Learn from Mariel Jana Sevilla of Zero Basics on how she turned her hobby into a full-time business
Like many of the successful businesses today, Zero Basics started as a hobby for Mariel Jana Sevilla. Since she was a kid, she has already been making homemade soaps with her mom. This hobby soon turned into a need when she went vegan in 2009.
“I had to look for vegan and cruelty-free personal care products,” said Jana. “Back then, our options were mainly imported stuff that usually comes with a big price tag. And so I started making soaps again. And then face toners, face cleansers, and then deodorant.”
She didn’t think of selling these items right away. But she did give them as gifts to her fellow vegan friends and it was their requests for these products to be sold that urged Jana to explore starting a small business.
“I had to think about it so many times as I do not have any background in business. But after a year of thinking, I took the plunge and opened Zero Basics, my baby, for everyone to enjoy,” said Jana.
It wasn’t a glamorous start. Jana had to make do with the money, space, and time that she had considering she was still working a full-time job at an international organization. The manufacturing of products was all done from her bedroom until it took over half of their house.
Her clients were mostly friends and friends of friends. A year into starting Zero Basics, it quickly became popular in the vegan community through word of mouth. That’s when Jana found herself working most days, sleeping only for 4-5 hours every night, and even on weekends. So, she decided to resign from her full-time job.
“I started getting sick,” said Jana. “I decided that it was the right time to chase another (accidental) dream by becoming a full-time entrepreneur and being my own boss.”
Jana knows the importance of preparing oneself physically, mentally, and emotionally for big decisions. In her case, leaving a stable job and taking the risk of going into business. So, before facing the grueling task of being her own boss, she first took a well-deserved break.
“Before everything else, I planned a three-week vacation in the United States to visit my long time, no see friends and family,” said Jana. “Because I know it will be more difficult to see them as I transition into this new life.”
It’s probably one of the most common tips you’ll find about starting a business because it’s one of the most important ones, too. Having a business will take more money before it can make some.
So, if you’re planning to turn your side hustle into a legitimate business, you better be saving a huge portion of the money you’re earning as early as now.
As for Jana, she spent more time doing product research and development so she can improve her existing products and introduce new ones, too. So aside from soap, face cleansers, and deodorants, Zero Basics now offers hand sanitizers, sunscreens, insect repellants, and even toothpaste.
She also moved out of their family house so she could have a bigger and more organized manufacturing facility for Zero Basics with the help of their house helpers turned business allies.
Jana considers Zero Basics’ strong online presence as one of the most important things she did to expose her brand and products. She hired a social media manager to keep Zero Basics’ social channels populated and also to respond to inquiries and orders, and provide customer service via Facebook messenger.
“Through the years, I’ve learned that the more you post, the more sales you get. Everybody is glued to their smartphones,” said Jana.
Her clients also got into the habit of posting their purchases on social media, adding more mileage. Because of this, Zero Basics got invited to partner with BeautyMNL, one of the biggest e-commerce sites for beauty and wellness products.
She supported her online presence with on-ground presence in stores, weekend markets, and bazaars, too. And her resellers are making Zero Basics more accessible to more people.
As Jana plans to make Zero Basics even bigger in the coming years, she’s working on registering the business (which was supposed to be done earlier this year but COVID-19 got in the way) and build a facility that’s fully adherent to the guidelines of the Food and Drug Association (FDA) and other government agencies.
“It’s not easy but we are hoping that we would also be supported by our government,” said Jana. “Zero Basics is a good brand with all the good intentions and I know one day we will be as “legit” as it can be.”
One of Jana’s dreams is to see Zero Basics on shelves next to veteran brands and she knows that becoming government-compliant is a huge step in the right direction.
“We want to get big and join the market to offer alternatives to chemical-laden and animal-tested products,” said Jana. “A passion project turned formal business look and sound very inspiring and I think it is one of the reasons why a lot of people are interested in Zero Basics.”
Since bazaars and weekend markets are not what they’re used to be now because of the pandemic restrictions, it took a hit on the business. But thankfully, the strong online presence they’ve built for Zero Basics through the years is helping them stay afloat.
“[Social media and BeautyMNL are] my main ports at the moment and so far it’s been very promising. We are still looking for ways to strengthen our digital channels,” said Jana.
According to Jana, what made this all possible, despite many challenges, is because her heart is in it. “I guess Zero Basics is really not different from who I really am. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable, supports other small businesses and it just does a lot of good for the animals and for the planet.
“Check your intention. Check your heart. If it’s really in your intention to do good, you’ll be surprised to see how much you will be supported by all the forces around you.”
For more information on registering your business yourself, visit Globe myBusiness for a full DIY guide on how to formalize.
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