Updated 13:36 PM PHT Thu, February 16, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Nicole Lim Co is only 22 years old. A Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur already running her own lifestyle store called Mercer St., she’s had a natural knack for business at a young age. “As a kid, I’ve always been interested in making my own money,” she says. “Even when I was in grade school, kung anu-ano yung mga pinagbebenta ko sa school, and then in college, I would sell random things as well.”
Fashion is also something that Co has always been interested in. Growing up with her “fashionista” sister, as she puts it, opened her eyes to the world of clothes and trends. And when her sister opened an online shop, her passion followed. She started shopping for clothes online, which became her incentive to continue her business hobbies. As she filled up numerous virtual shopping carts, her financial need grew, but she says, “I don’t really wanna rely on my parents’ [money] lang.”
And so, it wasn’t long before Co put up her own online store, where she mainly sold sunglasses. Here, she became part of a virtual merchant community, where she met other girls who sold their own products, like swimwear, shoes, and jewelry. She bought their merchandise, they bought hers, and the exchange grew into an informal sisterhood of sorts.
But every market has its own problems. “As an online shopper, it’s really hard for me to just browse something that I can’t really see physically,” she explains. “Because I’ve had several times already where I purchase a certain dress, and then when I got it, maluwag pala. And sometimes, I would just see online stores where I want this, pero hindi ko sure kung bagay sa akin.”
And so, the women’s lifestyle store Mercer St. was born, as the physical manifestation of Co’s desire to solve the problems of both the modern fashion merchant and the online shopper. “I think that’s one of the main problems for online stores, that they don’t have a physical store to sell their items in,” she says. Expanding from sunglasses, Co gathered pieces from her favorite online brands and put them side by side in a specially curated collection.
Housing brands like 37LA, Soak, and Hey Babe, Mercer St. reflects Co’s own style, which she describes as classic but trendy. “I think the clothes here would definitely be for a woman who would always wanna be in style, who would always wanna be in the trend with fashion, but still wants to stay chic and classic at the same time,” she says. In describing the Mercer St. woman, she says, “For example, uso off-shoulder ngayon, pero [she still wants to] look classic, like after five years you would look at photos and you would see na parang, uy maganda pa rin suot niya.”
Having a brick-and-mortar fashion shop also allows Co to bring the chic classic style to a larger market. “Just by having a physical store, you get a whole different market, because not everyone knows your brand, but just by walking around the mall, people [would be able to see it and check it out]. It’s really a good place to put your products in,” she says. This way, she is able to promote the brands she believes in, as quality locally-made products.
“I think what sets this apart from other lifestyle brands is that, here, everything is locally made. We really promote Filipino made products from clothes, swimwear, even accessories like jewelry and shoes. For example, the shoes are all Marikina-made,” she explains. “I don’t just put the brands here just [to fill up the] store or something. I really want to express how I love the brands and that I would personally buy from all of them.”
Co established Mercer St. in just less than six months. Fresh from graduation, she left an office job to bravely pursue her passion — a risk that turned out to be rewarding. As advice to young aspiring Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs like her, “don’t be afraid to start early,” Co recommends. “I think one of the things that people are afraid of are the risks involved. They’re afraid that this won’t be successful, or that there’s already a lot of competitors in the market. You shouldn’t be afraid to take risks. Because when you take risks, the rewards are definitely bigger.”