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Thriving during pandemic

While the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a lot of loss to people – loss of lives, jobs, businesses, income – there have also been gains and positive experiences yes during this time. In these segments, we highlight those stories – a #sanityproject that has turn into a business; and an #athleisure brand that gained a following during lockdown.

Cindy Villaverde has been teaching for 23 years, 5 years as an English/Reading Teacher at Miriam Grade School, Philippines and 18 years as a Montessori Teacher here in the US. She and husband, Casey, had always dreamt of having a bakery but they could never find the time.

And this lockdown gave them that. The recipe for the ensaymada was passed on to her by her mother-in-law Angie Villaverde who owned bakeries in Paranaque and Los Banos before they moved to the US. Their yummy ensaymada comes in 2 sizes-regular and the tiny bite size ones cleverly called ensaymaldita. This sanity project has turned into a side hustle while she continues to teach her students online.

With more time for baking, Cindy started making and giving care packages of ensaymadas to her friends who have lost their jobs. Olivia Quido of O Skin Medical Spa then encouraged Cindy and her family to make the “ensaymada care packages” into a business. Ensaymada Republic was born on Mother’s day which is quite fitting as the team consists of mostly mothers.

She believes that her business is thriving because of the way her ensaymadas are being marketed to the public. Ensaymada Republic provides a huge variation of both Western and Filipino flavours. They started with 4 flavours at first: parmesan, cheddar, Nutella and ube. The couple quickly figured that there is a need for other flavours which would entice Filipinos to try their ensaymadas. And so they added: langka, salted egg (artisan) and ube macapunom to the line. With every bite, Cindy wants her customers to feel like they are coming home to the Philippines.

In the near future, she would like to put up a bakery to bring her husband’s and Angie’s vision into fruition. She would like this business to become a legacy that could be passed down to her children.

Her message to everyone who is thinking of starting a business during this period: “If you believe in something, go for it!” “If it doesn’t work the first time, try again!” She notes that it is also very important to have a good foundation and a reliable support group. Because “for somebody to succeed, it takes a team.”

In the second segment, we meet Prince Estanislao — the man behind F.SXY — an athleisure brand based in San Francisco, California.

F.SXY means “To hell with sexy!” “You are your own sexy so F that,” he defines. Prince strongly attributes his business acumen to his late father who was a successful business man and shoemaker; who taught Prince the importance of not only dressing up for himself but also for other people.

After finishing grad school, Prince knew this was the perfect time to start a business. He did his own research by reading books, listening to podcasts, consulting with his friends and researching about his target market. It was on January 2020 when he launched his first collection.

Unlike other businesses that were forced to close down, F.SXY actually thrived during the pandemic. He speculates that this is due to people having more time to exercise at home. He says he is surprised at how his brand managed to spread so quickly and having been able to ship to at least 10 countries in less than 6 months. Prince says he did not realise at first how the clothing industry played a major role in harming the environment. So he made a pact with himself that he cannot be a company in 2020 that contributes to the already pressing issues of climate change. “The earth is the top priority when creating these designs!” – he exclaims.

He wants his brand to become a platform that will change consumer behaviour by making the right choices in clothing. He will do this by teaching his customers about sustainability in clothing whenever they visit his brand’s website. His goal to be able to cater to both men and women. And if possible, come up with genderless designs for more fluidity.

His message to people who have lost their jobs and have been furloughed – is to take advantage of learning platforms that are currently available: “Discover what you are passionate about and how you can profit from it. Nurture the relationships you have, he explains and adds that if it weren’t for the people who helped him with his journey, his brand wouldn’t be here today.

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