I’ve always loved good stories. Whenever I hear one, it makes me want to share it to the world. I feel that good stories deserve to be told. And this is one such story.
Marky Apilan is a 26-year-old entrepreneur that has achieved great success despite all odds. He is also a good friend of mine. He started working as a sampaguita vendor in grade school, working his way up until high school. After high school, he immediately started working as a salesman at one of the biggest clothing brands here in Cdo City. Now he, together with his cousin, Johna Elgie are the proud owners of Haze Restobar. They have also just opened a fashion boutique at SM City Mall last August 28, 2015 – Blaze 28.
Marky Apilan – Blaze 28 Co-owner
Alex: Hi Marky! Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you. It’s not everyday I get to meet with a young and successful entrepreneur. You mentioned before that you started working while you were still in grade school. Can you expound on that?
Marky: You’re welcome Alex. It’s a pleasure to see you as well. Regarding that, I started my first real job right after high school, at the age of seventeen. But I actually started working when I was still in grade school, selling sampaguitas, so I would have allowance. I didn’t have a comfortable life growing up so I was taught at a young age, the value of hard work.
Alex: What were you like as a kid?
Marky: I’ve always been a dreamer. I love fairy tales. When I would do my chores, I would dream about my future life and what it would be like. We come from a modest family – we just had enough to get by. At the time I didn’t really believe my dreams could come true.
Alex: From sampaguitas to clothes. Quite a leap. What inspired you to put up a clothing line?
Marky: I’ve always been interested in fashion. When I was in high school I passed by this boutique that had beautiful clothes and shoes featured on the display window and it made me stop and look inside. I promised myself that someday, I would have something like this.
Alex: So after high school, why didn’t you proceed to college?
Marky: We didn’t have enough money for college so I had to start working right after high school. I worked as a salesman in a boutique here in Cdo. It was where I improved my skill in selling clothes and dealing with people.
Alex: How do you keep the clients coming back?
Marky: I build good relationships with them. I ask them about their life, their family, their hobbies. Every client is different. That’s why I’m very careful with what I say because words are something that you cant take back.
Alex: How was your experience as a salesman?
Marky: I enjoyed it. I’m not afraid to share my life with my clients, with other people, because I’m not ashamed of where I came from. I worked hard to be where I am today. I always think about what I can learn from what I’m doing. I was only able to graduate high school. I don’t have a diploma. One of the reasons why I worked so hard was because unlike others, they can easily resign and apply for another job. I don’t have that luxury. In a way, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have another opportunity like this. So I drew strength from that fear. That motivated me to do my job well.
If you love your job, your job will love you back.
Alex: What did you learn as an employee?
Marky: I learned that everything that you give out will come back to you full circle. That’s just how life is. So you just need to do your best and be patient. I never expected all the promotions I’ve been given before. The other managers where Ateneo graduates, Cum Laudes and had various awards. There were times when I would feel small compared to them. But in a way, this became my strength. Because I had no degree to rest on, I did my best with every opportunity that I was given. I wanted to prove to the company that they did the right thing in promoting me.
Alex: What are the values that you live by?
Marky: I believe in being true to myself. You should always be yourself. What people loved about you, maintain that. If you must change, change for the better. Continue being humble. Be genuine. Share who you truly are.
Alex: What values have your parents taught you?
Marky: My parents would always tell me to never step on anyone to succeed.
Alex: What is your compass? When making a decision, what do you look to as a guide?
Marky: My compass is Faith. There are times when I feel down, when I feel like nothing is going right. In times like this, it’s my faith in God that keeps me strong. I can hold on to His promise that this too shall pass.
There was a time in my life when I made this decision and I felt that everyone was against me. That was one of my lowest points. I only wanted to follow my dreams, to really do what I was passionate about. Was that so wrong? If someone gave you an opportunity to do that, wouldn’t you grab it?
Alex: Are you talking about your cousin Johna Elgie – your partner in Haze Restobar and Blaze 28?
Marky: Yes. I owe a lot to my cousin. She gave me the chance to go after my dreams. She’s really the one who offered to finance the business and have me as the industrial partner. At that time, I had a great job which I loved. But I was also ready to pursue other things, to take the next step, to find a new challenge.
Alex: So you wanted something more?
Marky:Yes. Something more…A bigger challenge.
Alex: Well as they say, if you wont go after your dreams. Someone will hire you to fulfill theirs. And it’s really fulfilling to run your own business.
Marky: Yes, the fulfillment is really different. It’s tiring but it’s worth it.
Alex: So how does your partnership with your cousin work?
Marky: I come up with the concept, with the ideas then I present it to her. Then she adds to it or comes up with other suggestions. Actually my cousin is very encouraging and supportive. She’s very open-minded and appreciative of my ideas. That’s what I like about her and it encourages me to come up with more ideas.
Alex: Who are your role models or people that you look up to?
Marky: I look up to my cousin – Johna Elgie. She also came from humble beginnings like me, but look where she is now. She owns and runs two real estate companies in Phoenix, Arizona. She also owns two home care centers and one skin care clinic. She was awarded as a top entrepreneur in Phoenix and she was on the cover of a Filipino-American magazine.
Alex: Is she married?
Marky: Yes, she actually got married to her boss and they had twins. Now they handle the business together. The business grew a lot when she started managing it. But despite her success she has remained humble.
Alex: I think that’s the true test of character – to remain humble despite your success. Because that’s hard to do. Success can go to your head if you allow it to and that will be the start of your downfall. It reminds me of the story of Job and how everything was taken away from him in an instant. So that can also happen to us. The Lord gives and the Lord can take away. That’s why it’s best to remain humble in all circumstances.
Alex: What is your main motivation to succeed?
Marky: God and my family are my main motivation and strength. Nothing is impossible with God – as long as you are willing to do your part. Hard work is also important.
Alex: Having a bible study group is very helpful too in making the right choices. Aside from prayer, having a Dgroup is a huge blessing. They help guide me in making the right choices.
Marky: I hope you invite me, I would like that too.
Alex: Sure, I’ll invite you to our Sunday service at CCF. We have a 9am, 11am and 5pm service.
Marky: I would love to go.
Alex: What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
Marky: Commitment and hard work are very important. Once you decide on something, you really need to work hard. Commit to seeing it through till the end. Finish what you started. You must also know your passion. Do what you love to do. Don’t engage in business for the money. Follow your passion.
Alex: Let’s talk about your boutique. What’s the concept behind Blaze 28?
Marky: My cousin and I wanted to have a clothing line that can cater to people from different segments from all walks of like – from teens, to moms, to lolas. We have basic wear for daily use, corporate chic for young professionals and glam for evening wear. We want our clothes to be fashionable yet comfortable.
Alex: What’s your price range?
Marky: For the blouses we have 400-800 php price range. And for the skirts, 500php and up.
Alex: What were your main challenges in starting Blaze 28?
Marky: Choosing the clothes was very challenging. I really chose the inventory personally with my cousin. The selection process took us months.
Alex: Why did you name your boutique Blaze?
Marky: I choose Blaze 28 because it’s easy to remember and catchy at the same time. It also stands for fire, passion. When you wear a Blaze outfit, you’ll be able to bring out the fire inside you and bring confidence in your life.
Alex: Thank you so much for your time Marky. Your story is indeed inspiring. I hope it will encourage other people to also go after their dreams, give it all they’ve got and trust God with the rest. I’m excited for the grand launch!
Marky: You’re welcome. Thank you for giving me the chance to share my story as well.
Marky Apilan & Alex Zeta (left to right)