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An eye for style

Posted on October 06, 2015

Martine D. Cajucom
Creative Director
Sunnies Studios

FOR THE FASHION-CONSCIOUS, sunglasses (or shades) are just as much an expression of personal style as clothes and accessories. Understanding this behavior, Martine D. Cajucom, 28, decided to return to the Philippines and help create a brand that would be an extension of her own creativity.

Ms. Cajucom spent most of her life in the United States. She graduated summa cum laude with a double degree in Journalism and Photography from the California State University-Long Beach. Applying the skills she learned and her natural flair for design, Ms. Cajucom started a career in the US retail fashion industry.

She eventually became the head of creatives and marketing for American Apparel, a clothing manufacturer that did its own design, production, marketing and retail. Ms. Cajucom said that the experience she gained with American Apparel, which included product design, marketing, and even modelling, helped prepare her for a business model presented by her cousin, Georgina Wilson.

At the time, Georgina was one of the owners of Charlie Apparel, a local Philippine fashion brand. Since sunglasses were their top sellers, the owners decided to spin off a new product line called Sunnies by Charlie, focused exclusively on fashionable eyewear. Impressed by Ms. Cajucom’s creative style, international perspective and extensive fashion experience, they invited her to join the new venture as creative director and part owner.

Ms. Cajucom envisioned Sunnies as a relaxed and affordable brand that would resonate with the young and trendy. She handles all the creative aspects of the brand, from product design to conceptualizing and creating their marketing campaigns, down to the planning and design of the actual kiosks and displays. With her experience in the US market and her own knowledge of the power of social media, Ms. Cajucom crafted campaigns to build brand awareness and excitement online even before the company launched their products.

Sunnies opened its first kiosk at the SM Mall of Asia in October 2013.

“It was also the first moment that I considered myself an entrepreneur. My partners and I realized that we had a dynamic brand and product that resonated strongly with our customers,” Ms. Cajucom said.

According to her, keeping the brand relevant is one of the biggest challenges she faces as a creative director. “We need to keep the brand ‘cool’ and current, and to make sure that we are hitting the right demographic,” she said. “That’s why we always listen to our customers, especially on social media. We want to make sure that it’s always a dialogue. I think our attention to engagement is why Sunnies speaks so much to our customers.”

Moreover, Ms. Cajucom says that part of building a contemporary brand like Sunnies is finding the right people to share and sustain her vision. Since she herself has a very experimental style, she hires designers who are progressive or “fashion forward” in terms of style. “We provide a supportive and creative culture for our people. It’s very relaxed and informal. I’m very happy to be able to nurture other creative talents,” she added.

In the two years since Sunnies first launched, it has opened 30 outlets nationwide, 25 of which are kiosks.

She said the company deliberately chose to go the kiosk route to have more flexibility, since kiosks were easier to setup and relocate if necessary.

Although based in the Philippines, Sunnies is in partnership with online shopping site Zalora, which has a strong presence in Southeast Asia. This allows the business to retail products in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia online.

Looking ahead, Ms. Cajucom and her partners hope to expand globally to other Asian markets, as well as in the USA. They also plan to leverage on the Sunnies brand to launch new products, such as Sunnies Specs, their prescription eyewear line, and Sunnies Kitchen, which will be a style-centric café. Given these plans to expand their product lines beyond fashion, Ms. Cajucom and her partners relaunched their brand as Sunnies Studios in 2014.

Ms. Cajucom believes that Sunnies is an inspirational, as well as aspirational company. “I’ve seen how younger girls have changed the way they dress because of the things we post with Sunnies. I see the influence our brand has on fashion, art and photography locally,” she says.

For aspiring, young entrepreneurs, Ms. Cajucom’s has these words of advice: “Be prepared to really work. Be prepared to put in the hours and do the dirty jobs. Take risks and really believe in what you’re doing.”

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2015 has concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of co-presenters Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The official airline of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2015 is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, operating on behalf of the Air France-KLM Group in the Philippines. Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Banquet Sponsors are Alaska Milk Corp.; Bench; Bounty Fresh Food, Inc.; Fiori Di M; HSBC; Jollibee Foods Corp. and Universal Harvester, Inc. Winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2015 will be announced on Oct. 14 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2016.