If there's a word to describe these two ladies, it would be one borrowed from Mells Limcaoco—one half of The Unbranded Skincare Co.—herself: tenacious. In the bustle of managing their own separate households and being preoccupied with other endeavours, Mells and business partner Mia Bulatao set the first gears of The Unbranded Skincare Co. in motion over a year ago; now look how they've grown.
The Unbranded Skincare Co. was birthed out of a belief in the Skinimalism movement: that is, that skincare can and should be simple. These two ladies took this belief to heart and ran with it, which birthed their Overnight Cream, Day Shield and Cleansing Wash.
Off-business, Mia is someone who describes herself as having a mind that never rests. Though extremely driven and always on, Mia doesn't skimp on setting dates with herself for some relaxing spa treatments, shopping, and good food. Mia makes sure she doesn't take herself too seriously—the secret to juggling everything on her plate at the moment. Mells, on the other hand, emphasizes that family is at the center and core of everything.
Know more about the power duo behind one of our favorite skincare brands below.
The Unbranded Skincare Co. was birthed out of minimalist skincare or what the duo promptly calls Skinimalism
Tell us a bit about your entrepreneurship journey.
MIA: "I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I just never had the courage and kind of time required to do it full-time. And maybe also because I've always enjoyed my work, which I was not ready to give up. Besides, I never felt being an employee was anything less than being a business owner because I never saw or treated it that way - I have always had an owner's mindset and handled my job as if I owned the money invested in it.
However, I guess things just aligned for me last year. I slowly relinquished management of some of our key business units to very able individuals, and in the process gained much more time for other things. The remote work arrangement also allowed me to manage many different schedules more effectively. These things coupled with some realization that I may need to prepare for an eventual retirement earlier than expected made me consider setting up my own business more seriously.
So when this idea for skinimalism came about in one impromptu zoom-socials with ex-colleagues, I thought, why not? The timing seemed right. I initially thought I was just going to invest in it and dabble in it every so often, but I soon became so involved and actually found myself enjoying it! It was a new experience for me, for all of us because none of us (partners) knew anything about skincare!
Anyway, after almost a year of product testing, we were happy with the final formulation and have market tested each and every product. We took our testers’ feedback seriously and tweaked the products some more until we were sure we were ready to market. That’s when I thought about Mikka of Seek The Uniq, I sent her our company and product profile - she loved our concept of Skinimalism and introduced us to Vanessa, STU’s beauty curator, we sent them our samples and that was it. The road to legitimacy! I actually remember when STU approved our products and agreed to carry us on their site - I was driving home then and I slowed down to scream! Then yes, somewhat cried! Hahaha! I actually have a posterity shot I took of myself at that exact moment. The entire TUSC team was ecstatic and I asked everyone to send me their photos that time to remind us all later where we were when this started.
We are forever grateful to Mikka and Van, who trusted us and gave us a shot. They helped set us on our feet, so to speak."
MELLS: "It started when I was in high school. My parents did not give us kids any allowance. I’m a snacker but couldn’t afford to buy snacks in school, so out of desperation, I started printing shirts and sold them in school. I earned so much that it made me realize the earning potential of a good business; hence the lure of entrepreneurship.
My luckiest break as an entrepreneur was when I set up a tech company as a content provider back in the late '90s. We started with four people then it eventually grew to 100 plus people before Globe Telecoms bought it."
Mia Bulatao fully embraced her entrepreneurial streak which gave birth to their skincare company after a full year of testing
Have you always been entrepreneurial? How did you grow into your entrepreneurial role?
MIA: "I think I mentioned this above already! Haha. Sorry."
MELLS: " My mother was my cheerleader. She made me believe that I could do anything. She made me fearless."
Favorite book/s that inspired or motivated you in your journey?
MIA: "To entrepreneurship? None, really. There was no special impetus or anything like that. It’s something I’ve always had in me. Driven to always try and do something new. I like creating, developing stuff."
MELLS: "Jobs to Be Done: Theory to Practice by Anthony W. Ulwick"
What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?
MIA: "Flat white when I’m out. At home, I like Kimbo espresso using a moka pot."
MELLS: "Black coffee without sugar."
Mells Limcaoco cites her mother as her biggest cheerleader and inspiration for pushing her way forward as an entrepreneur
Share one instant when you felt like giving up and how you got over it.
MIA: "Oh, I always feel that. I acknowledge those times and wait it out. It’s a cycle I’m sure all of us go through every so often. Like I said, I bring my own sunshine with me. And when it becomes too much, I always talk to my husband. He always knows what to say. How to talk to me. He’s wise that way and supports all my craziness."
