Monogram Style Ph: A Mompreneur Business Empowering Local Craftsmen
By Jing Lejano The resurgence in the market of all things handmade has renewed the spirits of local craftsmen and artisans across the nation. Such is the case with Monogram Style PH. A start-up business offering monogrammed, custom-made items, it has brought livelihood opportunities to sewers in Baguio, silversmiths in Bulacan, and carpenters in Quezon. It is this thought, above all else, which has given its mompreneur founder Mary Grace Sardea so much joy.
A business to provide for others
Monogrammed pillow cases
Grace, mom of three, had always wanted a business that could provide livelihood opportunities to others. She explains, “I had businesses before but I always felt empty trading other countries’ products, even though they were generating a decent income for us. I wanted to have a socio-enterprise offering products that are locally made.”
She thought of reviving the slipper business that her mother started in Baguio decades ago. But her lack of production knowledge discouraged her.
She started making pillowcases, string bags, and blankets. But she found the look of her products boring.
But when Grace discovered monograms, it felt like a whole new world opened up for her.
The world of monograms
Monogram pendants and name necklaces
How the mompreneur stumbled upon monograms was quite simple. A friend asked if she knew of a silversmith who can make her a monogram necklace. Grace sought her father's recommendation, which led her to a jobless silversmith living near their home. She played around with font styles in Photoshop and sent the design to the silversmith. The resulting necklace was beautiful, and more job orders soon followed.
With her husband Lord Tristan, Grace founded Monogram Style Ph last July 2015. They were soon joined by their sisters Kathleen Santiago- Sagyaman, Annie Laurie Doriano, and Inah Andaya-Santiago.
Monogram Style Ph initially offered jewelry with monogram designs. Later on, they came out with monogrammed bags and pillowcases. Those became quite popular, and Grace was able to tap several housewives in Lucnab, Baguio City to sew the items for them.
All of their products are 100 percent locally made, with 80 percent of the materials meticulously handmade. Recently, they added wooden products to their offerings.
Her husband's family owns a furniture business in Quezon. Over the years, it accumulated a significant amount of wood scraps and pieces. Their latest project is to breathe new life into these wooden scraps and transform them into useful pieces.
Though they are constantly working on product design, there are a couple of clear favorites: the monogram initial pendant, name necklace, small tote bag, and shoebag. Grace says, “They are popular, I think, because of the celebrities who were seen wearing or using them. Another reason is probably because monogram style designs naturally allure girly inclination.”
Challenges and rewards
More jewelry from Monogram Style Ph
While running a socio-enterprise has provided the team a sense of fulfillment, it is not without its challenges; the biggest of which, Grace admits, is funding.
"Production has to be continuous even if there are not many orders coming in. Plus, I don't want to haggle with the fees being paid the workers just because there's low demand for our products. I'm not sure if we have overcome this challenge yet. After all, we're just a year old."
She adds, "The important thing for me is I enjoy what I’m doing, and the satisfaction of knowing that I can be an instrument for some souls to be fed is immeasurable.”
Grace and her team has a lot of plans for the business. Apart from improving branding and exploring digital marketing, they want to introduce more products and participate in bazaars to get customer feedback. She adds, “My long-term plan is to never give up, unless God tells me so.”
By not giving up, Grace hopes that Monogram Style Ph can successfully sustain the business in order to be a blessing to even more sewers and craftsmen.
For mothers who aspire to be mompreneurs, Grace offers this advice: "You have to have a business that you love doing because everything else will follow. There's nothing wrong with starting small. Even with just a meager start-up fund, you can go a long way as long as you have the passion."
The women of Monogram Style Ph (L to R): Mary Grace Santiago Sardea, image model Jocelyn Ann Santiago, and Kathleen Santiago-Sagyaman
Jing Lejano is a writer and editor, single mom of four, and lula of one. She is the content head of Mommy Mundo.