Tips on How to Run a Business from Badass Tote Girl
Manila/ Venture/ Profiles

Elevator Pitch: Meet the Woman Behind 'Tote Girl,’ Your Next Bag Obsession

Revised Badass Tote Girl Header Photo by Badass Tote Girl

Tote bags come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and have become a staple wherever we go. They are incredibly useful on errand days when you need to run to the supermarket or while traveling, providing a convenient bag to stash your essentials. In fact, there are days when we prefer to bring totes because of how easy they are to carry around.

A huge fan of tote bags, Reese Lactao wanted to reintroduce them as “main bags” and not just extra bags. “During my trips to Taiwan and Tokyo, I noticed that tote bags are commonly used as primary bags. I found this trend charming, and I wanted to bring the same concept to Manila. That’s how Badass Tote Girl was born,” she shared in an interview with The Beat Asia.

Badass Tote Girl for Elevator Pitch
Reese of Badass Tote Girl

Reese started Badass Tote Girl in 2018 when she was only 27 years old. After spending the second half of 2018 conceptualizing, she formally launched the brand in 2019, overcoming challenges and taking on different roles as a one-woman team. From photography to marketing, packaging, accounting, and modeling, she did it all without hesitation, considering it a valuable learning experience.

Despite the initial challenges, Reese took everything in stride, viewing it as an opportunity for personal growth and improvement. "Running a business taught me valuable lessons and revealed abilities I didn't know I possessed. Taking on multiple tasks also had its advantages because it allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of my business," she recalled.

Learn more about Badass Tote Girl, how to grow a brand, and valuable insights about starting a business from our interview below.

What sets Badass Tote Girl apart from other brands?

Badass Tote Girl stands out from other brands through our use of quality materials, collaboration with local bag makers in Antipolo, and a strong focus on customer care. We go beyond sales, maintaining relationships with customers who have even become friends. Our “Badass” community is one of the greatest things to come out of this little venture. We take pride in spreading positivity and making a positive impact on our audience, using our platform for more than just selling. Our commitment to adding value and uplifting our community defines who we are.

How do you come up with sizes and designs for the brand?

When designing bags, I consider what will look cute with most outfits while also being functional and lightweight because I like anything cutesy.

Badass Tote Girl
Photo courtesy of Badass Tote Girl

What have you learned from the early stages of starting the business?

A real breakthrough occurred when I recognized and accepted my weaknesses. By seeking help and delegating responsibilities, my brand’s management became more efficient. Building a team and having mentors proved to be crucial in overcoming obstacles and propelling my brand forward. Cultivating a positive mindset empowers you to accomplish anything you set your mind to. Believing in yourself and your vision is essential.

Badass Tote Girl has really come a long way as you also launched a coffee shop! Tell us about it.

In March 2022, we launched Badass Shop + Café, a dream come true. Customers have requested a physical store, but I wasn't initially prepared for it. I'm passionate about coffee and even attended a barista workshop in December 2020 to master the craft. Throughout 2021, I focused on planning and saving. When I felt ready, I took a leap and opened the shop + café, combining two of my passions. The cafe's personal touch is evident in its mostly DIY setup. My husband and I curated the menu, incorporating our favorite recipes. We managed the cafe for the first eight months to understand the business thoroughly before hiring a team. We’re open daily from 11 AM-8 PM and located at Maxfill Commercial Center, Marcos Highway, Antipolo, just a three-minute walk from LRT 2 Antipolo Station.

You mentioned how much you value your customers and the community you’ve built. How important is customer feedback when it comes to running a business?

Customer feedback is essential in any business because it initiates a connection and serves as a learning curve. It provides insights into what customers like or dislike about your product, supporting improvements in quality, customer service, and more.

You recently collaborated with Abbey Sy for a kit. How did this happen?

We recently launched our Creativity Kit. Abbey was a customer turned friend. We chatted and instantly connected, discussing our personal struggles of juggling work and life. I'm open to anything that aligns with my brand.

What are your plans for Badass Tote Girl and your business in general?

My plans include improving our production to meet the increasing demand and establishing a systematic, organized process in the workshop. Additionally, I intend to expand our product range beyond just totes and increase our presence on other selling platforms. We’ll be launching limited-release designs for Badass Tote Girl and more cute stuff.

Personally, I am committed to furthering my education to master entrepreneurship because I believe that investing in myself is the best investment, and one should never stop learning.

Any tips for those who want to start their own businesses?

I make sure to follow my own advice. First, you must show up for yourself every day. The more effort and love you put into your work, the more it will reward you. Second, be teachable and ask questions. Third, read articles, especially business articles from other entrepreneurs. You can also attend business seminars and webinars. Don’t let your doubts and fears control you. Entrepreneurship will never be easy so anchor yourself with your ‘why.’ Stay mentally limitless.

Check out Badass Tote Girl’s product lineup on their website. Stay updated on latest releases and sales by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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