Looking at the Studio Eleven Fabrics and Wallpapers site will wake up the inner designer in you! Their mission is:
See? They even call you a designer!
Even though their list of prestigious completed projects includes Solaire Resort, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, Diamond Hotel, Holiday Inn, Marco Polo Hotels, F1 Hotel, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, One Rockwell, among others, they give excellent service even for designer-wannabes like me (and you if you are one too!) who just wants to spruce up a tired space. A little makeover for your often-used areas is a worthwhile investment in your longer-term productivity, well-being, and disposition. Established in 2002, Studio 11 Fabrics and Wallpapers Inc. is a leading provider of luxury fabrics, upholstery, and interior design products in the Philippines. Butterflyinthespring had a chat with Studio 11’s Managing Director, Wisdom Sy, about his business.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): How did you get into this business?
WISDOM SY (WS): My wife’s family has been in this business for almost five decades. A few years ago in 2002, when my father-in-law was about to retire, she was given a branch but I discussed with my wife the prospect of doing our own thing. We asked permission and with the blessing of my parents-in-law, we opened our own business.
BITS: How have you grown through the years from the time you started?
WS: In terms of brand, we already made a name in the industry by doing our best to provide innovative products for our customers that are not seen elsewhere. We also do our best to deliver happiness to our customers by doing our best to be the friendliest, most responsive, always reliable, and striving to always keep our promises. BITS: What differentiates you from other similar businesses in the same field?
WS: We’re very conscious about our branding and as to how we present things. We try to make sure that it’s very easy for the customers to look for fabrics so either we categorize it by color or by texture. We’re very critical in every process, so when we present it, it looks very organized. It becomes easier for our clients to find what they need. All our fabrics are coordinated well, meaning they will look good even if you mix and match it. BITS: Can you define your branding?
WS: We want to be like the Zara of the fabric industry. That’s the model we have in mind.BITS: Oh the clothing store? How do you characterize a Zara?
WS: Interior designers usually say that at Studio 11, like at Zara, the fabrics are well curated and edited so all the the fabrics that you will find are chic, fashionable, and upscale-looking with great prices.
BITS: The way you categorize select materials that can be used as coordinates, the client who may not have imagined putting certain materials together will have more options to mix and match. At the same time, because you filter the available options to top winner on-trend ones, the client’s time is saved from going through (sorry for the expression) “nuisance” choices. The selection task is streamlined yet fruitful!
Do you have business principles that you like to be guided by?
WS: I, together with my wife,… we decided from the start that we would do business adhering strictly to biblical principles. We tell our accountant to make sure that our sales, revenues, everything is declared properly. We do not exaggerate the features of our products and we take responsibility for any defective items by replacing them without any hassle to our customers. We do our best to keep our promise to our customers even if it may mean sometimes sacrificing profits just to honor our promise of giving them a great buying experience and deliver happiness in all our dealings.
BITS: Wow, that’s great for the customer! Why did you want to “adhere strictly to biblical principles”?
WS: It’s our conviction to honor God by striving to represent Him well in the business sector by being excellent. We believe that if we follow the Lord, if we honor God by putting Him first, He will be the one to take care of our business. That’s the heart of God. After all at the end of the day, we are but stewards of this business.
BITS: Why do you believe that?
WS: We were inspired by our mentors on how they chose to always be faithful even if the blessing was not immediate. Most important for me is to stick to my conviction and really trust God. The Lord said, “For those who honor Me, I will honor.” That’s our basis for doing business. From there,
*We strive to be consistent with our values so that God will be honored through this business of His.
*We make sure the customers are always happy when they do business with us.
*We do business excellently as unto the Lord.
*We make sure that we are honest with our labels. For example, if a fabric is made in China, we will make sure to label it correctly and not claim that it is from Belgium.
*We take responsibility for our mistakes and if anything is defective, we will replace it.
BITS: That makes you a trustworthy vendor. You might not be the cheapest around but the client can be assured they will get exactly what they pay for. I have a feeling that your fabrics are a little bit more upscale?
WS: The whole idea of our brand is to be famous for offering upscale-looking fabrics affordably. That’s the essence of our brand. We want to be known as affordably chic! We may present ourselves as a high-end fabric store but clients are surprised that a lot of our items are affordable. BITS: That’s exactly up my alley! I love great quality but I also love affordability! I remember what NYC Fashion Blogger, Nika Diwa said her motto is: “Buy less, choose well.” I think that applies here, too … When you were deciding that you were going to follow God’s way of doing things in your business, how did you see God respond through the years?
WS: Since 2002, we see the hand and favor of God on this business and with our customers. It has not always been easy, we have many challenges along the way but through it all, God always provided what we need at the right time.
We see favor from the customer. Sometimes they don’t know me personally but when they see me, it’s like magaang ang loob nila sa akin. May ganoon na rapport.
BITS: Parang unseen favor ano?… which results in them giving you the business…
WS: Yes. Parang may trust sila.
