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Virtual Mae: Standing out in an online marketplace

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It’s been said that life can be stranger than fiction, and not even the most imaginative of writers could say what’s in store for you.

Mae Sergio suffered a devastating loss when her father, a lawyer, died in late June last year. She “was a wreck” during the funeral, but one memory is imprinted in her mind. Heads started to turn at one point, and she thought that perhaps a politician or a public figure had arrived. To her surprise, the guest was actually a classmate of hers from law school, and they were both sporting exactly the same footwear: stylish, two-tone stiletto heels. The fashionista in Sergio was so embarrassed at the blooper, but being a dutiful daughter came first. The incident became a family joke, and she “never wore that pair again,” she relates with a grin.

She recalls thinking that some day, she’d put up a shoe business that offers “a variety of styles, but with very limited stocks” to prevent similar blunders. But with no concrete plan, Sergio shifted her focus to getting through a painful stage in her life. To ease their grief, Sergio and her mother, whom she considers her mentor, went abroad for a vacation. Naturally, she came home with shoe purchases in tow. Eager to share her new finds with friends, she opened a Multiply.com account in August last year.

What occurred next was unexpected. People who saw the photographs “begged” to buy the shoes, she says. Sensing an opportunity, she sold some of the pieces, but “only those with the same shoe size as mine were lucky.” When she announced her next trip overseas, the inevitable happened: friends began to place their “orders” for shoes. And just like that, a business—Virtual Mae—was born.

That Sergio had an eye for enterprise isn’t so surprising. She used to own M.S.O., a shop that carried hip clothes, bags and other fashionable pieces. M.S.O. had three outlets: University Mall near De La Salle University in Manila, FBR Arcade near the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City and The Ruins-BF Commercial Complex in Parañaque City. Sergio, however, had to close her stores in 2005 when she decided to pursue law.

Page 2: Choosing business over Law


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