Like most entrepreneurs, Pat Ocampo Gonzalez and Margaux Romero Alampay's business was greatly affected by the restrictions of the pandemic. Their thriving mindsets, however, did not falter. Holding on to their devotion to Mama Mary, Maris Handmade was born and is keeping the faith and the spirit of Christmas alive through simple yet aesthetically pleasing ornaments and dolls.
Seeing it as their "pandemic breakthrough," Maris Handmade was born out of enthusiasm and their need to explore.
"We share a devotion to Mama Mary and have always wanted to make dolls of her images that were modern, and would appeal to a younger generation. She’s such an awesome example of womanhood and we can all learn so much from her!" they shared with PhilSTAR L!fe.
Established in 2020, the business paved the way to revive their swimwear brand and to further provide jobs to local sewers and to stay-at-home moms.
"We worked with stay at home mothers in Cainta Rizal. We also started working with our kasambahays to make ornaments so they can earn extra income. We’re slowly becoming the social enterprise we dreamed our business would be!"
Get to know more about how this simple business weaves its way back to the business limelight and extended its presence from casual trips to special moments at home.
How does your Filipino heritage/culture influence your brand values and identity?
At the heart of it, our business is really about providing opportunities for local talent and local design to shine. It would be easy for us to outsource our production to China, but giving our sewers and staff job security is a top priority for us.
It was really this year when we joined ArteFino that we were inspired to use local weaves to make Christmas decorations and in making dresses for our dolls. Thanks to movements like ArteFino, there is a revival of love for our culture happening and we are thrilled to be a part of it. It is one thing to be told to love your country’s culture at school, and another to fall in love with it when it becomes a part of things you already care about–like a Christmas parol in your home or a doll you grow up playing with.
There are so many competitive brands right now, how do you make your business stand out from the rest?
It has been so inspiring to be working in a time where entrepreneurship is flourishing in our country and we see that as a good thing! A way we try to distinguish ourselves is to constantly communicate our brand advocacies which are our faith, Filipino culture, and providing livelihood and formation to the communities we work with.
What other obstacles have you faced while creating your brand and how have you overcome them?
There are many obstacles that we continue to experience every day. When we were starting, we had no background or technical knowledge of making dolls. We learned how to do everything on our own, with a LOT of trial and error.
We also realized that we really cannot rush the process of production, and doll-making takes so much more time than clothes or swimwear (our other business products).
In the area of marketing, it has also been a challenge to define our target market because it is different from our customers for our clothing. We’re still learning how to communicate our brand message through social media and how best to reach those who fit in our niche. We are up for the challenge because we believe that obstacles are ALWAYS opportunities for learning and growth.
What role do you think social media plays in small businesses today?
We started our first retail business on Instagram and influencers played a big role in marketing our brand. Social media and e-commerce provide an entry point for entrepreneurs that was never possible before and we will always be grateful for it. Now that it is such a big part of our lives and because we consume so much of it, it is important to be discerning about how it affects us and how to use it wisely.
How do you want your customers to feel when they're using your products?
For our religious products, we want them to feel close to our friends in heaven. When people give these dolls as gifts, they are not just sharing their faith, but also sharing someone they love. We enjoy hearing stories from customers about how the receivers of their gifts are so touched and so consoled by receiving Mama Mary, or their Guardian Angels as dolls.
For our Christmas products, we want them to really feel and know that their purchase is making someone’s life better in a small way. There is a real person behind each product. A woman learned a new craft (parol making, ornament making) and now has an outlet for her creativity, and is able to earn extra income during the holiday season.