MELLS: "When I applied for a store space at one of the most popular malls. I got rejected but I applied again and this time really worked on my song and dance. They eventually awarded me the space."
Virtual meetings: yay or nay?
MIA: "It doesn’t matter. As long as the agenda is clear, and everyone is truly present and focused, it’s all the same to me. Although, when you’re on a virtual meeting, I think it’s polite to make sure your camera is on and you present yourself well -- assuming of course, your bandwidth can handle it."
MELLS: "Super yay."
What does your typical work day look like?
MIA: "Typically starts off with clearing my slack messages that may have come in while I was dead to the world. Then off to different business updates and external meetings. Replying to calls and emails. But first and foremost is when we have employees that seek airtime or would like to “talk.” I give that a great deal of importance. It’s important especially now when they can’t just peek in and ask for a quick five minutes, yes?
It’s quite hard to describe a typical work day bec there really is no “work day” with me. Work is actually part of my regular day."
MELLS: "Run, work, work. eat, work, chillax."
What does rest look like for you? What do you love doing outside of work?
MIA: "I try to keep fit. It’s harder now with exercise studios closed but I practice yoga at least 2-3 times a week. I used to dive and surf, too, but eventually grew tired of it. I cook for my family, but mostly on weekends. When the mood strikes us, we play board games, watch movies, or simply hang-out and chat at night. We snack. We snack a lot!
I go on regular me-times. I go to the salon and read while getting pampered. I also enjoy shopping and afternoon tea - sometimes with my daughter. These activities are very therapeutic."
MELLS: "I love to run, dance, and Zoom with my daughters."
If there's one word we can associate with these two women, it would be this: tenacity
How do you maintain work-life balance?
MIA: "I espouse what I’d like to call work-life integration. It’s not something you consciously think about, unlike if you were to ensure work-life balance, so it’s less stressful. I have a seamless flow of work and personal activities and it’s worked very well for me so far. It’s less stressful, and I believe, makes for more productive days."
MELLS: "I was fortunate to get great help from my household staff who have been with us for over 20 years and a very supportive and loving husband."
Were there any challenges you faced along the way as a woman in business?
MIA: "Funny how I’ve been invited to many women empowerment talks lately. I actually don’t like it very much. But then, I probably just express my feministic views differently than most. You see, success in work or business does not and should not be about gender. In fact,I find it somewhat belittling for us women to be celebrated for our successes because we are women? Do we ask the same question with men? What does that mean, really? Was it truly unexpected to begin with? Do people think we are less capable of success in business?
To answer the question though, my answer is no. Nothing that a man would probably not have encountered should they have been in my position. Well, perhaps the occasional lifting of truly heavy stuff that requires bigger muscles."
MELLS: "I was fearless then so I just 'rammed' my way through."
Name three women you look up to that inspire you in business.
MIA: "I have 3 women I look up to that inspire me. Not necessarily in business, but in life, which is more important as that’s what you uniquely bring to the boardroom, anyway.
My mom, the most hard-working, persevering, courageous, devil-may-care person I know. She taught me to work hard but to live as hard. That to be happy and successful, you need not compromise your work or personal life. Nobody said you can’t have and want both with the same intensity.
My mother-in-law. From her I learned to appreciate the importance of hope, of giving back, of doing your share for our country. No matter what the state of our political system is, if none of us do anything, it won’t ever get better. So I show up and do my share.
My Yaya Gina. The value of selflessness. She puts our needs before hers. She makes sure our household runs well so I have one less thing to worry about. She is the COO of my household, and from her, I learned to not be a burden to others but instead, know what I’m capable of and having the confidence and generosity to share it.
These are three women who have inspired me in different ways."
MELLS: "Mom, mom, and mom."
The duo believes that skincare can and should be as easy as one, two, three
Three favorite Instagram accounts you follow (doesn’t have to be business-related)
MIA: "My husband’s, my son’s, and my daughter’s."
MELLS: "IG of my daughters: @dblimcaoco and @mik_mill."
What’s on your playlist?
MIA: "Mostly jazz, soul, musicals. And Beatles and U2. :)"
MELLS: "Broadway, '80s and '90s music, and BTS."
What one piece of advice would you give any aspiring female business leaders reading this?
MIA: "That it’s never about your gender. It’s about your dedication, purpose, and most importantly, it’s about having fun."
MELLS: "Tenacity counts for a lot."
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