If there is a key ingredient common to every Filipino business success story, it would be that of having the perseverance to outlasting every obstacle that comes one’s way.
As the Philippine economy opens up, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are taking the opportunity to recalibrate their business plans in order to tap on new customer demands that have emerged. Farah Abu is one such business owner – a talented Filipino fashion accessories designer.
From selling in bazaars in Manila to now having a brand presence in Hollywood, Farah is making a mark in the fashion world as a designer and an entrepreneur. As she continues to build her brand beyond the Philippines, Farah shares her journey on how she got her business started through to where she is today – bolstering retail sales through e-commerce.
A Clear Goal
Growing up, Farah was by nature artistic and entrepreneurial, crafting charm bracelets sold at Php250 (less than US$5) to her sister’s friends in college at a tender age. She completed a degree in architecture, but decided to pursue accessory design – deemed by many as a mere hobby – as it sparked joy for her and fulfilled the creative freedom she craved.
“Contrary to the restrictions I felt with Architecture, I felt so free with the endless possibilities in accessory design. I could make whatever I wanted and it just really made me happy. I finally found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Deciding to pursue her passion was not easy. She started with a small fashion store in Iligan City, Mindanao, initially reselling clothes, bags, shoes and accessories. She did everything – from crafting her jewelry pieces, to buying her inventory from Thailand, to accounting and manning the store. Sadly, the business did not do as well as she had hoped for.
In 2009, Farah moved to Manila and ventured into selling her handmade accessories at bazaars. This opened a path as it allowed her to build relationships with customers, establish business contacts, and provided her with a break into the industry.
Today, Farah joins a roster of select Filipino designers whose creations are being carried in the “For The Stars Fashion House” – a unique, high-end style center led by creative director and fashion icon Jacob Meir located in Hollywood, California.
An agile approach
When the pandemic hit, crippling many SMEs, Farah continued to adapt and innovated to achieve success in today’s new normal. She created a new product relevant to the current situation to drive growth – a face mask that was comfortable, form-fitting, safe and fashionable.
“Coming from the retail industry where our products are considered non-essential, we came up with a product that’s relevant to the current times. This was how the Stella Mask was born. Just this month, a year after, we released another designer mask called the Lily Mask, another bold essential statement piece. From its design and creation, I make sure that both masks are comfortable, form-fitting, safe yet fashionable for my customers.”
Leveraging digital commerce
With an already established presence on Instagram pre-pandemic, Farah has built long-term relationships with her followers who have turned into her brand advocates.
“This is the new age. The good thing about e-commerce is low operational expenses, no rent and when you sell online, you already have a catalogue of your designs which your buyers can easily choose from.”
Currently, Farah is intensifying her online presence through her Instagram account in aims to further expand her business globally and obtain international recognition.
The right logistics service provider is key
As an entrepreneur, Farah understands that the other side to successful cross-border trade is having a reliable logistics service provider that is able to ensure her fragile and delicate products reach their destination on time and in perfect condition. Her specific shipping needs were met by FedEx, with delivery solutions that complemented her goal to scale and reach wider markets. Now, her creations are being worn in the US, UK, Malaysia, France, Mexico, Australia, Qatar, Bahrain, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Hungary and Japan.
Farah continues to inspire customers to celebrate life and beauty through her masterpieces. Her journey may not have been easy but her perseverance and determination have paid off as she has carved a strong, desirable reputation for herself in the fashion industry.
As a fierce advocate for the growth of SMEs across the Asia Pacific region, FedEx remains a strong platform for local entrepreneurs to launch their businesses into foreign markets. With its seamless logistics services and extensive network of more than 220 countries and territories, customers like Farah are better equipped to expand their global footprint.
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