• On a mission for beauty

    Tina Mendoza and Roberta Estacion, owners, Harem Inc. (Browhaus & Strip)

    Tina Mendoza and Roberta Estacion, owners, Harem Inc. (Browhaus & Strip)

    As the saying goes, “business can arise out of an opportunity or a need.” For sisters Tina Abad-Mendoza and Roberta Abad-Estacion, this statement couldn’t be more meaningful. In particular, the younger Roberta said she literally stumbled upon their business out of a personal need.

    “I was staying in Jakarta for two years, I saw the brand ‘Browhaus & Strip’ in nearby Singapore during one of my visits. Soon, they opened in Jakarta and I got hooked,” she said.

    Browhaus is a one-stop brow and lash grooming salon, founded by a young entrepreneur named Cynthia Chua. The salon first opened in Singapore in 2004, its name inspired by Bauhaus, the German art movement. At the same time, Chua also opened Strip, a body waxing salon that perfectly complemented her brow salon business. To date, the brands have expanded to at least 27 outlets in at least eight cities, including New York, London and Shanghai.

    As her two-year stint in Jakarta was about to end, Roberta instinctively knew that she just had to find a way to bring the business back to Manila. She sent the company an email and told them she wanted to bring the business back home. She was delighted, she said, when the company, headquartered in Singapore, replied positively.

    She remembered calling up her sister, Tina, immediately to convince her to take on the business with her. “When we were asking for the franchise, there were actually seven more Filipino groups who wanted to bring it in. I was the youngest applicant at 27 years old, but I was told the owner actually saw herself in me, since she herself started the company at 27 years old,” Roberta narrated.

    The sisters were eventually awarded the Manila franchise in June 2008 and, as they recalled, everything happened so fast that they were able to set up shop within just a few months. With the help of Tina’s husband, the sisters incorporated their local company, Harem, Inc., in September 2008 to do business under the trade names “Strip” and “Browhaus.” They opened their first branch in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig in November 2008.

    Since then the sisters were able to open eight outlets for both brands, with their latest store located in the newest wing of SM Mega Mall, where they decided to host both brands in one big space. They’re very happy with the growth of their business now, but Tina said that like most businesses their venture had not been one smooth ride. Tina recalled, “Roberta cried to me and my husband Joey when she was trying to convince us the first time. We were skeptical then that the business will take off, and wanted to put up instead a homegrown local brand or do a different type of business, but not waxing.”

    When they opened their first branch in 2008, Roberta said they practically educated the market on hair removal and grooming brows and lashes so it was really tough. But Roberta wasn’t daunted. “It was really tough, but because I loved the brands, it doesn’t become as tough, and becomes natural to help educate because we know the brands so well,” she said. Their perseverance did pay off. The siblings pointed out that after six years many other brow salons, lash salons and hair removal salons emerged.

    These days, the sisters have their hands full with their fast-growing enterprise. Tina said that their roles have been clearly defined. Roberta usually is in the front rows, marketing and educating customers, while she tends to the finance and operational side of the business. They are setting their sights on continuous expansion nationwide as they keep an open mind about venturing into other related businesses. It’s not always about making money because money will come after, they said. Roberta added, “If you love what you’re doing, and you have the passion for it, everything else becomes secondary, and everything will just fall into place.” What’s equally important, Tina rejoined, is that they did not only become successful business partners, but they also became closer as a family. After all, they do not only share beautifully groomed brows and lashes as well as smooth, hair-free bodies; they are also on their way to fulfilling their mission to “make every Filipina feel beautiful,” one brow and wax at a time.


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