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#LifeLokal: Why Top Stop is a brand for every woman

By Camille Santiago Published Feb 11, 2022 6:36 pm

Having worked in marketing for 18 years, Top Stop PH founder Eya Mercado already understood the basics in business, especially in terms of promotions and market trends.

Top Stop was created primarily for those who want to feel real and good in every inch, thus it became a go-to for many for its timeless, versatile pieces.

"Prior to Top Stop, I was really designing simple things. If I have something in mind and I cannot see it in the retailers or in the stores, I would normally sketch it and have it sewn by a seamstress," shared Eya to PhilSTAR L!fe.

But for more authenticity, she chooses influencers or real girls—who were buyers first—to model her pieces for the website.

"[In marketing] we're a fan of using real people versus models. We found it very effective because they are very relatable," said Eya.

PhilSTAR L!fe had the opportunity to talk to Eya who gets candid about getting inspiration from Pinterest and K-dramas, and why she thinks quality does not equate to expensive.

PhilSTAR L!fe: When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and what was the point that really made you go for it?

To be honest, am not sure if I can already consider myself as an entrepreneur since 18 years of my life was spent in the corporate world so I would always regard myself as a corporate person. Prior to this, I was a vice president for marketing handling products and business development for one of the local banks. I came from the banking industry and was assigned in customer service in my younger years. After that, I made a move to the business side of the bank handling Product Marketing. 

I would say I was career-driven and I like making goals for myself. At that time, my goal then was to be a vice president before I turned 40. I got it a year earlier and I felt fulfilled somehow because I knew I was on track. After quite some time though, I was not happy where I was at. Timing-wise, my youngest son was about to start with big school and I just wanted to be there as he transitions. So, I decided to take a break from the corporate world without thinking what my next steps would be.

Since I was a newbie SAHM, I got bored and felt like I can be more productive with my time and at the same time be hands-on with my kids. So just like with my other projects in the corporate world, I did a business case for Top Stop, did some pencil-pushing and launched, taking it one day at a time. The decision to make/design clothes was top of mind since I really like dressing up and I have always been interested in fashion.

The product to sell was a no-brainer. It was probably after a year in business that I have decided to stick with it and expand because sales was good, I found my niche, and really enjoyed what I was doing.  It was a win-win since it allowed me to still be financially independent and at the same time spend a lot of time with the family. 

There are so many competitive brands within the world of fashion right now, how do you make your brand stand out from the rest?

Agree, with other brands having very low price points. I would say our price point is not cheap but still affordable for our target market (Segment AB, working class, professional). So the decision to target a specific market was intentional. I wanted to mimic my needs as a consumer— personally, I am willing to pay for a higher price if the quality is good. So we aimed for that. Our business is focused on women’s clothing with quality at its forefront. And it was not easy at the start, we have tried several manufacturers until we found a partner who was able to meet our standards.

Aside from quality, design is also key. I would be a hypocrite to say that we don’t get inspiration from other designers. We use Pinterest a lot, we do research on the up-and-coming trends and from there we tweak, we add, and inject our own style. Funny that I also get a lot of inspiration from watching K-dramas. So basically, we get inspiration from anything and everything. Then when there’s a concept or when a bright idea pops, I immediately get a paper and a pencil because I might forget.

So three things: decide on your target market, the price point acceptable for that market, and of course the design. 

The clothes you wear can make or break your confidence and significantly influence how others perceive you and respond to you.

What is your brand ethos?

Sharing something that you can find on our website which captures what our brand is about. 

We believe that every woman needs to feel good about herself.

The clothes you wear can make or break your confidence and significantly influence how others perceive you and respond to you.

We believe that quality pieces fit better and affect the overall impression you make everyday. That’s why each time you put on a piece created by us, we aim to give you affordable, high-quality and easy to wear clothes that are designed to be clean and classically tasteful.

Because you deserve it.

Do you think that sustainable or slow fashion brands are only accessible to a specific market from a price perspective?

Categorically, I don’t want to claim that we are a slow fashion brand cause sometimes the term is used very loosely. But yes, we focus on quality and we don’t mass produce to avoid wastage. All our products are only made upon order (not made TO order, as we don’t customize).

In terms of price perspective, I think quality really comes with a price, but it does not need to be expensive. Maybe a better way of looking at it is your cost per wear. How long or how often would you use a trendy outfit versus classic, versatile pieces. If you would look at it from that standpoint, I believe it is more cost-efficient.

I think quality really comes with a price, but it does not need to be expensive.

From your experience, how are influencer marketing and social media leading the way in spreading the message on using local items?

In our case, influencers help a lot, but we are also very selective when we choose ours. I think it’s important that the influencers that you choose is someone who believes in your brand. Most of our influencers are also from our client base. This way, I think, it makes them more credible. They happily endorse your brand because they believe in your brand.

Content is key and when you get a sincere feedback, their network is likely to be influenced. And I see that a lot because people would message us saying that they have seen it from their friend who happens to be our influencer, or we were recommended by this certain influencer etc. So, word of mouth works for us.

I guess what am saying is, rethink your criteria when you choose your influencer/brand ambassador. The person can be popular or can have a lot of followers, but if they don't connect to your desired audience, then it does not translate to sales. Popularity and number of followers—good to have if your goal is for your brand to get media mileage. For us though, we prefer an influencer who can get the message across to the desired audience.

How do you want your customers to feel when they're wearing your clothes?

Confident and beautiful—it’s like "I’m ready to see my boyfriend/husband's ex wearing this." Or "I can wing this interview."