BITS: That’s wonderful! Growing in favour with men… Are there other intangible benefits…
WS: One area I see is with the staff, since we want to be a channel of Gods blessing , we do our best to help them with their finances by giving incentives above their normal pay to help in their family needs. We also do our best to help them if they have emergency situations like health or death of a family member and because of this, our staff has shown loyalty to me as their boss and have committed to helping the company succeed.
We also do our best to minister to them. Sometimes because of the pressures in business, sometimes di mo maiwasan maging grumpy sa staff pero I do my best to apologize for my actions and I can see that they become more respectful towards me. Parang they can see the authenticity of my Christianity that I’m not perfect but when I make a mistake, I will humble myself to seek their forgiveness even if I’m their boss.
BITS: That’s not common.
WS: That’s what we learn [from reading the bible] …
BITS: Earlier, you mentioned that you decided to do business God’s way because you saw it from other people who have done it before. Can you tell me who these examples were?
WS: I may not know her name but there was this one particular lady that gave her testimony. She was manufacturing fake-branded jeans; it was their family’s only source of provision but God convicted her not to continue because that would be like stealing. Despite that business being the only source of income and she did not know where she will get her provision, she decided to close down the business and trust God for her family’s provision. That story impacted me that life is not all about success in this world; true success is choosing to be right with God regardless of the outcome.
BITS: What brought you to a point of trusting God the way you do?
WS: For the past fourteen years, He has been faithful in our finances; there has never been a time when our cash flow dipped below our needs for the month. There may be months that are tight but at the end, He always provides. Trusting God is an everyday choice. It is never easy to make faith decisions. It’s a moment-by-moment walk and there will be times it will cost you but no matter what happens, you just have to trust that God is a good God.
BITS: What were some of the big challenges you faced?
WS: There was a time when we made an honest mistake with our importation. We didn’t know that we had to get a particular permit when importing genuine leather. We thought it was considered as a regular fabric. The stocks were held at Customs and we were being penalized about P800,000. The challenge during that time was, we were asked if we want to pay the penalty or should we just make “lagay” which would reduce the cash output to P150,000. That particular time, our cash flow was low so if I paid the full penalty, it would make us negative. I told the Lord, “What’s the worst thing? The worst thing is we will close down but we will still follow the Lord. I remembered the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… “Even if God does not answer our prayer, we want you to know(Nebuchadnezzar), that we will not serve the image of gold you have set up.” That reminded me that at the end of it all, God is still King. So I said, “Lord, I will follow You [no bribery]” So I told the broker, “whatever penalty, we will pay it.” By God’s grace, He touched the heart of the customs officer who adjusted the penalty to P200,000.
BITS: Wow galing!
WS: Maraming ganon na situation. There are many trials. But we see God’s hand of favor and deliverance.
BITS: How about the greatest blessing, can you remember one?
WS: Recently, one of my former staff members, she’s now working at BPI. When she was still with us, we had a teambuilding session where I invited Pastor Bong Saquing. She sent me a Facebook message and said, “Boss, I forgot to tell you… because of that teambuilding we had, I came to know the Lord.” That’s one of the greatest blessings for me that through our company, our staff came to know the Lord.
BITS: Why? Why is that the greatest blessing?
WS: It makes my work very meaningful because we do business not only to earn provision for our family but also to contribute to God’s mission. Our business is not the End to the means. It’s just something that God is using to accomplish His mission and it’s a privilege to be a part of his work.
BITS: Why then, if you become part of that? What’s the significance?
WS: At the end of the day, we have to realize that life is not about us but about doing God’s mission. If we become part of that, it’s so meaningful because you are fulfilling what you were created for; and this is the only time you will experience true fulfilment and joy.
BITS: What would be your prayer for your company?
WS: There are still times that I would worry about the future, about finances, so my prayer is for that. But God reminds me that He has been faithful for the past fourteen years, don’t worry or be anxious. My prayer is, “Lord, can You guide us what we need to do; give us wisdom on how to move forward.”
BITS: Is there a message you would like to share with people who are starting in business?
WS: Seek ye first His kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you.
Lord, thank You for Your work in Wisdom and Betty’s lives and business, for using them to be preservers of Your values in the marketplace. As they provide beautiful materials for living and working spaces, they also make the business world more beautiful with their excellence, honesty, responsibility, and commitment to be faithful to You. Their pre-decided detachment from the business if it will get in the way of their following You is amazing. Wisdom’s prayer for his business is for thewisdom coming from You and guidance on how to move forward. Like when You asked Solomon to ask anything he wanted, he did not ask for wealth, possessions, honor, long life, nor the death of his enemies but wisdom and knowledge to be a good steward, You gave him Your wisdom and knowledge and You generously prospered him as well. May You likewise grant Wisdom and Betty the works that bring glory to Your name. I join in the prayer in claiming Your promise that those who honor You, You will honor. And the validity of that promise is as good as the life of the One giving the promise! Thank You in advance for Your faithfulness in Jesus’s name and for His glory amen!