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‘Mompreneur’ Monica San Gabriel on making smart decisions and choices in life

In an interview with BusinessWorld, Bag Tag Inc. President, Founder and Product Developer Monica San Gabriel was asked how she’s been handling stress given all the tasks on her shoulders. “Count one to 10,” she replied in jest. After a short pause, she blithely added: “I just drink, because if you keep complaining, it will attract negativity.”

From the way she answers a serious question and turns each conversation in a very casual tone, one can already figure out how Ms. San Gabriel is taking life lightheartedly. For whatever roles she plays — from taking good care of her family to managing a bag tag empire — this ‘mompreneur’ manages to enjoy what life has to offer by coming up with smart decisions and choices.

It was in 2001 when Ms. San Gabriel, together with her husband, started a luggage label empire. They merely started selling PVC bag tags in bazaars until a local airport offered them some retail space, which paved the way for shopping giants to notice their humble business.

For Ms. San Gabriel, venturing into a bag tag business is a smart choice since it caters to a broad spectrum of market. “We really saw its potential since everybody has a bag that you have to mark as yours. So, it’s not just for traveling, it’s also for school, work or gym,” she said.

At present, Bag Tag has nine stores located in shopping malls across Metro Manila, including SM Megamall where it has two branches. Its product offerings expanded to embroidered and leather bag tags, urban straps, luggage wraps and traveling accessories, among others.

According to Ms. San Gabriel, the success of Bag Tag has helped them fund their children’s education and meet some of the expenses of the family at home.

Ms. San Gabriel actually comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her family has been involved in different ventures including dermcare, hair care, and F&B. In fact, she considered her interest in running a business as something she acquired from her dad.

“My dad molded us to be an entrepreneur. So he started with restaurants, and then he got into skin care and hair care. From there, he taught us lot of things in business,” she said. “Up to now, we consult him for business decisions or plans.”

Even her sympathetic approach in leadership, particularly in managing a team of 20 people scattered all across production, marketing and sales, is something she obtained from her dad.

“I don’t get mad. Si daddy kasi malumanay lang (My dad is soft-spoken),” she said. “Positive vibes only, chill. I don’t allow myself to be stressed.”

Aside from Ms. San Gabriel’s carefree demeanor, what’s fascinating about her is how she attains work-life balance in the form of pastimes that enrich her and keep her fulfilled.

Reading and drinking alcoholic beverages are some of her guilty pleasures, as she shared. She even professed to having a 25-book target by year’s end. When she’s not out drinking with her friends, on the other hand, she just stays on her balcony and enjoys a bottle or two at night – a moment that she considers as her “me time.”

Despite juggling tasks between being an entrepreneur and a mom-of-three, Ms. San Gabriel is still able to take leisure seriously. She still finds her way to simply sit back and watch her favorite shows on Netflix and HBO, as well as share time with her family over dinner. From time to time, she also joins her husband in biking around the country. And just recently, she took the responsibility of being a judge secretary in the girl’s gymnastics division in the recent Southeast Asian Games, an obvious consideration given her experience judging meets in the past.

Considering all the duties and responsibilities that her roles demand, it is truly essential for Ms. San Gabriel to take good care of her wellbeing by embracing some lifestyle shifts that allows her the habitual pleasure she craves with less of the harm it usually brings. Her choice to adopt a smoke-free nicotine alternative, coupled with the way she gave priority to herself first, brought her closer to the proper mindset needed to face the duties her roles demand and to pursue interests that let her live her life to the fullest.

“I switched to IQOS in 2017. My friend introduced me to this heated tobacco alternative. When I went to Japan, I bought three right away-one for me, one for my brother, and one for my friend. I’ve been smoking since college and I’ve only ever quit when I’m pregnant.”

Three years later and she still feels grateful for switching to IQOS. “I no longer get smoker’s cough in the morning. There’s no more phlegm, no more smell. When I wake up I no longer feel like I have to catch my breath.”

When asked for advice to smokers, she has this to say: “Cold turkey, for me, is still the best play. It worked with my brothers as they have successfully curbed their smoking habit. But for those who can’t quit like me, it’s nice that we have less harmful alternatives available.”

Monica San Gabriel is part of a new breed of women who defy preconceived notions of who a mother or a lady boss should be. But don’t get it wrong, Monica still goes to work during the day, she makes it a point to gather her family for dinner at night, and once a month, she takes them out on trips. It’s just the way she keeps her social life buzzing, her interests nurtured, and her physical endeavors actively pursued that, all in all, makes her distinctly inspiring.