For Denice Sy, Ever Bilena Cosmetics’ Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, a life outside work is almost nil. On days when she is not needed in the office, she visits stores (sometimes with her son) or talks to outlet partners about possible new products, apart from spending time with family and friends. Some call her a “workaholic,” but for Denice, it’s simply about work-life integration. Intrigued? Read on.
She started working for the company in 2014, immediately after graduating from the University of California-Berkeley. “I was enjoying my chill life in the U.S. But my Dad asked [me] to come home and help out in the business,” she said.
Her father Dioceldo Sy started the company in 1983. Not having enough money for a college education, he started selling nail polish and immediately faced rejection from major stores. He brought his nail polish to smaller stores and independent outlets in Divisoria. Over time, his product gained momentum and enough resources to develop his own lipsticks and other cosmetic products. Ever Bilena Cosmetics posted an annual growth of 200% by 1985 and eventually bloomed into a full cosmetic line with over 1,000 products in the market. The company has also branched out into commercial ventures in food, health drinks, fragrances soap, and detergents.
Some call her a “workaholic,” but for Denice, it’s simply about work-life integration.
Denice initially worked as a Key Accounts Supervisor. Her first assignment was to check on all the products in convenience stores. As she got more involved in the business, she was given more responsibilities. “Maybe I did a decent job because they made me handle the major accounts,” she joked. Eventually, she was involved in product development, retail, sales and marketing, and direct selling.
She is quick to emphasize that her climb was no easy task. In her first month on the job, she had to commute, just like any other supervisor in the company. “It was fine with me. I did not want the others to think that I was getting special treatment. But when my father realized that it might not be safe, he gave me a car and a driver,” she said.
Now a wife and mother, Denice admits that her activities revolve around Ever Bilena Cosmetics. Apart from the day-to-day operations, she is constantly developing opportunities for growth. “I know that I was born into privilege and I didn’t have to work when I was young. My Dad had to work very hard to slowly build the company. So I remind myself that my Dad is able to do things with limited resources during his time and if I can now do research with enough resources, I should be able to grow Ever Bilena [Cosmetics] more,” she said.
What amazes Denice about her work is the opportunity to come face-to-face with industry movers at the negotiation table. “I guess they appreciate that I work very hard because I am able to negotiate well,” she joked.
Her overwhelming enthusiasm for the exciting developments in the beauty industry has led her to always think beyond the box, even in the midst of the pandemic. As most businesses were trying to survive, Denice believed that it was also a good time to unveil new products to help augment product sales.
“My biggest market [is composed of] the employees who wear make-up every day. Because of the pandemic, so many are unemployed or they wear masks, so they are not using makeup. There was a huge decline in consumer sales because of the lack of demand,” she shared.
During her store visits, Denice noticed the growing popularity of Korean beauty products (also known as K-beauty products) in supermarkets. So, from being a company that manufactures make-up, Ever Bilena Cosmetics decided to shift to skincare.
Hello Glow is the company’s answer to popular skin sets that promise glowing healthy skin. “We noticed that some popular products in the market are using ingredients that are not safe for the skin. Hello Glow is made from all-natural ingredients. We also made sure that it looks cute, something they would enjoy using, so they can have glowing, glass skin without pain,” Denice said.
Hello Glow started with one skin set, composed of Whitening Soap, Clarifying Toner, Sunscreen, and Whitening Cream. Initially distributed by the company’s direct sellers, it is now available in Shopee and Lazada. “We started with one set. The expansion was not planned, but it started growing; so now, we have over 30 products,” she added.
Another product line that was launched during the pandemic was Ever Organics. Its product conception was a result of her close relationship with retail partners. During her store visits, she learned that there was an opportunity for K-Beauty products. According to her, “the market is not so competitive because options are limited. At that time, brands were pulling out because of the pandemic, and so there was much store space for new products.”
She was also advised by her partners to consider developing a skincare line. It must include a sheet mask, which is very popular in Korea. “The product needs to be cute [and] cheap, but [has] very good quality,” she shared.
Ever Organics started with sheet masks and soothing gel. “In the past, there was no such thing as a soothing gel. Maybe you use it when your skin gets irritated from too much sun. But now, the soothing gel is used as a moisturizer, lotion, and even a hair mask,” Denice said.
The brand started with three variants of soothing gel and six sheet masks when it was launched in April 2021. Now, the brand now has 10 kinds of sheet masks and six variants for the soothing gel. “I think the initiatives of having two skincare brands during the pandemic really helped us augment our revenue for the declining interest for color cosmetics,” she mused.
While some might label her passion for work as being a “workaholic,” for Denice, it’s all about integrating her work with everything that requires her attention. “I am lucky I am able to involve my son at work. He also goes with me to the office and when I do fieldwork. He goes with me when I go to the supermarket and I teach him how to merchandise,” she shared.
The work-from-home arrangement, which started during the pandemic, also taught busy mothers the advantages of work integration. “I think there is no such thing as work-life balance anymore. We are on the phone all the time and everything is on the internet. Virtually, everything is integrated. You can be having breakfast and having a Zoom meeting, or I can be giving my son a bath and then in five minutes, I can take a call. It’s all integrated,” she said.
Denice remains optimistic about the country’s business climate and looks forward to the entry of new brands. “It’s good to have new brands because It creates interest for the industry. If there is a new brand, then people will start talking [and] you become a relevant part of the conversation.”
“I am lucky I am able to involve my son at work. He also goes with me to the office and when I do fieldwork. He goes with me when I go to the supermarket and I teach him how to merchandise."
When asked about her advice to entrepreneurs, she has this to say: Know everything about your target audience in order to stay relevant. “You need to develop a story that is relevant to your target audience. It is as basic as a sales funnel. When you launch a product, you need to know what problem you are trying to solve.”