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As early as Monday, schools have opened their doors again for another year of learning. Most Filipinos believe that education is the ticket to success, and it is the reason why parents work hard just to send their children to school. We in Go Negosyo believe that education is the greatest equalizer, and in our own small way, we try to empower our micro and small entrepreneurs with proper entrepreneurship education and knowhow to move up in life. In a way, this helps balance out the reality that not all have the benefit of finishing school, but with knowing the right concepts and mindset, coupled with hardwork and creativity, one can also find success in a good livelihood.
We have come to know many big names like Microsoftâ€™s Bill Gates, Appleâ€™s Steve Jobs, and Facebookâ€™s Mark Zuckerberg and many local entrepreneurs who succeeded even without finishing college. They were exceptions, but they would always say that education is still important. In fact, a study from Duke University finds strong correlation between smart people or those with brainpower and that of success, especially wealth. Let us value education and continuous learning and increase our chances to succeed.
Speaking of education, let me share the story of one entrepreneur who has already caught the attention of the international fashion scene, but has maintained the importance of higher education as a tool for her success. She is the daughter of Rico and Tina Maristela-Ocampo and is currently a student of Parsons School for Design, but she has already founded her own clothing line, which is now exclusively sold at Barneys New York. Read on to know more about this creative young Filipina named Betina Ocampo.
Who/what was your inspiration in being an entrepreneur?
I was about to graduate college with employment in mind, backed up with all these internship experiences I had all throughout my four years in college. I was either going to go into fashion editorial, or styling. I have always known that I would end up in a creative field, however it was my parents that really saw my potential in design. They also knew that no employer in their right mind would ever hire me â€” I am the type of person that would have to be my own boss.
Why did you choose to do embellished shirts among other business models?
I did a lot of market studies and research, visiting department stores and high-end boutiques in NYC and other fashion capitals. I saw a lot of T-shirt lines made by luxury brands that were plain, or simply silk-screened and would go for $700 a pop. I also started seeing a trend in separatesâ€”shoppers were starting to invest in separates to mix and match, rather than buying dresses. It occurred to me that I wanted to make clothing with more depth and sincerity, hence hand embellished/embroidered T-shirts from the Philippines/ South East Asia. I wanted to create a clothing line that would give the less brand conscious consumer more value for their money. I wanted to make clothing that is special and timeless, that could be worn from day to night.
Can you tell us more about how did your shirt line started?
I was absolutely terrified to start my own clothing line without any background knowledge in fashion design. I am still learning as I continue to expand my business. I started with basic patterns and silhouettes but went out of my way to explore and collaborate with the many Filipino talents and artisans in the process of designing my T-shirts. I made use of all the natural and human resources that we in the Philippines can really be proud to call our own. We have so much underrated and unexplored talent, and resources like piÃ±a fibers, weaves, mother of pearlâ€”that is considered a luxury to others abroad.
But the idea was born out of my Fatherâ€™s very first business. He was 18 and a college drop out when he started his own t-shirt line called the â€œRicco shirtsâ€, which is very representative of his most amazing and funny personality. He inspires me to follow the path of his career, but by making sure that mine will be even better. I consider him, and myself as my biggest competition.
Where do you get the inspiration behind your designs?
My parents, my travels. The artisans, tribal groups, artists that I support and collaborate with. They inspire me to keep pushing the boundaries, by making the impossible possible. But my dad is my biggest inspiration, he always reminds me never to get too serious when it comes to my personal life and especially when it comes to my designs. I make sure that my shirts still maintain that young, youthful, vibrant aesthetic. My best designs are always those that were made spontaneously, or unintentionally or unfinished.
What were the challenges that you encountered while you were expanding the business?
Production is the biggest challenge, especially with the limited time given and with four collections a year. I had to teach myself everything from the process to the fit of my shirts, and of course time management and team building.
The people I work with always tell me that it cannot be done, but I never settle for â€œNOâ€ as an answer. Confidence is key. I have to be confident with myself first, before helping my team realize their fullest potential and capabilities.
Another challenge would have to be, working with indigenous peoples or artisans that are much older than I am. They have a hard time understanding my designs because we both come from such culturally opposite backgrounds or come from completely skewed generations. But that is exactly what makes my work so exciting, coming up with a compromise. My designs are all about irony and contrast between the old and the new. My creative vision and their skillful hands- without one or the other, BETINA would cease to exist!
What are your future plans for Betina?
I want to expand my line into sportswear someday and start a line with my sister. My dream is to see our designs on the runway in New York. I have the creative vision, but I need the weathered hands of a technical designer. My younger sister has a knack for symmetry and geometry, which I have a hard time with. For now, I am also starting to create accessories and eyewear.
For the young and aspiring entrepreneurs who are also thinking about setting up a business, what will be your advice?
â€œFind what you love, and let it kill youâ€- Bukowski