Her Lips Unsealed: Rissa Mananquil-Trillo Talks About Beauty and Business
In your transition from super-model to beauty business maven, did you find the shift challenging?
When I graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 2001 with a BS Management degree, I got into modelling. Although I got offers from different companies in the corporate world, you can say it was a business decision to choose to model because I knew I could earn much more than I would from a nine-to-five job, and I would still have the extra time to pursue other passions.
Growing up, I always had an entrepreneurial streak. The first thing I ever sold was hand-woven friendship bracelets. I was eight years old and it was all the rage back then. I would use my school allowance to buy different colors of embroidery thread and weave them into bracelets. I sold them for P5.00 each. As a teenager, I would set up a stall every summer to sell food to the nearby offices and townhouses since there were no refreshments to buy nearby. I would go through our refrigerator and sell chocolates and juice. I also loved to read and write. Every time we would be at the mall, I would ask to go to the bookstore so I could get a new book. All the books I read inspired me to write. I wanted to share this love for reading, so I wrote my own short stories, poems, comics, and even created my own mock-up newspaper to sell to family and neighbors.
I realised I was entrepreneurial—I was not afraid to create things from scratch, find a solution, and make the most out of opportunities. My innate interest in business was further developed when I took up BS Management at the Ateneo de Manila University and even post-graduate courses on Strategic Brand Management and Marketing Distribution Management at the Asian Institute of Management. Because of my work as a model and beauty columnist, the beauty industry has always been part of my life, so it was natural for me to start a beauty business.
With the help of my parents, I grew up knowing that with a lot of hard work and the right values, I can become whoever I set my mind to be. That's why even if the entrepreneurial landscape was and still is mostly dominated by men, I never thought twice about becoming a female entrepreneur. I celebrate and honor other women who have also chosen this path because the more women leaders there are in different industries, the more the younger generation of women can see that there is no limit what they can do because they see women who have come before them actually paving the way.
What inspired you to share your journey through a book?
To be very honest, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would someday write my own book. But when Xandra Ramos-Padilla, the managing director of National Book Store and the granddaughter of its founder, Socorro Ramos, suggested to Summit Books that they publish their first female business book with me, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing. Books allowed me to dream, travel, escape, and explore, and they had the ability to touch my life in a way no other medium could.
Some assume that my entrepreneurial journey is one of ease and luck, but I really had to learn, sacrifice, and endure a lot—and if this book can, in any way, help a budding entrepreneur learn from my mistakes to make their own journey even more fruitful, then I would consider it a huge privilege to have been able to help them out.
How did you go about writing it?
Writing a book was harder than I thought. I suppose it’s because books carry a permanence and I wanted what I wrote and how the book looked to stand the test of time. I found that it was much easier for me to write after midnight when the kids were asleep, and when I had done what I needed to do for Happy Skin and for my Executive MBA, which I was pursuing at the same time I was writing the book.
I would only write at night after leaving the Happy Skin office, after my EMBA class, or during the weekends. I would go to the AIM library to write and my husband, Paolo, would fetch me even when I would finish early in the morning.Toward the end of the writing process, when it was crunch time because we needed to meet hard deadlines, my husband, Paolo, would actually check me in a boutique hotel on weekends so I could finish writing without any distractions.
It also helped me to constantly consult with my book’s editorial team about the direction and tone of each chapter, and how the written content would tie in with the visuals and the art. It was crucial for me to receive feedback for anything I wrote right away because I wanted whoever was reading the book to really have substantial takeaways from it.
In Read My Lips, you share about the challenges you overcame in building a business. What were some challenges you faced while creating your book?
What a lot of people do not know is aside from juggling writing this book while finishing my Executive MBA degree, this book was actually my thesis. When one of my professors found out I received an offer to write a book, he suggested making the book my capstone (thesis). It has never been done in AIM’s history.
I never told the book team and publisher that the book was also my thesis because I didn’t want it to influence anything they needed to make the book a success on their end. I only told them on the day the entire book was ready to be printed.
Aside from the pressure of knowing that words in a book carry a kind of permanence, it was a challenge gathering some of the country’s biggest names in business and beauty to share their own insights on leadership, strategy, and life. There was no plan B and thankfully everyone in my list gave their yes and in the end, everyone we wanted to be involved in the book became a part of it!
If you had to pick, which chapter or section is your favorite?
This is always a difficult question to answer because it feels like I’m choosing who among my children is my favourite. Every chapter carries its own unique story, but I would say chapter 3, “The Untold Truths of Being an Entrepreneur,” was one of the hardest to write in the business section of the book. It really made me revisit why I was doing everything I am doing.
What message do you hope to impart to your readers?
More than ever, it’s been easier to start a business. Social media and the internet are democratisers that have empowered us all to be potential entrepreneurs. Today's generation has the power to create products they are passionate about and put them out in the world. Go for it while you're young! But don't start a business thinking about how it can make you more money. The better mindset is to think of how your business makes people's lives better. Money is a measure of success in business but not a measure of success in life. Success to me isn’t about being fulfilled because of numbers, but about making an impact and changing lives of people.
Every story you see as successful comes with a lot of mistakes and trials. Don’t feel pressured to have everything together or to get things right immediately—no one does. Learn from other people’s journeys, but don’t be afraid to pave the path for your own, too.
Happy Skin proudly helps all kinds of women feel beautiful. What would you like to tell women for when they feel pressured by the social standards of beauty?
Don’t be afraid to be different. Be more afraid of being the same as everybody else. You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.
Read My Lips: What It Takes to Build a World-Class Homegrown Brand is available in bookstores nationwide.