How this millennial and Gen Z favorite shoe brand thrived on P50K capital
You may have come across this local shoe brand on social media, or heard your workmates mention it during your random coffee chats at the office, but one thing’s for sure: Renegade Folk has been at the top of their game, thanks to the trio who's behind it.
Owned by the Sambalido sisters — Bea, Tina, and Reg — Renegade Folk is a homegrown business that aims to empower the country’s local shoe industry in Marikina by providing the best footwear for everyday Filipinos.
“Renegade,” being synonymous with rebelling, is the brand’s way of carving its own path in the competitive battleground of selling and marketing and going against the grain. To complete the name, “folk" simply means people or community.
Curiosity paves the way
With an impressive 15 to 16 years in the business, the local shoe brand began as a mere sideline for the sisters.
“We just wanted to have a sideline. We’re Chinese so it was instilled in us na kapag may business, okay. Honestly, at that time, it was genuine curiosity,” co-owner Tina wistfully shares.
Reg adds that they thought of blurring the lines between the local and international markets in terms of shoemaking and selling, and they wanted to be the first to “do something different on the local market at a friendly price point.”
Counting three branches to date, Renegade Folk makes sure that they never forget about empowering the local Marikina sapateros.
“I guess what differentiates us is we’re still quite traditional in shoemaking. Most of the stuff is still handmade. What makes handmade shoes very special is you can really supervise the quality and there’s a personal touch to it,” Tina asserts. "On top of that, we also champion using local materials, apart from not branching out in using machines."
The personal Marikina touch
Wilfredo Mislang, one of their craftsmen, relates that he has been in the shoemaking industry since 1989. Promoting Renegade Folk, Mislang is proud of having contributed to making the industry more powerful and stronger over the years.
“Basta (ipinapakita) po namin ‘yung tibay at ganda po ng gawa po namin dito sa Marikina na tangkilikin din po sana nila (We simply show the durability and beauty of what we make here in Marikina, which we hope they would support),"he says, calling on consumers to include Filipino brands in their shopping list, aside from international ones. “Kasi ang gawang Marikina, tunay at matatag at maayos ang pagkakagawa (Because Marikina-made products are truly durable and meticulously made)."
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Amalia Mesa, also one of Renegade Folk’s craftsmen, shares the same sentiments. Having been in the industry for some 40 years now, she takes pride in being a shoemaker.
“Ang paggawa ng sapatos, hindi naman biro yan. Matagal bago siya matutunan, ‘yung sakto at tamang trabaho (Shoemaking is no joke. It takes time to learn the right, exact way of doing it)," Mesa points out.
For Tina, what she admires most about the locals is their resourcefulness. “It’s actually quite amazing how they’re able to make beautiful shoes using DIY materials and tools as well. The challenge of the industry right now is how it can actually enable younger people to go into shoemaking, as their products are purely built on the idea that it’s Filipino-made, which makes it even more special."
Sustaining a homegrown brand
It’s no joke starting a business, or a family-owned one, for that matter. But the Sambalido sisters believe that over the years, it has taught them how to keep it at par with the growing competition.
Reg has this advice to share with future entrepreneurs: know what you stand for, be clear on your values.
She adds, “Secondly, you need stamina. You’re in it for the next 10, 15, 20 years. So that’s really your end goal, right? To be able to grow, it's not enough to be confident once you’ve tasted the success of starting or launching your brand."
Reg and Tina agree on one thing: the power of being relevant in the industry. "Sure, it’s easy to start but sustaining it is another story. How do you continuously grow and evolve the brand so that it’s still relevant in the space? Seeing how our actions and efforts affected the local industry, being able to support a fleet of makers, you feel happy seeing how you were able to help the industry."
As for Bea, her takeaway from this has been the ease of working, growing, and learning with her sisters. “Working with my sisters is fun but hard at the same time because when you’re running a business, you have to be professional, always on the top of your accountabilities."