Chatting With Hiraya Pilipina’s 19-Year-Old CEO Cleo Loque

Gen Z CEO Cleo Loque on Championing Women Through Hiraya Pilipina

Gen Z CEO Cleo Loque on Championing Women Through Hiraya Pilipina

What were you doing when you were a teenager? Chugging your first alcoholic drink, learning how to drive, juggling school requirements, or crying over your first heartbreak? While most teens ponder the idea of kickstarting a business after graduating from college, student-entrepreneur Cleo Loque swam against the tides to make her visions come to life.

In 2019, then-15-year-old Cleo launched Hiraya Pilipina, an inclusive, women-oriented lifestyle and advocacy brand offering a multitude of products, from statement tees and abaca masks to sustainable tote bags and nipple pasties. Since its inception, the Manila-born startup has grown by leaps and bounds, attracting more than 100,000 combined followers on social media and selling out thousands of items on marketplaces such as Lazada.

Hiraya Pilipina CEO Cleo Loque
Photo by Instagram/Cleo Loque

Along with Hiraya Pilipina’s growth, Cleo’s responsibilities have extended beyond operations. At present, she is also one of the brand’s main content creators — a tried-and-tested strategy that catapulted the likes of Colourette Cosmetics’ Nina Ellaine Dizon-Cabrera and Brilliant Skin Essential’s Glenda Victorio to TikTok stardom.

In an exclusive interview with The Beat Asia, Cleo shares her plans on expanding Hiraya Pilipina’s collection of products and revolutionizing women’s intimate care in the Philippines.

Hello, Cleo! Can you tell us something about yourself?

Hi, I’m Cleo Loque, 19 years old. I’m the founder of Hiraya Pilipina. I’m an entrepreneur, content creator, and student currently taking up Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship at Enderun Colleges.

How did you start your business?

I started Hiraya Pilipina in 2019, when I was 15 years old. I just wanted to sell statement t-shirts, so I loaned P20,000 from my parents to build the brand. I bought 151 plain shirts and printed them with statements and texts I designed using the Phonto app. Guess what, the shirts got stuck in our house for like a year because I was busy at school. But I was able to sell them in 2020. I know it’s such a huge privilege for me to have the liberty to continue my business during the pandemic, but I only had online classes, so I got so much time on my hands. I was able to balance both school and Hiraya Pilipina.

Hiraya Pilipina Statement Shirt
Photo by Instagram/Hiraya Pilipina

What is the story behind the name Hiraya Pilipina?

I just wanted something unique. I chose the word Hiraya because it means vision, imagination, dreams, and aspirations. I combined it with Pilipina because even if we change our industry in the future, one thing will remain: our target audience will always be Filipina women. Hiraya Pilipina is not just a brand name, it’s an identity.

As a student-entrepreneur, what’s a typical day like for you?

I usually combine all my tasks in one day. Even if I’m at school, I always find a way to do my responsibilities for Hiraya Pilipina. I still check on my logistics and fulfillment team. I also hold meetings during my free time. It’s energy-consuming, but I always make it a point to maximize my time and do all my responsibilities.

How did you form your team?

I hire based on the things I can’t do myself. Designing is definitely not my greatest strength. I acknowledge that I can’t do everything on my own, so I hired a graphic designer, which is Abby. She is still with us until today. I also hired a social media manager to oversee our Instagram page and build our community online. It’s all a matter of knowing what the brand needs. As a business owner, it’s important to be meticulous when it comes to hiring people, especially if you’re just starting to build your company.

Hiraya Pilipina Team
Photo by Instagram/Hiraya Pilipina

What’s your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

It’s always the execution. That’s my favorite part of the business because that’s honestly the most important. I learned this from my dad early on and that’s the same reason why I was able to launch Hiraya Pilipina. When I mentioned to my dad the idea of selling shirts, I already have “statements” in my mind that I know would resonate with women. He told me to execute it fast because it’s the most important thing. He said that nothing will happen if I don’t implement my ideas immediately.

How has Hiraya Pilipina impacted your life as a teenager?

Hiraya Pilipina has definitely contributed to my growth as a teenager because I feel like I already have the responsibilities of an adult. It’s too much to handle sometimes, but I’m grateful that I’m able to utilize the opportunities given to me. Because I have to step up at a young age and become a leader for my team members who are older than me. I’ve learned so much about leadership, accountability, and networking.

What products can ‘Hiraya Babes’ look forward to in the future?

Although we started with statement shirts, masks, and bags, we’re no longer leaning toward fashion. Our direction now is to improve women’s intimate care in the Philippines with our products such as nipple pasties, boob tapes, and hair removers. Soon, we’ll venture into period care and wellness. That’s the direction we’re going.

Hiraya Pilipina Boob Tape
Photo by Instagram/Hiraya Pilipina

Do you have any advice for young female entrepreneurs?

Invest in building yourself. Expand your knowledge by reading books about business. Grow your network and meet like-minded people. It’s not just about selling products on Instagram. It’s more than that. If you want your company to be sustainable, you must invest in your entrepreneurial skills. Even if your marketing is good, if you have poor customer service and product fulfillment, you will fail.

Thank you so much for your time, Cleo!

Thank you!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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