People & Inspiration

In Focus: Miko Raval On Building A Clothing Empire With His College Sweetheart

In Focus: Miko Raval On Building A Clothing Empire With His College Sweetheart

It's a Thursday morning and Miko Raval finds his hands clasped on the wheel. His eye bags are showing as he had just taped the night before—but no rest for the wicked, even for his post-The Killer Bride fame, he believes. Miko hails from Quezon City, where he lived all his life and finished school at Claret School and then at UP Diliman. But here he is, en route to Las Piñas, where Steeze Design Studios' office-warehouse is located. He is set to do the dirty work before taping another tomorrow.

"Welcome to my crib!" Miko tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle. Today, he is no Papa Fabio, the hit character on the recently concluded suspense series that kicked the bucket, only to throw off his newfound, safe to say "obsessed" fans. Miko's Fabio, the show's antihero known for his unreciprocated love for Maja Salvador's Camilla dela Torre, is gone. But, in reality, the businessman lives. "I can’t sit all day long working for someone else. I’d rather do stuff on my own and make more money than most people," he talks about his business.

[related: I Love My Job: Miko Raval, A Hardworking Hunk In Clothes Manufacturing]

In 2014, Miko—a self-admitted non-practicing Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management graduate who played for the UP Fighting Maroons' Team B—built his first fashion brand. He had his girlfriend Kaira Dimatulac, who fittingly studied Clothing Technology and interned at a textile company, as his partner. Miko and Kaira first started small-time, until they finally got big.

"Magpapasko kasi nun, so me and my girlfriend sabi namin, 'Let’s start selling some shorts!'" Miko narrates. "Eventually, we moved to manufacturing kasi we saw the potential sa service industry."

Miko and Kaira then gave birth to Steeze, or "Style with ease" as an American friend had coined. The brand's name was exactly what it is, says Miko—"Kung paano pumorma and it’s effortless. So, whatever you can think of wearing, we can make it."

Following the traditional method and the less labor-intensive digital way of production, Steeze designs and prints shirts, jackets, suits, hoodies, and more. It supplies to different clients, encompassing commercial brands, schools, and even the government. At the last SEA Games, for example, the company designed for the Sibol, the Philippines' esports team that ultimately won three golds, one silver, and one bronze. It churned out 200-300 pieces.

[related: Hottie Alert: Meet Miko Raval, Athlete-Businessman Turned Primetime Hunk]

Like anyone elsae starting his own business, Miko met some bumps on the road. While he didn't exactly see his career take off farther as he only played bit roles on Moon of Desire and Wildflower side by side his ramp and commercial modeling career, he had the similarly rough path as an entrepreneur. "Wala namang bagay sa mundo na madaling makuha. You have to work from the bottom talaga," he relates. "We had to do it from scratch—as in everything from buying, making designs, and all. Minsan nagmamano-mano kami nagku-cut, nagti-trim ng mga damit, so we had to learn it the hard way."

Kaira empathizes, "As years passed, parang gumaling naman kami sa mga decision-making so yun yung nakatulong sa ‘min talaga... Kala mo lang from afar, madaling gawin kasi ito na yung steps. But when you’re there na, it’s actually really hard."

She adds, "For me, yung best trait ni Miko, very relaxed na person. 'Di masyadong nagagalit and all. Parang ti-ne-take nya everything lightly. Pagka-nagkakaroon kami ng problems sa business, sya yung, 'Okey lang yan, kaya natin yan.'"

For Steeze's success, Miko and Kaira highly regard their hardworking staff—which has grown from three to 35 employees now. The couple especially prides their sole pattern maker Oye Mata who has been with them since the beginning, and their deaf-mute sublimation operator Alvie Manguiat.

Given his recent showbiz rise and newest engagement with business partner Kaira, Miko, at 30, is just seeing his 2020 explode.

"We plan on maintaining our top clients and then, yeah we can grow from there," the hunk concludes. "Syempre yung showbiz natin, tuloy-tuloy natin, sayang nandyan na tayo! Ngayon lang tayo umabot sa ganyang point! Sa business natin, tuloy-tuloy pa din since I have partners nga who can manage it while I’m still doing my showbiz career."

"So life goes on and we’ll see! Let’s be successful!" Miko says with a self-assured beam.

ALSO READ: Spaces We Love: Bianca Gonzalez And JC Intal’s Home Proves That Neutrals Win In Design

Photography by Vyn Radovan

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