THEY say that if you succeed in Cebu, you can make it anywhere else in the country.
This holds true for entrepreneur Ma. Eleanor Rodriguez Selerio-Velasco, founder and chief executive officer of Skin 911 Facial and Slimming Centre.
Velasco, a native of Mindanao, went to Manila to pursue a college education with the support of her family and relatives.
She took up business administration as a working student but failed to finish the course. She encountered family difficulties when she was about to enter her third year in college.
Velasco had to give up school temporarily to look for jobs so she could extend financial help to her nine other siblings back in Mindanao.
Velasco grabbed all the work opportunities she could get to survive in Manila. She worked in sales of various retail companies but was never promoted into a full-time employee.
She blamed office politics as one of the reasons she hopped from one company to the other. Velasco worked different jobs for five years.
“It was during my time in the corporate world that I learned about office politics, that there will be people who will block your way just because they envy you. It’s difficult to climb the corporate ladder if your co-workers don’t celebrate your success,” said Velasco.
In the late 1990s, Velasco got married to a man whose sister was into skincare. She was trained to become a skin specialist. Velasco immersed herself in a series of intensive training, dreaming that one day, she would have her own skin clinic.
True enough, Velasco opened her own skin clinic in the early 2000s. The business prospered for two years until its market share was slowly eaten up by other skin clinics that opened in malls.
“We had difficulty competing with them because aside from their location, they also offered affordable rates,” she recalled.
Velasco decided to let go of the business but retained the retail component. Selling skin care products like soaps, moisturizers, toners and other facial and skin care products temporarily helped her meet her everyday needs.
“I knelt down and asked God what business I should get into. I asked God that it should be something that would not only benefit me but also others,” she said.
Known for her customer service, Velasco got a call from one of her VIP clients. She was asked to become a trainer for a massage center he was opening. The client offered her a good deal but it meant Velasco had to relocate to Cebu.
“I had second thoughts at first because accepting the offer would mean starting at zero. I didn’t know anyone in Cebu,” said Velasco. “But I’m a mother and all I wanted was for my children to have a comfortable life,” she added.
Velasco accepted the offer and moved to Cebu. She worked hard as a trainer and on the side, she accepted another job as a manager of a 36-bed spa.
Because of her dedication and passion at work, Velasco earned the trust of her customers, with some of them calling her late at night for home facial services.
“When you are starting in a new place, you have to grow your network, even if that means working late. It is only through this that your customers will remember you and patronize your services,” said Velasco.
When her contract ended as a trainer, Velasco rented a small space inside the spa she was working in to kickstart her Skin 911 business. The owner of the spa agreed with the setup, as he also earned a percentage of her skin business.
The skin care business grew, attracting more clients every day. This compelled Velasco to move out and set up a dedicated facility for skin care. With a startup capital of P300,000, she moved to a 38-square-meter facility.
“The early stage of the business was a bit difficult because I was still building up my name. But I am thankful for the loyal clients I had since I started because they helped me spread the word,” said Velasco.
While growing her business in Cebu, Velasco continued offering home services to other island provinces, some as far as Leyte.
“The positive will to grow the business delivers results. While I grew the brand here, my home services helped me market the brand outside of Cebu,” she said.
In 2013, Velasco opened up Skin 911 for franchise. The company now has 17 branches, 16 of which are franchises in the Visayas and Mindanao.
The skin care and slimming clinic is known for offering “stress-free prices” to customers. Besides facials, the clinic also offers services such as wart removal, cautery, and skin peelings, among others.
Very recently, Skin 911 obtained a trademark from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), a standard that is hard to attain, and which Velasco says signifies the company’s thrust that it means business.
Skin 911 is also a recipient of various awards for skin care.
Velasco was also recognized as an expert skin specialist, Filipino star achiever, outstanding professional entrepreneur for beauty and wellness, excellence for success and accomplishment in beauty and wellness by various award-giving bodies.
What was your first job?
I worked in several retail companies prior to becoming an entrepreneur. I first worked as a sales lady of a clothing company in Manila. There, I learned about consumer behavior, market preferences and the attitude of customers to look for products that will not hurt their pockets but are of high quality.
Who inspired you to get into business?
My children are my inspiration. I wouldn’t take that bold step of relocating to Cebu if not for them. I am also motivated to keep learning and innovating because with the growing number of branches we have now, this means more people are given opportunities to work. I would not be where I am today if not for the people who extended their hand and lifted me up.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
When clients started asking if I was open to franchising Skin 911, this boosted my confidence. It was like a pat on the back, telling me I was doing the right thing and I was delivering the right products and services for them.
I am also amazed at how my clients accepted our brand. In fact, I have a loyal and young client who chose to franchise our business instead of holding a debut. It came as a surprise, but it is also an indicator that millennials now are keen to become entrepreneurs.
Why did you pick this type of business or industry?
Facial and skin care business, if managed well, is a profitable business. It’s one of the industries that has the potential to grow even amid tough times. With the fast-paced work lifestyle we have now, people are willing to spend their hard-earned money to take care of their skin. People now want to look their best always.
Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?
I never stopped learning. I always made myself available for trainings and conferences here and abroad because this industry is also fast evolving. You need to keep up with the advancement of technologies if you are serious in offering quality service and products to your clients. These same trainings are re-echoed to my staff. In fact, the company also produced competent trained associates from the Skin 911 Academy.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
My struggles in the past honed my character. I had so many reasons to give up on my dreams and pursue another path, but God has been faithful to me. He never left me alone. When somebody offered me a job in Cebu, I took it as God’s answer, Him providing me an opportunity to start again.
If there’s one piece of advice I would impart to young entrepreneurs, it is for them to take things slow. There are no shortcuts in business so you have to be patient and enjoy the process that comes with it.
Another thing is you have to do business the right way. Anything that is not done right will not prosper.
Lastly, you have to take good care of your customers because they will be instrumental in your growth.