It’s a holiday most people preferred to spend at home, to recharge themselves for the remainder of the work week, yet a particular house in a posh village in Makati has been abuzz for hours now to celebrate the launch of the latest addition to cult brand Sunnies Studios. The day’s afternoon saw editors and reporters milling around to learn more about the prescription eyewear line and to pick the brains of the brand’s owners, while the evening bore witness to the influx of the metro’s coolest personalities from entertainment, fashion, music, sports, and more, to literally party in celebration of Sunnies Specs.
[related: In Focus: Specs Never Looked This Cool—8 Images that Will Make You Want to Wear A Pair]
It was the place to be—and be seen, much like how Sunnies Studios crew Georgina Wilson, Eric Dee, Bea Soriano-Dee, and Martine Cajucom are the people you’d like to be seen with. Good-looking, stylish, well-bred, and well-traveled, theirs are lives many would like to lead—#goals, #dreamlife, #peg, their posts have been hashtagged those and their other permutations time and again. But if there’s one thing truly amazing about them, it’s definitely not their always on point OOTDs; not their lust-worthy travels; not the influence they wield. It is, hands down, how they took their business idea to phenomenal heights a.k.a the retail powerhouse that Sunnies Studios is today.
Newsflash: These 'it' girls and boys do legit work.
Any entrepreneur would know that making it big doesn’t come easy—Eric, Bea, Martine, Georgina, and Sunnies Studios may have to-die-for Instagram feeds, but behind the perfection we see lie the foundation they built with their passion for innovation and hard work. “Do you guys just take selfies? Do you guys just travel? One time I got asked if ‘No, what really is your company? What do you do?’ Cause you’re always abroad also and you travel. That’s the misconception, that we’re always out of the country, cause that’s what we post,” shares Bea.
Newsflash: Here’s what it’s really like to run their blockbuster hit of a business. Be inspired by their stories of success both in business and in their personal lives—been wanting to ask them “How to be you?” We did it for you.
Georgina Wilson, Marketing Director
How to be you? “Multi-task, wear a thousand hats, be a thousand things, have fun at all of them and do it at the best of yourself.”
On having “perfect lives”: “I think, obviously, with the perception of a perfect life there comes a lot of hard work. Like life is only perfect when you work hard; it’s like a given, too, if it’s not. Everybody seems like they have a perfect life it’s because we’ve worked hard for it. I think, that’s the most important thing we could really focus on. Because a lot of people could focus on glamorous life but I think it’s really time to switch that around. We could focus on why is it the way it is.”
On how they catapulted their business to great heights: “I’m very hands on as my partners are. We have a certain vision of what we want our brand to be, our life to be. Anything with Sunnies, we create it because we love it personally, so that’s why it’s this: We love this look, we love that font, we love this music, we love this tune. I think the millenials are all about the creative lifestyle. So Sunnies is like a demonstration of them.”
On what she loves most about working with her friends: “We all get each other. They understand me so well, not just like a business partner but as friends. And I respect their talents so much. All of them are so good at what they do. I think the reason why Sunnies is successful, the reason why Sunnies Specs is successful is because we really bounce off each other’s strengths and we could really get the best of everybody’s strengths.”
On working with her close friends: “It would be easier if it’s just a business partner to say things straight up, if they’re your friends, it's challenging. Like you don’t want to offend them, you want to respect them, there’s a lot of sensitivity. But we’ve been partners for four years, we know how to deal with each other.”
On her work process: “Everytime I’m in the office I feel like I’m on a treadmill—like squatting up task after task after task. So I guess that’s what it feels like.”
A day in Georgina’s life: “I wake up, go to the gym then I go to like a steamer or sauna. Then I go home, I speak to my executive assistant. We go through everything, what’s gonna happen, what are we doing, what needs to be attended to and I go to the office and I’m there until about 6-7PM. Then I come home, have dinner with my sister and Martine and whoever and then get a massage and sleep. It’s pretty boring but I like it. I don’t really go to so many events at night like I get so very sleepy. I’m so exhausted after the office. If I have a shoot, I’m obviously still working via email.”
On what she loves about her role: “I like being able to execute. I do like marketing and branding. I just love bouncing off each ideas and I love that we have the freedom to do anything.”
Heart or head? “Head. Definitely intuition. Always intuition.”
On handling stress: “Getting better at it. Working out is pretty good. I meditate, I do yoga. That’s just a great way to handle stress. The best way to handle stress is to have different exercise routines.”
Eric Dee, Finance Director
How to be you? “I enjoy life. I love traveling, I love experiencing the world. At the end of the day, you have to work hard in what you can do. You cannot experience the good life without putting in the work. So work hard, play hard.”
