“Millennials were everywhere!”, laments Michelle when I ask how the Mega Philippine Independence Ball fared. I laugh and agree, “we used to be those kids”, I tell her. Michelle is a Gen X-er like me and the epitome of the saying Life Begins at 40, even though she’s a year shy from the important milestone. She is the owner of ZenZest, a successful line of scents for the home, bath and body that’s virtually in every mall in the country. I’m sure you’ve seen their red kiosk, often surrounded by patrons of all walks of life. Michelle began her business at twenty-three but her love for scents goes back to when she was six years old and mixing portions of her uncle’s perfume collection in a teacup. “He was a perfume addict. Whenever he leaves the house, I would “explore” his perfumes and make my own concoctions. It was natural for me to get into this business because I grew up loving scents. When I started working right after college, all my salary would be spent buying perfume and other body care products.”
Seems that business is in her blood. Michelle recounts, “before Zenzest, I used to sell assorted items in bazaars (circa 2000). I was selling overrun shirts, accessories etc. Then in one bazaar, the person beside me was selling all-natural, handmade soaps and they all smelled so good! He had more than fourty kinds of soaps like orange with eucalyptus, castille etc which he made himself. All I did in that bazaar was smell his soaps because his booth was beside mine. I asked him if I can consign his soaps for my next bazaar in Alabang and he agreed—everything sold! I knew then that I was onto something good, that a local brand of body care products is something the market will accept and buy. I then hired a chemist who taught me the formulation for perfumes, soaps, lotions etc and I decided to create my own brand, Zenzest.”
The brand name and logo was designed by Francis Libiran in 2001 and remains the same to this day. ZenZest launched their first cart in SM Megamall and now have more than a hundred outlets nationwide. “I can’t believe how the business has grown through the years. The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that I can channel my creativity into the products that we make. It also helps that I have my own time and can attend to the needs of my children. The worst part I guess is the stress that a business brings; being an entrepreneur entails so much hard work and discipline. There are no rest days because I think about my business and how to grow and improve it 24/7.”
Talk about a power woman, supermom and devoted wife rolled into one pretty package. Beat that, millennials!
What she does businesswoman, wife and mother.
Personal style It depends on my current mood. It can be fee-llenial (feeling millennial), tailored or casual. I like wearing basic colors like beige, black or white but I’m trying to add colors and prints to my wardrobe. I think my wardrobe has evolved in such a way that when I was younger, I wanted to look more polished and now that I’m almost 40, I want to look more hip—ironic right? Now I wear a lot of jeans and shorts but I make sure that I pair it with a tailored top to make me look respectable and businesslike. I now wear less jewelry and more fun accessories.
On the importance of appearance I think that looking good is very important in a way that I need to take care of my skin and my body. Before summer, I felt so down because I gained so much weight from eating chocolates, junk food and midnight snack marathons with my husband. My clothes didn’t look good on me so I decided to go on the Paleo diet; I’m too busy to cook so I had meals delivered from Paleo Manila. I lost 10 pounds in a month! I’m the type of person who feels irritated and sad when overweight, but of course looking good is not all there is to life; one should also have a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Most importantly, you should have a happy and positive state of mind and it will reflect on your physical appearance.
Her days be like I usually start my weekdays very early, around 5am. I bring my son to school and head straight to the office. If I’m too early, I have a cup of coffee with my co-parents in Starbucks. I’m in the office by 8am and work until 6; sometimes, work requires me to have meetings outside or go to the mall to check our outlets so I do my personal errands such as facials or hair treatments during these days. Four times a month I have school, I’m currently taking up my Masters in Entrepreneurship in AIM. Two nights a month, I get to meet up with friends to catch up. If time permits, I run in my treadmill at home. My weekends are exclusively reserved for my family. I love weekends because I don’t have to do a thing and only think about what to watch on Netflix. My family and I usually spend our weekends at home. The closest thing I have to a hobby is reading. I read in my kindle when in the car and a book before I go to bed.
Favorite designers + shopping haunts I love shopping online, how easy the shopping process is and I don’t need to go to the mall and brave the traffic. I like local online brands Seek the Uniq, Unif0rm and Offbeat Alley. I frequently shop in Mosaic, Zara, H&M and Uniqlo for basics. When abroad, I like shopping in flea markets and buying local brands. Outlet stores also make me happy! I used to like buying branded items like bags and shoes but I stopped that habit a year ago.
Top 5 closet staples
Online surfing I like reading the blog of Cat Arambulo, I find her chic and entertaining. Because of my business, i like looking at die line, a design website and the websites of foreign beauty brands to get inspiration for my business.
Reading material For magazines, I only buy MEGA magazine because the articles are very informative and their fashion is up to date. Mostly I just browse through instagram for fashion inspiration.
Current uniform My uniform these days is jeans, tailored top and quirky accessories. I love tassel earrings and other statement jewellery. One of my favourites are my ANN ONG cuffs because they are an instant conversation piece.