Make Room for Happy Spaces
Every adversity is a great teacher. This pandemic is a global classroom where people who sink learn to swim.
Last year, when the strict lockdown was relaxed, I saw a Facebook photo of my UPLB college friend, Gen Enriquez-Gerodias, packing her office stuff in a big brown box. She forced a smile but the scene was heavy, gloomy. She’d lost her job.
“I lost my job in the thick of the pandemic. I worked for a digital marketing company that specialized in hotels’ websites. The hospitality and travel industries took a hard fall with this pandemic and the prospect of going back to work seemed slim,” Gen begins.
In her “gap year,” Gen concentrated on her home, doted on her family. It was also a “stressful time” because from earning her own keep — she’s so used to working even if her businessman husband Jardine Gerodias can well provide — she became “an instant tutor (to her kids), interior designer, mayordoma and gardener.” It was fun and fulfilling, she says, but she was pining for something that she could earn from.
“It was also a turning point after I lost my mom last year to a sudden illness and I was left thinking deeper about my sense of purpose and direction. I sought comfort from my family, and I feel blessed that I have a strong and nurturing support system and a benevolent husband,” she recalls.
She tried applying for a job everywhere. All she got were regret e-mails. “At some point my husband asked me if I was willing to work for him. Of course I said ‘No,’” she laughs.
But armed with nothing but her fighting spirit and a 14-page business plan, Gen approached her husband and bravely asked for “funding.” That started the ball rolling, so to speak.
It was at this time when she and her friend Mona De Guzman-Alejandrino conceptualized BigayPH, a small e-commerce website that started selling affordable home items in January this year.
“I was never an entrepreneur, my experience had always been in the hotel industry and being around a very structured organization where I followed rules. The year 2021 came and my good friend Mona reached out to me. For some reason, it felt right, it felt like we were ready. But getting into business was a leap of faith coupled with prayers,” Gen says.
For many, the pandemic, because it requires people to be home most of the time to stop the spread of the virus, is the time to pay more attention to their homes.
“People started to repair, renovate and spruce up their spaces the best way they knew how. I saw how each community did their best to support each other, especially those who lost their jobs like me, who needed to pivot in order to sustain their living conditions. We bought and borrowed from each other. It was inspiring. It was beautiful.
“And that got me thinking. Why not have a business that concentrates on enhancing your home, but making it affordable for any Juan, Maria and Manang? Every home deserves beautiful things,” Gen says.
BigayPH sells plates, room and linen sprays (which come with catchy names like Pangarap, Gunita, Umaga and Alaala), statement furniture, candles, even face masks. These are products and pieces for happy spaces at home.
“So, why BigayPh? We are firm believers that giving something purposeful, may it be for someone special or for yourself, with the best intention, returns to you tenfold. Notice how people respond when you compliment them with something? ‘Oh, this old thing? Bigay ‘yan sa akin.’ The term resonates positively and has an easy recall. IbiBIGAY, BIniGAY, MapagBIGAY,” Gen explains.
Gen and Mona are a perfect business tandem. Mona, a former hotelier, has a solid background in sales and operations. Gen, on the other hand, has a mastery of digital marketing. Gen came up with the website, logo, branding and marketing of their venture. “Mona is the brave soul who does a lot of leg work and meets with our suppliers and gets the items in our sorting center.”
“We live by transparency, community involvement, mutual respect, modesty and trust. We both have gone into this business as good friends where we don’t feel like employees, but as leaders who are committed, passionate and empowered individuals,” Mona says.
For community involvement, they have come up with an “affiliate program” where stay-home moms and anyone who wishes to augment their income can resell their room and linen sprays. They have also partnered with local seamstresses to make face masks.
They collaborate with local furniture makers, including a rattan furniture maker in Pampanga, and a woodcraft maker in Quezon City.
“Our mission and vision is pretty simple. Our mission is to create quirky and affordable home and personal essentials that appeal and touch emotions through relatability. We aim to add ease, purpose and functionality as you make your space relevant, intentional and ultimately enjoyable,” says Mona.
Gen adds: “We do our best to be sustainable with how we pack our items. It’s tricky because most of our products are heavy and once they’re out of our hands, we no longer have control with logistics. We use alternative packaging to minimize costs and the carbon footprint of production. Instead of bubble wraps, we use seaweed craft paper. In some cases when bubble wraps can’t be avoided, especially for provincial shipping, we reuse our bubble wraps that were previously used in a shipment. We feel no shame in reusing paper bags and boxes, as long as they are kept clean. Somehow our clients seem to understand, and we are very happy about that.”
Home, for Gen, is like a love letter to yourself where everything is selected by you. “It’s where you wake up and face the world, where you lay down and dream, and where you figuratively affix your signature as you make it your own style. So allow yourselves to have things that bring you joy. Your home is you and your loved ones.”
- Article published April 23, 2021, Philippine Star by Bum Tenorio