Proudly Pinoy
BUSINESS & LEISURE - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

Our country’s present thrust to encourage and inspire entrepreneurship is one big step that continues to make an impact on our economy.  Advocacies that not only encourage this but also highlight our many native raw materials are now reaping the fruits of their campaign. Now, we not only think Go Negosyo but also consider Go Local, Buy Pilipino and Sikat Pinoy.

It is a pleasure to be a part of this growing nation-wide advocacy and pitch in our few cents’ worth.  One of the regular segments in our TV show, Business & Leisure, is Proud Pinoy, where we feature outstanding Filipino entrepreneurs who not only make a mark locally but in foreign markets as well.  We have featured quite a lot of them on TV and print and, based on reactions from readers, these outstanding entrepreneurs have become icons who inspire excellence worthy of emulation.

One of the more recent ones that we featured was Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, owner of Beatriz Accessories named after her eldest daughter Isabella Beatriz.  She is the daughter of Gina Vera Perez and Philip Cruz, the granddaughter of the owners of Sampaguita Pictures and construction magnate F. F. Cruz. Her pedigree and diverse background notwithstanding, she has chosen to get her hands dirty in real work and not bask in the glory of her illustrious name.

Carissa’s first job was with CITEM (Center for International Trade, Expositions and Missions) under the DTI where she learned the ropes and assisted Philippine exporters and got immersed in overseas trade missions for two years.  She was then just out of college, and before long she headed the regional operations group of DTI that brought Philippine exporters to Japan and other places in the region. She stayed in the job for another four to five years and got immersed in the OTOP (One Town One Project) of DTI where she worked with different provinces for the rollout of the towns’ specialties. This exposed her to our native raw materials and products, unknowingly providing the first seed for her future endeavour.  She also did developmental work for our SMEs in various parts of the archipelago, getting exposed to exporters and small business ventures and getting involved in livelihood communities, thus further nurturing the entrepreneurial seed slowly growing in her.

This comes as no surprise, coming as she does from a big family of highly successful entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.  Josie Natori, a fashion icon of international fame, is her aunt who guided her in her initial foray with her Beatriz Accessories known mainly for her clutches, bags and bangles.

Her first big step was to join Manila FAME, the Philippines’ premier export trade show where she got exposed to different buyers and learned a lot from the experience.  Pretty soon, Carissa narrated, she “had a lot of lakas ng loob,” enough to bravely join the New York Now Show, for the first time.

From there, everything happened so fast.  She got to meet Oprah Winfrey and her Beatriz bags were selected for the Christmas edition of Top Picks of Oprah’s O Magazine last year. That was a major turning point for her brand and it’s been a dizzying whirl of work for her ever since.

Producing and marketing a brand is no mean feat.  As an exporter, one has to be adept at handling shipping, pricing for different foreign markets, marketing, merchandising, etc. “Everything is a learning process, and I am blessed to have found the right artisans for Bella Trading,” said Carissa.  Bella Trading is also her own company that handles the Beatriz brand.

She remembers the first product line she launched which consisted of seven metal bags with matching bangles created by artisans from Bulacan.  She has an eye for what is pretty and uniquely Filipino and confesses to have a special love for bags and accessories and how they complement an outfit.  “Fashion is fun…at the Manila FAME, I worked with manufacturers and artisans and learned the business side of creating,” said Carissa.  In the process, during her various trips to the countryside, she also enjoyed her great new discoveries like using tilapia skin for her bags, collaborating with the famous Angono painters for her clutches, and discovering more artisans for her cuff links and bangles.

Carissa now works with six or seven communities and is still on the lookout for more communities to discover. At the moment, she is working with a community in Cebu that is into beautiful crocheting, an almost forgotten artistic skill in the country.  Carissa is selling these under another one of her brands, Costa del Sol.  Her Beatriz clutches have a prominent display area at Rustan’s Department Stores, House of Laurel and Vito Studio.

With successful brands in her belt of achievements, Carissa says she cannot afford to slow down.  She functions as head designer and dead merchandiser, but she maintains a talented pool of designers.  She listens to her manufacturers and her artisans because from them, she can have a fountainhead of designs and new ideas.  She cannot rest on two or three designs, no matter how excellent they are.  She has to remain in the running at all times because she has waded into the highly competitive, diverse and unpredictable field of fashion. 

But most important, Carissa emphasizes, is her high standard of quality.  When one puts the “Made in the Philippines” tag on a merchandise, one takes on the responsibility of carrying the Philippine flag in foreign shores.  Her products are proudly handmade, and she knows that from the designers to the manufacturers and artisans, a lot of heart has been poured into the products which must pass the critical eye of big international department stores in sophisticated cities across the globe.  Now, Beatriz thread and mother of pearl shell bags and clutches sit proudly in showrooms in New York and Paris.

Mabuhay!!!  Be proud to be a Filipino.

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