On their "perfect lives": “Well you know what, a lot of people might think and perceive us the way we establish ourselves on social media but behind all those is very hard work. We can’t go randomly from having a single store to now 40 to 45 stores in less than three years without hard work. We’re just lucky to have the four of us helping out each other and all of our strengths they’re different from each other that’s why we’ve created this company and it’s branded as very aggressive and advanced.”
On what he loves most about his role: “I love numbers. I love finance. I grew up in a family of businessmen. So it’s something very natural to me and innate. And everyday, I am excited to go to the office and you know just see the growth of the company and moving in rapidly in the past years. And we’re just so thankful and lucky that our audience understood and appreciated what we’ve gone through.”
On success secrets and gratitude: “First, we get along. I think we respect each other’s departments, you know the trust factor is there. And that’s why we’re very fast in decision making. It’s because one partner is making that decision. For example for money, operations, it’s me and Bea. Seeing it all now, like the first opening was the scariest, the riskiest, when it comes to opening a business. I remember us being there for three hours, getting just one hour of sleep, just to launch a branch. I think looking back and seeing all the efforts that we put throughout the years, I think it’s something that makes us appreciate what we have achieved.”
On working with his friends and his wife: “A lot of people tell me there are challenges. But I think, once you see how the company grew from just hanging as friends and working on something as big as what it is right now. You feel so fortunate. You wouldn’t want it any other way, but to have it with your friends.”
On being the thorn among the roses: “I learn a lot from them. I learn from their view. It’s exciting because you know, I will always have my guy friends play ball when hanging out with. But to learn other assets and facets of life because of having partners, women partners is truly amazing.”
The team's efforts have also resulted in awards.
On the best lesson from the girls: “I guess a lot of style. I think my style evolution has changed due to these girls. Everything has to be on point all the time, right?”
On the pressure to look good: “Seeing them looking good all the time drives you to try your best. We love traveling together not as a company but as friends. When we travel we don’t even talk about business.”
On his work process: “I think among the four of us, I am the most OC. I just want to run a tight company, by tight, we’re a growing company, we are a startup but we have to manage our finances really well. We make sure that anything that we are doing, anything that we are investing on will give us the right returns.”
On risk-taking: “Like I say, it’s always a calculated risk. We decide as a group. We all pitch our concepts, we all think about it and try to figure out the gap in the market, for example like Specs. We travel all over the world, we see how simple it is to get eyeglasses. When I got my pair, locally, it was so difficult. It took me 45 minutes. I did not know the lens I was paying for, the frame I was paying for. It was a necessity, I needed to get a glasses. I told them you know what, there’s something here. Besides consumers asking us for eyewear, I think there’s something we can improve. I think it’s more of improving the lifestyle of our consumers. A normal transaction when it comes to optical before would be 45 mins to an hour. We can do that in 15 minutes. So I think we’re not just helping the industry but we’re helping our consumers as well.”
Bea Soriano-Dee, Operations Director
How to be you? “Really just, basically, work, family and friends I love. So just prioritize the best thing in life and it will all work out.”
On balancing mothering a son and mothering a startup: “When it comes to everything, except family, work comes first. We make sure when we travel, the other side that you don’t see is that a lot of those travels are performed. When we go to Europe, we’re not just there for travelling, we’re there for the trade fairs, when we go to a place, and we’re really there to try new cafes that can inspire us. So you know wherever we go, our eyes are open to opportunities and inspirations that can guide us on and become better.”
A day in the life of Bea: “Oh my god. In the morning, really really early morning, I have no choice cause my son wakes me up. So I just spend that time with him, which I super love and then by 10AM I am in the office, having meetings. We have like a new HQ there and a warehouse. It’s really pretty. So there I am in the office if not I have meetings outside or doing fieldwork like visiting the stores."
On what she loves most about her role: “That I get the easiest job, I know everyone likes that job (*laughs*—hers is probably the toughest, if you ask us). My favorite part is I know I can make things happen. We want to do it in our store. You know just creating something and know that it will happen, within the shortest time frame is very fulfilling for me. Cause you know like traditional companies, it takes a while like it takes three months to approve. Our company culture is ‘okay it’s a good decision, implement the next day’.”
On targeting the market: “Being a young company, we are so easy, we are so flexible with what’s happening in the market and then the industry and then the world. Like with social media, like whatever is happening with social media we can adapt to that unlike the traditional brands, 'you know, this is the main DNA.' Us whatever is good, whatever we feel is going to work then we’re going to do it. Very flexible.”
How cute is Baby Braeden, right???
