The productivity secrets of a beauty and fashion entrepreneur

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The Summer International country director and loungewear brand owner Cara De Jesus schedules time slots for every item on her to-do lists. “It feels really good to cancel things off my list.” Photo courtesy of CARA DE JESUS

Rizal (CNN Philippines Life) — “If you aren't ready to adapt, you die.” Entrepreneur Cara de Jesus says this is her main takeaway from the pandemic so far — a sobering thought that many small business owners like her have had to learn in the last seven months.

“It sounds harsh but I find that companies that are always ahead of the curve are the ones that are never afraid to lose by trying new things out, thinking outside of the box and exhausting all ideas, crazy ones included,” De Jesus goes on to say. “One thing that my boss, Althea Lim, always tells me is ‘Fail fast so you can succeed faster’.”

De Jesus wears two hats at work. Her 9 to 5 is being the country director and corporate communications head for Summer International, a lifestyle and beauty company headquartered in Los Angeles and South Korea. On the side, she’s growing her own clothing line called Crow, which produces comfortable loungewear and casual pieces that cater to straight and plus sizes. Like many burgeoning Instagram stores, Crow relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing; the brand’s stylish and affordable pambahay-friendly wares have been seen on the likes of actress and socialite Heart Evangelista.

Cara De Jesus has her own clothing line called Crow, which produces comfortable loungewear and casual pieces that cater to straight and plus sizes. Photo courtesy of CARA DE JESUS

“It's been around for a while now but kind of tapered as I lost interest,” says De Jesus of her brand. “I focused on it a bit more this quarantine since I had nothing much to do and it ended up taking off! I love it when kids shop and end up buying more for their moms and titas, then it becomes a full blown family affair!”

Experiencing the pandemic’s effects on two industries gave De Jesus some perspective on what hasn’t been working, and what needs to be improved. “In the beauty sphere, things have changed dramatically. A lot of products we were once crazy about are finding themselves collecting dust in our vanities (lipsticks, foundations, eyeshadows, etc), which is why there's a major call to really start recalibrating about what products to carry in your lineup. Not only that, it's also how you execute it in terms of marketing, sales and relationship building.”

And while it’s unclear if we’ve gotten past the worst of it, De Jesus herself hopes that this difficult time can help the industries she’s part of to find new ways to innovate. “It's an interesting time to be in this space actually,” she says, “since it's exciting to see how brands will be pivoting.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines Life, the beauty and fashion entrepreneur talks about working with time slots for her to-do lists, and the challenge to remain relevant on lockdown.

What’s the first thing you do each morning? How does that affect the rest of your day?

I note down my to-do list with a time slot for each task. While I don't follow everything to a T, it really helps provide a framework to what I'm doing and active timelines to see what I need to prioritize first. It also feels really good to cancel things off my list because I've accomplished them already.

What time of day do you feel most productive? Why do you think that works for you?

The afternoon! I work in a company with offices around the world, so time differences are part of my daily life. By afternoon, everyone around the world is usually up and about so it's easier to communicate.

What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you find most challenging about it?

I love working in beauty and lifestyle, so the fact that I can create products from nothing and have them rolled out to the public is really exciting. I think the challenge in general has always been to remain relevant, but that's even harder now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To pivot your beauty brand to something with value at a time like this is exceptionally challenging, but also in a way exciting? You'll see a lot of new trends not just in product development but also in marketing styles and valuation come out.

How do you deal with distractions?

Given how things are going with lockdown and all, I don't take myself too seriously anymore. I'm less hard on myself with distractions, so if I feel like playing with my dog in the middle of work or trying on a new lipstick, I'll do it and take joy in it. Obviously with distractions that take up a lot of time, that's when my to-do list comes in handy!

With regard to day-to-day challenges, do you have a ritual that helps you through it?

Like I mentioned, giving a time frame from each task serves as my ritual. I'm not strict about it, but the importance of routine in the work-from-home environment helps keep me focused and have a semblance of discipline. I also wear lip gloss/light lipstick daily just so I can feel a slight sense of normalcy!

When did you start this ritual? Was there a specific moment that inspired it?

The to-do lists were initially a requirement in my job since we all work across the world, it was important for our bosses to see what was in each employee's pipeline. From there, I kind of just appreciated it and stuck to it.

Are you always able to accomplish this ritual? Does it have any bearing on your mood and your productivity?

There are days when I forget or don't necessarily accomplish the whole list/follow the correct time slot for each task. I'm less rigid now that I'm hitting my 30s, so I just charge it to experience and declare tomorrow as another day. It's realizing there's only so much hours in a day and sometimes things don't always go as planned.

Would you recommend this ritual to other people? Why or why not?

Definitely! Planners, note taking, scheduling — all these are things I never saw much value in until much later in life. The earlier you can start, the better. Having an organized day really pays off.

Are there any apps you use for productivity?

Our company uses Dingtalk, which admittedly was difficult to use at first (and I hated it) but eventually helped make our lives easier by having schedules visible to one another, calls, chat logs, etc. Rather than use multiple applications, it was helpful to have all of it in one app. Plus, if you have colleagues from other countries like China, it's so helpful since they can have instant translations from Mandarin - English!

How do you unwind after a busy day?

Lately it's been experimenting with different makeup looks and trying (but failing) at decluttering all my junk! I also have the odd day or two where I binge on my Nintendo Switch.