, Frankie General Store continues to flourish, keeping an ethos of sustainability at the forefront of everything it does. “The mission is to change the way people shop,” says Jammy in this exclusive interview with LIFESTYLE.INQ. 

A myriad of homewares, clothing and accessories greet you as you enter Frankie General Store Powerplant Mall. 

Arriving at their Power Plant Mall space, she welcomes our small team into the store with a cup of coffee in hand and a gleaming smile on her face. It’s 9 a.m. and exactly right before mall-goers begin to flood the halls. It’s plain to see how Jammy is incredibly hands-on with her business. She knows almost every brand by heart and often mentions how well-ingrained they are into her everyday life. 

“It started just by creating a community that was empowered by the local emissaries. Then as we set up the permanent version of our fair in 2018, we noticed the recurring theme towards sustainability,” she says as we settle into a small corner of the store. Above us rests a few raffia lamps and homewares locally sourced from different provinces. Even the very chairs we’re sitting on, created by a small business in Leyte, are for sale.

Frankie General Store CEO & Co-Founder, Jammy San Juan-Magsino

Road To Sustainability

“We looked into what sustainability meant for us in general, and also for us as a company,” Jammy explains as she goes in-depth about their values as a brand. “At its core, it’s transforming systems. To create a better quality of life for the people around you.” 

“So when you create products that are sustainable, you look at the impact of it on the planet, your environment, your carbon footprint, how the item is being made, what materials they’re using. But it also looks into the fairtrade supply chain that goes behind the product. So by transforming that level of creating a product, we wanted to ensure that we had a place for like-minded consumers who wanted to look for alternatives, or want to jumpstart their sustainability efforts. Frankie General Store is the first step to that journey.” 

Further elaborating that sustainability isn’t a straightforward line, Jammy also shares how Frankie General Store aims to highlight women-founded brands, hoping to empower and provide a platform for them. “Whenever a new brand comes on board, there’s a process they go through which has 12 impact goals. What’s important to us is their impact on their community, how they treat their employees or workers, etc.”

“Another benefit for brands when they come onboard is that [Frankie General Store] serves as an incubation space for them. It helps them decide whether to take their business to the next level, to assess what people are looking for in the market,” she says. “To have that distribution and reach is like a primary solution for the brand. The solution we’re giving the customer is their first step to more conscious shopping choices.”

Different homeware offerings at Frankie General Store, Powerplant Mall

Faith and Family

However, beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Jammy is also a wife and a mother. “I’m very driven by my faith in God. I want to create a positive impact in my community while serving others,” she tells us. Having confessed to regaining a sense of self back in 2010, Jammy’s journey through faith is what ultimately led her to “pursue this purpose-driven platform.”  “What inspires me every day to lead my team members is that they also share the same drive to serve [as me] rather than just wanting something for themselves.” 

Jammy also relates the concept of being purpose-driven and outward thinking to the current issues the planet currently faces such as climate change.“With climate change, the main issue is really overconsumption, right? And if you dig down to the root of overconsumption, it’s very self-centered. So if we try to get rid of that with something as simple as the way we shop or the way we do business or the way we make our products, then I feel like we could be a part of change even in the simplest way.”

As a new mother, the Frankie General Store CEO also shares how her newest responsibility has given her an even greater purpose in life and a clearer outlook on the long-term effects of the choices we make. Crediting Simon Sinek’s book “The Infinite Game,” Jammy explains her learnings, explaining how you have to link and devote yourself to a mission that’s unobtainable, but equally serves your life and talents. 

“Being a parent, that’s important to me. What matters to me is that I’m creating work that I believe benefits the world or even the culture that my daughter grows up in. That’s what motivates me. My faith, my daughter and my husband.”

Jammy San Juan-Magsino, Luis Magsino, and their daughter Amelia in front of Frankie General Store’s very first Australian location along Paddington Street, Sydney

Overcoming The Pandemic 

In the same way that sustainability isn’t a straight line, so is a business’ growth. Much like the many businesses and establishments that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Frankie General Store wasn’t an exception. However, by some twist of fate, the pandemic also became a hallmark for Jammy. “With COVID-19, there was a huge influx of people who started their own businesses from their households. They were popping up left and right. But because of the pandemic, you see people now being more compassionate towards the small makers versus the big brands. That’s why we also see the collapse of all these huge corporations because there’s that shift in mindset that ‘I want to help my fellow Filipino who has a small business’ because we all struggled during the pandemic,” she explains. 

It wasn’t long until even greater progress followed with the opening of their store in Sydney, Australia, and another in Molito, Alabang. “[COVID-19] really strengthened us as a team. Even those who are not part of our team anymore, and those who are new that are in the journey with us now, it really solidified our love for the mission that we do.”

Photography by JT Fernandez

Sharing testimonials of brand founders that work with Frankie General Store, Jammy shares how almost 80 percent of them made it through the struggles of the pandemic, often crediting how the marketplace helped keep their businesses afloat during such a trying time. “The rewarding part is when I hear back from them I guess from the customer standpoint as well, it’s nice to hear them say stuff like: ‘It’s good that there’s a store like this when you’re surrounded by all of these big multinational brands.’ It’s sort of like a David and Goliath story.” 

As we look out the storefront’s window, we notice the slow rush of people beginning to accumulate. It’s 11 a.m. and the halls now fill with neighborhood usuals going about their daily errands. Jammy continues to chat with us as customers enter the store, browsing through their offerings. 

Finally, I ask her “What’s next for Frankie General Store? Maybe a café? Something more categorically focused?” Jammy smiles and pauses briefly. “I definitely see us trying out themed pop-ups for the ber-months or certain provinces,” she says. “But we are looking at a really healthy 50-50 split with our online store and our physical channels. So something to look out for is really opening more locations in the provinces and across Metro Manila.”