This week we are featuring Donna Ko of #KOLLOQUIAL. She designs a custom line of totes which feature popular song lyrics on them. We love how simple they are, but at the same time they are absolute show stoppers. People instinctively read what’s on your tote and may even get a flashback to one of their favorite 90s songs. Read on to learn more about #KOLLOQUIAL. Also read the whole way through, her last piece of advice is priceless!
We are super excited about our feature this week, Blessings by FAD! They make the cutest bags that also give back! Creators, France and Ami, decided they would use a percentage of sales to support a different cause close to their heart each year. Although France now lives in the U.S., they are both originally from the Philippines, so their first cause was helping university students there with the burden of paying tuition. We personally love that their bags not only spread messages of faith and positivity, but act on the mission of physically helping others. Their business story is truly inspiring! Keep reading to learn more about Blessings by FAD and its founders.
: Tell us a little about who you are.
: We’re France and Ami, managers of a small business that hopes to spread faith, love, and overall positive vibes through our products. We say managers because we believe God owns the business and we’re just running it for Him. ☺ We’re both former preschool teachers, having taught for 5 and 7 years before starting Blessings early this year. We absolutely love kids and are both big believers of a good and sound preschool education as foundation for lifelong learning. We’ve been friends for 2 years (and counting!) after having met at a preschool we both worked for. We live in different parts of the world France in California and Ami in Manila, Philippines but we’re bound by the same faith and the same belief that quality and details are important things to consider when making and selling products. We do this for Him, and mediocrity isn’t something we’d like to offer. ☺
: How did Blessing by FAD get started?
: This will sound cliché, but it’s really an idea planted by God. We initially wanted to do party printables for kids- cupcake toppers, cards, invitations, etc to be sold on etsy. We were in the process of designing themes for that when we randomly started talking about canvas bags and how there seems to be a lack of bags with verses as designs. At that time, I had another canvas bag business with other people but I wasn’t at liberty to design Bible verses and the like. I eventually left that business and I guess it sort of just fell into place with Ami. We figured, why not make our own bags with verses to spread His word? So we ditched the printables and designed bags. We come from the same faith, we have the same goals, and we have similar taste and so we simply said: Let’s do this. ☺
: Describe your design and production process.
: France: We just started early this year and we’ve had 2 collections- Spring/Summer and then Fall/Holiday. Because we live in different parts of the world, a lot and I mean LOTS of viber, email messages, and Imessages are exchanged to come up with one product. Thank God for technology! ☺
I usually come up with a list of verses and statements and we both decide which ones will go on our products. Ami does the designing of the prints/art work and we go back and forth until we’ve both agreed on the design. She loves bright and colorful things while I like classic, muted colors but somehow we always find the middle ground and you’ll see both of us in every product. We both come up with the bag style and turn to locals in the Philippines for production. That way, we also get to help the local industry. Fabric choices are done by both of us, from the color to the thickness of the material, we don’t agree until we’re both satisfied. The whole process- from the verses to the print design to picking the fabric of the bag, and final product takes about 5 months. And as with all things, we always say a prayer before starting the design process.
: What inspires your bag’s messages?
: We seek inspiration from everyday things. We believe that beauty is everywhere- a bright blue sky, the sound of rain, peonies in bloom, hand lettered notes… the things we often take for granted are all really beautiful and worth being grateful for. With that in mind, we both look for verses and think of statements that spread beauty and positivity. We also turn to Pinterest, Instagram, and the Bible of course for more inspiration. Our goal is to reach all kinds of people- students, adults, those who come from the same faith, and those who may not believe in God. This is why some of our messages have chapter verses while others do not.
: With each bag purchased you give a percentage of sales to a student who is struggling financially in the Philippines. Why did you decide to make this a part of your business model?
: France: Our goal has always been to help others and give back through the business. It’s always good to share blessings and pay it forward right? When we started Blessings by FAD, we agreed on helping a different cause every year and for our first year, we decided to help financially challenged students. I graduated from the University of the Philippines and so it’s a cause close to my heart. We’ve had the wonderful opportunity to find an organization called Sinag Microfunds, a group of young adults who have pooled their resources together to start a group that would help out students who don’t have enough financial resources to enroll and graduate. Growing up, I’ve always been blessed to have things I need and want. Tuition for college wasn’t something I had to worry about. But not everyone in UP has that privilege. There are so many amazingly intelligent students in that University but most of them struggle with tuition. Being able to help out, even in a small way through our bags is really a blessing. Education, after all has the power to change one’s future.
Ami: We believe in kids, the younger generation, and education. We also believe in paying life’s blessings forward. When we started the business, we agreed that its purpose would be to spread faith and love through helping others. Paying life’s blessings forward is something we believe in. We’re grateful we get to do that through Sinag Microfunds and hopefully in the next years, we help more people- other schools, orphanages, organization for kids, etc.
: What challenges have you faced in running Blessings by FAD?
