Forget the classic chocolates and flowers—at Me&U, there’s always something unique for customers looking for keepsakes to surprise their significant other with, whether it’s for a very special occasion, or just for everyday kilig moments.
Husband-and-wife team Carter and Charmaine Tiu, founders of the Me&U concept store, knew from the beginning that they wanted to cater to couples. They thought of the concept store after noticing that the only gift items sold in malls are either branded character merchandise or generic novelty items. “Me&U is the first couple-themed gift shop in the world—the first retailing lifestyle goods store that celebrates the feeling of togetherness,” says Carter.
The Tius started Me&U in 2009, with an initial investment of P3 million. They have since grown the brand to 10 stores and two kiosks, all of which are inside major malls. The merchandise is sourced from Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea. “We make sure to give our customers products which cannot be found in any other retail store,” says Carter.
While the Tius have already established a strong network of suppliers, challenges still remain in terms of logistics, and in ensuring that the designs and the quality of the merchandise is “at par with the standards of customers,” adds Carter. “We don’t just sell products—we help customers build a stronger relationship with their significant other through unique gifts, for birthdays, anniversaries, or just because,” he adds.
Me&U merchandise ranges from statement couple shirts, to matching throw pillows, mugs, and even toothbrushes. Carter says designer couple rings and bracelets are the most popular. “These items are our best sellers because they help people celebrate their relationship,” he adds, noting that the items make for great anniversary, or even “month-sary,” presents.
Not all items are for couples, though. “Our product mix is actually 80% couples merchandise, and 20% quirky stuff for singles,” says Carter.
Taking the franchising route
After six years in the business, the Tius are now looking at franchising to grow the brand. “We believe that now is the right time for franchisees,” says Carter. The Tius are now considering their first batch of potential franchisees, most of whom would be given locations outside Metro Manila.
They have also been getting franchise inquiries overseas, and are currently in talks with a potential master franchisee in Indonesia. The couple are aiming to open 30 stores nationwide by 2020.
Franchise fee: P450,000
Total investment: P3.5 million
Contract term: 5 years
Inclusions: Store renovation for a 50-square-meter space; initial merchandise; trade name and proprietary marks; training for franchisee and staff; procurement program; opening assistance; and research and development
This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. To subscribe, click here.
Photos by Heidi Aquende