From an online shopaholic to an online entrepreneur

N.B. This article was originally published in UPIU on September 15. Click here to view the original post.

The evaluator said that the article was well-written and that it’s light tone was maintained up until the last sentence. The evaluator personally liked the concept as it is related to the class course. The four links were relevant to the article because they give readers an idea as to how online shops work. It is good that the article was complemented with a photo of the featured person. Although the article is an easy read because it has a continuous flow, it would be better to use subheads to aid readers.

UPIU mentor Brendan Smith commented that the article was well-written and interesting but it sounded too much like the author was promoting a business rather than writing a feature article. He suggested different ways by which the author could improve the article. He said that the article could not be published by UPI because it did not have a broad appeal to readers beyond the Philippines but that did not mean that it was not a good article. He said that it could be a nice story that the author might be able to get published in a newspaper or web site in the Philippines.

Melanie Entuna strikes a pose wearing a 2-toned black-purple bubble dress. (Photos courtesy of styleandsoul.blogspot.com)

It all started with her need for money and her love for fashion.

This was how Melanie Entuna, a 21-year old Broadcast Communication student at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), came up with the F-Stop Fashion Shop.

“When my family started having financial problems, I realized that I needed a source of income that would lessen my parents’ burdens of having to pay for my own expenses,” she shared.

Since Melanie was an online shopaholic, she decided to try her luck in the world of online business. Initially, F-Stop was supposed to be a joint venture with her friend Rona Bungay, but Rona had to migrate to the United States so she was left to deal with the business on her own.

Melanie’s online fashion shop first sold brand new pre-order clothes, accessories, shoes, and bags from Korea and Japan. She contacted an international site which provided her stocks. However, when other online shops selling the same type of items opened, she realized that she needed a new business strategy.

She was inspired by The Ukay Queen, another online shop selling quality thrift items. “Since I am also a thrift shopper, I decided to do it as well since I realized the market for it and in ukay (thrift shop), there are a lot of unique and excellent clothes so there’s no chance of me selling the same thing as everyone else,” she said.

It became a hit to her customers so she continued with the strategy. Now, aside from thrift and Asian fashion items, she also sells cosmetics and glutathione products.

Melanie shares that she had doubts when she first started this business in August 2009 but her experience as an online shopper and her desire to earn money made her decide to continue with the business.

“I relied on my strong yet charismatic personality and my PR skills to get girls to buy my stuff,” she said.

Melanie also prepared for the business by studying HTML codes, layout editing, and Photoshop editing to improve her site. She also enhanced her skills in photography because she believed that great shots of the fashion items really attracted customers. She invested on good photography, great marketing, and quality stocks to get her business going.

“I really push myself to serve my customers well,” says Melanie. “I just need great photos, a really nice attitude, quality items, and nice packaging.”

Melanie describes her target customers as the “modern women” – mostly teens and mid-twenties who are fashionable and who see themselves as trendsetters. She believes that being extra friendly and assertive helps her get customers and close deals. Advertising through text, optimizing her blog and social networking sites, and getting good feedback from her clients also play major roles in developing her online shop.

Dealing with nasty customers and bogus buyers has been one of the challenges Melanie continues to face in handling her business. She also shares that she gets really stressed when the business does not return much money.

“I feel so down when my online shop does not gain profits while other shops do when I know in myself that I have good products and yet they’re not noticed,” said Melanie.

Aside from handling her online shop, Melanie also juggles the difficulties and pressures of being a student, of writing fashion articles and PR for brands, of doing freelance styling for online magazines, and of doing production work for indie films. Despite her experience, Melanie says that she still goes “crazy when the work piles up.”

She emphasized that she faces difficulty in dealing with time management issues. “I try to balance but it’s really difficult because even though I try to plan and organize myself, I end up being otherwise,” she said. Still, she tries her best to do things step by step by prioritizing and doing work which she deems more important.

The business has taught Melanie the importance of learning to let go and making sacrifices. In fact, one of the biggest sacrifices she had to make was to stop schooling for a semester to give her more time to earn money. “We’re not rich and both my parents already do not have jobs and are just relying on their pension so I have to work for myself and put my studies on hold,” she shares.

Melanie believes the youth should engage in similar business activities because it will enhance their skills and make them more independent. She says that entering the business will require one’s readiness to give much time and effort. Asserting for one’s rights and speaking one’s mind to customers are also some of her points to ponder for future youth entrepreneurs.

“When you know how to speak your mind with class, calm, and respect, they’ll respect you as well,” says Melanie.

Originality and creativity are also must-haves for Melanie. She expresses disappointment in other online shops which copy the exact “prototype” of the others. “One must think of something that will make you stand out and emerge as one of the best,” she says.

What makes Melanie’s job more difficult is the fact that her parents don’t approve of her online business. Her parents told her that her work makes her look like a vendor, but Melanie does not take these comments too seriously and instead focuses on how to make her online shop more endearing to customers. The lack of support from her family and friends does not hinder her from doing what she wants.

“I don’t need support to have the drive and determination to do it anyway,” she shares. “I push myself to be what I want to be despite others contradicting me.”

This shopaholic-workaholic shows no signs of stopping in beating the odds. “As long as my customers need me and as long as I am happy with what I’m doing, why should I stop?” she says.

With Melanie’s confidence, hard work, and determination, there’s no doubt that she’ll soon make it big in the business.

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