Celebrity Mom was lucky enough to sit down and chat with three of the four fabulous women behind the Life And South Group to find out how they built their own niches in the marketplace. On one hand, Lucien Villarruz is the woman behind Little Luli, a brand that carries children’s and ladies clothes and accessories. Indy Ycasiano of She Dreams In Ink, on the other hand, is a graphic designer turned party stylist, creating an array of installations and sets for various events. Marie Field Faith of Pottly N Tubby makes multifunctional and interactive children’s furniture and home accents. While Mia Lauchengco created So True Naturals, Laya Living, and co-founded The Travelling Trunk and Pop Up Kids.
Getting to know the women of the Life and South Group
Q: Tell us about how you each got into your respective businesses.
Indy: I used to head a graphic design group in an IT company. I have a background in architecture, although I never got into the practice. I love crafting and designing, so I first tried designing with kiddie parties. It all started after I styled a birthday for my niece. A guest there liked what I did and asked me to do some sets for her photography business. From there, my business evolved and now I do corporate events and mall installations, among other event styling projects.
Marie: I used to work in engineering. During a break from my career, I wanted to try out another form of creative expression so my mom and I came up with a small collection of clothes that we sold at Mercato Centrale. We decided to display one teepee in our stall and it generated so much interest that we ditched the clothes and took the business in that direction. Teepees are still one of the most popular items we carry.
Lucien: Initially I had a partner—in fact the name of my brand is a combination of both our names. We started out just buying and selling children’s clothes because there weren’t that many players in that market at the time. After realizing that there was a high demand, we started making them, initially with just three designs. My partner moved away and I took over the business, while still keeping the name.
When we design something, we really learn from the ones we’ve done before.
– Marie Field Faith
Q: How do you promote your brand?
Marie: I guess you could say that it really just started when we got together as the Life And South Group. We shared information about which bazaars to join. When we began inviting speakers to our Girl Boss events, it gave us the chance to ask questions about promoting businesses. Our Girl Boss events are very casual and not really structured.
Indy: I think we started the trend of having drinks at events like those. We had a gin bar at one of ours and it was a lot of fun. With promoting our brand, at the start there was a lot of free work, just to get people to see what my team and I could do.
Lucien: We just kept joining bazaars. Later on, stores who wanted us to consign with them picked us up but our focus has always been online selling.
Indy: Yes, it’s always been our dream to have an actual brick and mortar store but for now, we do everything online.
Q: How do you conduct market research
Marie: Normally my kids would get samples and become the first testers. They play quite rough so if the product survives after they’re done with it, it passes the test. When we design something, we really learn from the ones we’ve done before. It’s great that there’s so much information out there.
Indy: It’s trial and error for me especially since most of our things are handcrafted. The challenge is keeping costs down without sacrificing quality and durability. It involves a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. This attitude has also rubbed off on my team, which I’m very happy about.
At the start, there was a lot of free work, just to get people to see what my team and I could do.
– Indy Ycasiano
Q: How do you professionalize your business?
Lucien : In my case, because we were consigning clothes in established brick and mortar stores, we were required to provide the proper documentation early on.
Marie: I use a third party service that I’m very happy with. They provide all the services necessary for a business to operate properly. They even come to my house to collect and deliver the important papers.
Lucien: It also elevates our businesses because some might think that because we sell online, it’s just a hobby. It helps to show our customers and the people we deal with that it’s really a serious enterprise.
Q: What about social media presence?
Lucien: Who would have thought that it would take so much work?
Indy: It’s such a struggle. Writing captions is not easy.
Marie: For us, we still do our own postings. Although we’ve hired a stay-at-home mom to answer queries since we get a lot of those.
Lucien: I treat my social media accounts as my physical store, where the pictures I post serve as my window display. The photos have to look good so I hired a professional photographer. Every post is well thought out and planned. Even the time of the posting makes a difference.
I treat my social media accounts as my physical store, where the pictures I post serve as my window display.
– Lucien Villarruz
These refreshingly candid women of the Life and South Group certainly can be called savvy, while also recognizing the need for constant learning and support. Clearly, their paths have intersected for a good reason. Through the years, they found ways of tying their respective businesses together through collaboration and valuable teamwork.
The Life And South Group brings together women leaders in a wonderful effort to widen the circle of success through information sharing and the forging of meaningful relationships.
Learn more about the Life and South Group on their Instagram page.