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'Real Talk Realizations' From Hello MNL Store

By: Des Ong of Sabado Studios

It was August 1, 2016, when I left my job in public relations and opened Hello MNL Store, a creative retail space along Espana Manila that supported over 90 makers and independent labels for more than a year.

At that time, it was also a personal growth path for me as a crafter, from initially selling #dagatbeads online and during Saturday x Future Market in Escolta and Katipunan Weekend Market events 2 years prior.

I am sharing some of my 'real-talk realizations' below with the intention to help you on your personal pursuits and generate deeper appreciation for creative Filipinos in general.


I opened Hello MNL Store with an aim to support my fellow makers, at a time where all we do was wait for the next bazaar to sell creations or compete online with non-handmade/super affordable items from abroad. While it was tough and scary to open something from scratch, it was a natural transition for me as I really want to create anything most of the time plus I am not the type of person who stays safe in a bubble or complain about a situation but not do anything about it.

One realization I had through this experience was that, our businesses or projects - how you want to do it or want you want to offer today, may not be or look the same forever. You will grow as a person; you will learn a lot along the way (while establishing your personal non negotiable list, boundaries and values along the way) and so to acknowledge all these things including the person you want to become and the life you want to have will shape how you want to do your project or business and what exactly you want to offer your community. You may be lucky to have aligned everything on the onset but for most of us, we will learn, try again and tweak again as we grow older, better or wiser beings or creative entrepreneurs.

For me, how I want to create things changed from dagatbeads to Hello MNL Store (from just creating to supporting fellow makers) as well as how I want to use my time and skills changed over time too (from taking care of a newborn baby during dagatbeads to bringing a toddler to the work during Hello MNL Store) but one thing remained the same, if not deepened over time - my personal advocacy to support fellow creative Filipinos, given that I know first-hand how it is to create and struggle as a crafter-entrepreneur myself. Hello MNL Store also paved the way for Sabado Studios, after revisiting again the things in my life plus the changes that came when we moved from Manila to Nova Scotia in 2019.


Opening something from scratch means learning and doing everything by yourself. Back then, I did not have friends who owned retail spaces, but I tried to learn what I can in every way I can – from business registration to tax compliance (which IMO deserves a separate blog post *wink*) to creating processes that works for me and my skills/background, how we do the business, and our community (both partner crafters and consumers). I was also led to DTI Mentor Me program and met more small business owners who had the same struggles as me.

Get all those experiences and do not overthink. It may be overwhelming but we need to stay open and we need to put it all in our back pocket as we will never know how or what this path will look like next year or even next month.

Also, listen, observe, research, surround yourself and consider the thoughts and learnings of people who took a similar path as you and not from “friends” who have an opinion on how you should be doing your business or project– likely the people who took a similar path as you are taking now will have more relevant insights than those who never opened a business or pursued a project in their life.


When I closed Hello MNL Store, I took the time to revisit everything and did not rush back to opening a new project or business. It was only after 2 years when we closed Hello MNL Store that Sabado Studios was born. I took the time to review everything but also I did not stop creating or at least trying to work on something new. Also, important to point out that Sabado Studios is still new and a work in progress and that's okay.

Being a creative entrepreneur comes with a lot of pressure especially from social media. Help yourself and unsubscribe to hustle culture and don't be pressured with how the society defines success or what you should be doing at a certain stage or how you should be handling things. You define you -- all your projects, your advocacies, how success looks like for you. All these things that we do consistently and how we are showing up is an investment for our own self. If things did not work, for whatever reason, know that it's part of the process and it will make you grow personally/creatively. Do not stop and do not focus on failure. Look at it as an opportunity for growth.

Keep creating anyway. Know that it will all align in the end. Trust the process.


Hopefully this blog will help you in your creative or personal pursuits! Remember, what you are doing (or planning to do) is unique to you -- you are the first person who is trying to do it using your background, experiences, circumstances, aspirations and dreams. No one had the same experiences and learnings as you did. No one took the same decisions or actions as you did, given your circumstances or limitations. That's the reason why it is scary and oftentimes overwhelming and know that that's normal and okay.

You will be okay. You got this!

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