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The star factor: How Marian Rivera helped GoodBagPh’s comeback story

by Eileen Mencias

The family behind GoodBagPh, led by founder Divina Gracia Gacila-Encluna, has deep roots in sewing, with her mother crafting uniforms and prom clothes in Baliwag since her elementary years.

However, their journey faced a significant setback in 2015 when their business partners poached their workers during a crucial production period. At that time, she was pregnant and their company had a critical order to fulfill for a large company.

“Nasira ako doon, dios ko,” Gacila-Encluna said. Despite formalizing their business and obtaining permits, their marketing efforts were still in their infancy, relying primarily on customer referrals for orders. This setback forced them to close shop temporarily.

The resurgence of their business, now known as GoodBagPh, became a collaborative effort between Gacila-Encluna and her sister, Diane – both scholars at the University of the East (UE). Diane spearheaded marketing initiatives while she focused on management. Their entry into a social media mom community eventually led to collaborations with a parenting emporium catering to celebrity mothers.

Their big came when when they secured an ex-deal with actress Marian Rivera for her son Sixto’s birthday party, kickstarting a chain of events that significantly boosted their brand’s visibility. While their product offerings were limited, Rivera’s social media endorsement sparked an exponential increase in their following, leading to a fully booked schedule well into December.

“Konting bags lang o yun pero grabe yung following naming, dumami because of her. The influence! Lumakas talaga yung marketing,” Gacila-Encluna said. It was just one post, one story, and they immediately received inquiries.

Although celebrity endorsements have proven effective for their brand, Gacila-Encluna acknowledges that it may not suit all businesses, particularly those with higher-priced merchandise. Nevertheless, their personalized bags have become sought-after items for event giveaways, further elevating their profile among sponsors and big companies.

Their success caught the attention of prominent retailers like Rustan’s and Ayala Malls, resulting in significant orders for their products. Despite facing logistical challenges with payments coming in tranches, Gacila-Encluna juggles her business responsibilities alongside her teaching duties at University of the East, driven by her passion for both entrepreneurship and education.

“Passion ko yung business but teaching is my calling,” she said. “This is my advocacy: to empower the youth to pursue entrepreneurship.” And this has taken her to other universities such as La Salle, UST, and PUP.

For anyone aspiring to start a business, Gacila-Encluna has emphasized the importance of having a clear purpose and unwavering determination, particularly during difficult times.

While Gacila-Encluna was building her business, her family was also grappling with personal challenges: her brother was battling cancer and passed away before the pandemic, while her father faced legal troubles after being unfairly implicated by a colleague. Her father’s legal issues began in 2007 and only concluded with his vindication in 2021. It was an arduous period; they had to liquidate assets, including their car, to cover the family’s legal and medical expenses, resorting to borrowing money at exorbitant interest rates of 10 percent per week. Despite these hardships, she remained steadfast in pursuing her dream with unwavering focus.

“This is a rollercoaster ride po talaga. This is a cycle. Pero ang kailangan mo, matibay ang loob mo. At saka, alam mo dapat ang purpose mo kung bakit ka nasa business. Ako po, hindi kasi ako gagawa if I don’t have a purpose. Ika nga, the greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without purpose daw, sabi ni Rick Warren (an American pastor),” said Gacila-Encluna.

“If it doesn’t work, then find another strategy. Ganoon talaga, di ba.” she added.

As she charts the future of their business, Gacila-Encluna is already exploring avenues for expansion, including overseas markets and upstream ventures supplying materials to competitors.

With resilience and a clear vision, she remains committed to realizing her entrepreneurial aspirations while imparting valuable lessons to the next generation of business leaders.

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