: Probably logistics would be the number one problem. Living across the Pacific from each other also means we are in different time zones- Manila, Philippines is 15 hours ahead to be exact. This is why the design process for 1 product takes a long time to finish. Decisions have to be made by both of us. Because of the distance, it takes a significant amount of time to finalize a verse, a print design, or a bag style. Logistics also affects marketing too. We thrive on social media- Instagram and Facebook and people from different countries are active on different times. There are also different cultures that we take into consideration when marketing. We know this may sound silly but to give you an example, in the Philippines, people say bags while in the US people say purses. So it comes down to something as simple as that.
: On the other hand, what was one of the most exciting moments of owning your business?
: Owning a business is a long learning process and that’s always exciting. It’s been wonderful to connect with other small business in Instagram, meet new friends and people all over the world. Just recently, a travel writer, Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Lifestyle Online Magazine included us in her list of Instagram accounts to follow. That was really exciting for us because it allowed us to meet other people and widen our market. It’s also always exciting when people who don’t really have the same faith as we do buy our bags without even realizing that the message on the product comes from the Bible. We have a bag that says: Do Not Conform to the Pattern of this World. People have been buying it without realizing it’s from Romans 12:2 and when they do we always feel like saying: Score for the Big Guy! ☺
: Both of you were raised in the Philippines. What differences have you experienced between the two cultures? Similarities?
: France: There are so many differences from family ties to how the society works but we’ll talk about the things that affect our business the most. The Philippines is a third world country and so things are not as efficient as they are compared to the US. From bank transactions to online payment systems, we who live in the US probably take for granted the ease with which we accomplish these errands. We can easily take a photo of a check here and it will be deposited in our bank accounts, almost everyone owns a credit card, and Paypal is widely used. In the Philippines however, one might have to go through heavy traffic to get to the bank for a customer to make a deposit. For some reason, lines are longer and the process is slower. It’s interesting too because we met another small business in Instagram awhile back and they are California based but their products are made in Thailand. One of the owners said the same thing about the bank transactions over there and how common it is also to pay for products by going to the bank and making a deposit.
Shipping and delivery is also different. Most of the small businesses in the Philippines have the “meet-up” option. Here in the US, the mail is reliable, and it’s very common to purchase things online. I’ve lived in California for years now and sometimes I tend to forget these things… and admittedly I get impatient when things in Manila don’t get done as fast as things from my end do. Takes a lot of prayer and grace to not get upset when this culture affects the business. ☺
On the flip side though while things may be more efficient in the US, back in Manila though people seem to have and make more time for fun. There always seems to be more holidays, more 3 day weekends and traveling within and outside the country is pretty common. That helps the business a lot in terms of marketing because people take our bags with them and send us photos to post! ☺
Ami: As for the similarities, both countries have so many people who are eager to help a good cause. That’s a wonderful thing when you stop to think about it. There’s so much chaos in the world nowadays but it’s comforting to know that in every part of the world, there are people who have good hearts and who are always willing to help. ☺
: A lot of your customers like to take their bags on their travels all over the world. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you stop first?
: France: France for me! I’ve always wanted an album that would say France in France. ☺ Followed closely by Italy, Greece, and Croatia. I’m a sucker for beauty and a stickler for details and I think these countries just overflow with beauty and details.
Ami: I’m pregnant and it’s hard to think of traveling at the moment but anywhere with my husband would be wonderful. ☺
: What are your future goals and dreams?
: France: So many! ☺ At the moment, I’m just trying to plan a wonderful wedding and build a life with my man after. In the next year or so I want to put up another business, a center for children to practice movement and explore creativity. As for Blessings by FAD, we dream of a boutique store. We envision it to be a lifestyle store, probably in the Philippines first and one that would carry products of small business who all support a cause. We’d like to launch more products too- pouches, travel kits, kids bags, and bags for men. That’s a wonderful way to spread faith, positivity and love!
Ami: I’m about to have my first baby this December so I’m thinking a kids line for Blessings by FAD! ☺ Lunch sacks, kids’ backpacks, and mommy bags. And we’re really praying for a store someday that will carry our products and others too that all help a good cause.
: What makes you happy?
: France: Simple things- a day with the people I love, good dessert, dogs, children laughing, exploring a new place, flowers. Basically just being able to experience God’s goodness and passing it on to other people in whatever small way I can.
Ami: Good food, time with my husband, family, a good sale ☺, and being able to share God’s word.
: Any advice?
: When starting a business with a partner/partners, look for one that will have the same beliefs as you. It’s not about how long you’ve been friends or whether you are friends at all but choose one that has a similar vision and similar goals in life… same wavelength as others would say. And in all things, pray. Whether you are thinking of your dreams, setting goals, having a good time, preparing for a meeting, starting a business, marketing, learning something new, or making a life changing decision… do not forget to pray. Throughout your life you’ll experience many seasons and each moment will be different. Some days you’ll find things are perfectly awesome and other days you’ll deal with really serious struggles. But whatever season you are in, there is one constant thing: It’s that God’s love is limitless and His faithfulness never fades. And 100% of the time, He’s really just all you need for success.