Breaking through in beauty

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 has concluded its search for the country’s most undaunted and unstoppable entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters the Asian Institute of Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. BusinessWorld will feature each finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 in the next few weeks.

Jacqueline “Jacqe” GutierrezCo-founder and Chief Executive OfficerBeauty Refinery, Inc.

JACQUELINE “JACQE” GUTIERREZ thought she was destined to be a corporate employee. Now, she sees that corporate experience gave her invaluable insights that helped her as the co-founder and chief executive officer of BLK Cosmetics.

Ms. Gutierrez first worked as a management trainee in a global consumer goods company before moving to a permanent position in marketing. She eventually became the head of the company’s skincare division, handling several internationally renowned brands.

With an entrepreneur mother and corporate businessman father, she always imagined her life to be like her father’s — until she got married in 2012. She was based in Singapore while her husband was assigned to Myanmar, which meant the newlyweds would only see each other for a week out of every month.

The challenging work schedules led to her decision to start her own business, with her husband’s support. Her friend and eventual business partner, Erickson Farillas, who owned Plains and Prints and Ramen Nagi, also supported her, leading to her first full-time business: Happy Skin.

Ms. Gutierrez initially conceptualized Happy Skin as a premium Philippine cosmetic brand whose products also had skincare benefits. After four years, however, she realized that Happy Skin’s price point made it inaccessible to many Filipinos.

It was during this time that she met actress Anne Curtis. Ms. Curtis wanted to launch her own brand, and Ms. Gutierrez shared her goal of creating a wide-reaching and more accessible makeup brand. Together, they created BLK Cosmetics under Beauty Refinery, Inc. in 2017.

Ms. Gutierrez knew BLK must be available in Watsons to tap a broader market. She made sure that once Ms. Curtis officially announced BLK, the products were already available in 20 Watsons branches nationwide.

“Expansion was the name of the game. Next to having the right product at the right price. Distribution was key,” she said.

Her industry knowledge, Ms. Curtis’ high-level celebrity status, and the company’s operational strength paid off. In less than a year, BLK was awarded the Most Promising Brand in Watsons, among many others.

The company faced challenges, such as building a brand from scratch and convincing Filipinos to patronize a local cosmetic brand over international names.

BLK did this by purposefully communicating its quality and versatility through pioneering multi-use products such as tints that can be used for the eyes, cheeks, and lips; giving customers more value for money; and opportunities to apply makeup more creatively.

Then the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic hit. Despite having zero sales, Ms. Gutierrez insisted on launching new products as innovation is necessary to maintain consumer interest. She acknowledged the risk involved in launching new products amid the pandemic and had to make contingency plans.

BLK was the first brand to launch a new collection in April 2020, with an emotional campaign about the importance of feeling good while looking good. Avoiding talk about the pandemic, BLK focused instead on the importance of self-care and self-love.

The company’s collection was number one in sales in an online shopping platform during that month. BLK continued introducing products and remained a top seller in the two biggest online selling platforms even as stores reopened. While growing its online business, Ms. Gutierrez resumed making plans with Watsons in anticipation of post-pandemic recovery.

Ms. Gutierrez noted many customers and friends told her how using BLK cosmetics helped lift their mood during the pandemic. People still needed and wanted to feel beautiful even if they were just at home. She takes immense pride in how BLK products offered customers these moments of joy.

BLK partnered with nonprofit organization 1% for the Planet, particularly to support Waves for Water, which provides clean water through filter installations in underserved communities. BLK products are also recyclable, and offers lipstick refills to reduce waste.

Also, the company firmly believes in diversity and inclusivity, launching a unisex cosmetics line called BLK Universal. “Half of our users are men,” Ms. Gutierrez said.

Today, BLK is present in 13 boutiques and over 80 Watsons stores nationwide. BLK is consistently in the top five for cosmetics brands on the two biggest online platforms, and is ranked the 7th biggest brand in the cosmetics division for Watsons Beauty.

For her entrepreneurial vision, Ms. Gutierrez received the PCCI Injap Sia Young Entrepreneur Award in 2020, the Asia CEO Excellence Awards Circle of Excellence Young Leader of the Year in 2018, and the 12th Mansmith Young Market Masters Award for Entrepreneurial Marketing in 2017.

When asked about the future, Ms. Gutierrez said she wants to continue developing the makeup industry and expanding globally.

“BLK is already present in China,” she said. “We also have resellers all over the world — UK, Australia, and the US. Now that the pandemic is more under control, we’re already moving forward with plans to enter the online retail space in various Asian countries.”

Ms. Gutierrez is confident in the potential of the local cosmetics market. A homegrown brand like BLK that is competing successfully against international names creates value in the industry and proves the quality, ingenuity, and appeal of Filipino products, she added.

“The more people who enter the space with their own brands, the more customers we all reach,” she said. “If it’s a local brand, the more the merrier.”

Given BLK’s continuing growth despite market challenges, it’s clear that there’s nowhere to go but up for Filipino makeup.

The media sponsors of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Gold Sponsors are SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., Uratex, and Navegar. Silver Sponsors are Intellicare, OneWorld Alliance Logistics Corp., and Regan Industrial Sales, Inc. Banquet Sponsors are Uratex and MerryMart Consumer Corp.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 will be announced on Nov. 21 in an awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).

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