On her work process: “I like lists and I like planning my day but then, I am also very flexible in a sense that you know I work with a big team. So when they have good suggestions and stuff, I am very open to that. I really love meetings just cause you know when you’re in the operations team you have to make sure that everybody’s onboard with what you are doing otherwise it’s a chain, if one person doesn’t know what to do the rest of the team wouldn’t. They know every decision that we have to make. Like they’re in a neck on neck in everything. Which I feel like is good, because you’re not working blindly.”
On working with her friends and her husband: “You know what the funniest thing is our team, like the reason why our company is so is cause our team is really really good and has different strengths. When we got together we didn’t realize that like wow, we can have all this departments wherein we can run. It’s not like I pick you because of this or that. It really worked well for us. I know. We respect each other’s strengths, that’s why in decision making, it’s not hard for us. There's no sawa factor also because when we’re in the office, we work together in one room but we don’t even get to talk. So really if I see Martine or I see George, I am like, I hug them and be like 'I miss you.' We’re friends I miss them. We're in the office together but we’re too busy we can’t even talk to each other. Everyone’s driven.”
On utilizing the power of social media: “So, our entire company, the thing about us is we’re super active on social media. So we get all the comments, all the emails, even the smallest comments on Facebook, that’s customer service. At the same time we have employees in the store, who get everyday comments and suggestions of our customers. And it’s really a big part of our business just listening to all the customers and what they need. Like in this age, social media allows you to say the things about brand and you want to address all of their concerns even with the smallest like ‘hey your light is off in the station’. Not only reply but act on it.”
Martine Cajucom, Creative Director
How to be you? “Aside from wearing white cut offs and a t-shirt everyday. I don’t know how to be anyone else but me Oh and enjoying life is important for me. I definitely speak candidly. Enjoying life and having self-awareness. I always think that, that’s such an important thing, to be self-aware.”
On their "picture perfect" lives: “Obviously we project positive things in social media. But we live very regular Monday lives offline. George and I are in the office almost everyday. I mean all four of us are always in the office. We are always working. Always switch on for work, 4AM, anytime. That’s the nature of doing business, it’s never totally switch off from your business. Everything. Every photo on my phone, every inspiration. I always try find a way to bring it back on how it can help me.”
On her work process: “I am in creatives so I am little more impulsive. So for my work process expresses more intuitive like ‘What am I feeling today? What colors are representing my feelings today?’. Also I work closely with my team who are super super talented, super switched on. They know what I like before I even like it. My team is incredible. My work process is more intuitive. Say, I have a list of things I need to plow through, I go through it more using my feelings.”
A day in the life of Martine: “I do my makeup. I normally, check my emails before heading off to the office. I am Whatsapp-ing in the car on the way to the office. I go to meetings. I work with my team really, really closely. I eat dinner with my family. Simple life, honestly. I feel like the online world doesn’t reflect that but it is really simple."
On online fatigue: “I am all for meeting people personally and talking to people face to face and not working via email.”
On what she loves most about her job: “It’s such a fun job. It’s my dream job. It’s making stuff happen. It’s coming up with an idea and giving some time for it. It’s really so much fun.”
On her Sunnies designs: “A lot of the designs from Sunnies have been inspired by vintage frames I had in college. Like I’ve had for 10 years. A lot of those we tweaked the design and replicated. But we really wanted to create a collection that can suit a lot of different people. Only a percentage of it is specifically made for me. Those are the pink styles or the hearts. Definitely everything is stylish. Check for stylish. It’s stylish. It’s wearable. It’s really designed for the stylish.”
On working with her close friends: “It’s getting to know your friend in a different way. I am seeing a different part of their personality. It’s easy to say what we feel cause we’ve known each other for so long. The most challenging thing is saying exactly how we feel because we’re so close we say exactly how we feel. We can reach out cause there aren’t professional boundaries, I suppose. But we’re very incredibly responsive.”
On her lady boss style: “I worked for a company myself for five years. I know what it’s like to be in a company and to work for somebody. I know the things that they value. Sometimes it’s with vacations and it’s really being flexible in the times that you come in. I know those are the things that I value because, hello, 99% of the time you want to travel, you want to see things. We always encourage the team to travel ,take them out. We’re really generous with it. We’ve got flexible hours to come in. Sometimes creative people work better at 4AM. I understand. I won’t lie. We always want to get the best idea out of them.”
So yes, it's really hard work, you guys—take your cue from them and make your dream life happen.
ALSO READ: In Focus: In Focus: Adrien Semblat Talks About The Growing Trend That Is Athleisure
Photographs from Instagram.com/itsbeasoriano, Instagram.com/ilovegeorgina, Instagram.com/ericdeejr, Instagram.com/ilovemartine, and Instagram.com/sunniesspecs