Q&A with MommyMundo’s Janice Crisostomo-Villanueva on Entrepreneurial Journey

Q1: I have known you since the mid 1990’s, when you were a young partner of a struggling start-up. Although it became successful, the map business was eventually dissolved after 5 years, what lessons did you learn from that early entrepreneurial experience?

It’s been exactly 20 years since I met you, Josiah, when you mentored me and my friends on the publishing business we set up. We were driven by sheer passion and belief in our product which was the MUST Handbook- an all-in-one map+directory guidebook for motorists and travelers in Manila. With the determination and energy that go with being young entreps, we were able to get major corporations onboard to support our book with advertising funding, had the publication produced in Hong Kong and then Singapore, got two mayors of key cities, including the head of DOTC to endorse our product, and sell more than 80,000 copies of our guidebook to consumers.

We had to close our business after 9 years, the lessons I learned from that experience are valuable and put to good use in the businesses I have today.

1) I learned that to work with friends it is important to always keep agreements documented, transparent and honest. Choose partners with the same business and personal values that you have. Plot out short and long term goals, assign clear roles, manage expectations at the onset then work with mutual respect for each other and the business, always.

2) Passion sells. My partners and I would go on cold calls and present our plans to potential partners and clients. Till today I believe that besides my partners’ eloquence and giftedness in selling, more than our hard work and boundless energy, it was the fire in our eyes that convinced people to go with us.

3) In the last years of our business, we knew that (printed) maps would eventually be replaced by the internet and GPS. Still, we kept innovating with our design, map icons, adding sections such as a directory and discount coupons, in order to add value and increase usability. From this I learned that resilience and creativity are essential traits of an entrepreneur.

4) While we constantly thought innovation and expansion in an attempt to stay relevant if GPS becomes available in the country, however we knew and accepted the fact that our MUST handbook would face obsoletion and we would not be able to compete with the new technologies that are in fact now widely used. We were ready to let go of our business when we did, and this was also another lesson: that an entrepreneur must also know when it is time to let go and move on to the next venture.

Q2: I know three of your advocacies as breastfeeding, active parenting and mompreneurship. Please share with us how these evolved or how the three became linked to one another?

I believe that what sets Mommy Mundo apart from other parenting portals is that Mommy Mundo is mom-founded and run, and it has always been about being of service to moms and moms-to-be, thus our having very clear advocacies that serve as our anchor in all that we do.

Having said this, Mommy Mundo’s chosen advocacies were really borne out of my personal beliefs as well as needs as a mom. When I had my firstborn son 17 years ago, I discovered the many needs and wants of moms in the Philippines that are left unmet. I was a new mom eager to learn and prepare for the birth of my child, and I could not find any local information and sources of support during that time aside from going to my Ob gynecologist or fellow mom friends.

I first became active in promoting breastfeeding to my fellow moms. As a new breastfeeding mom, would you believe I had to email a counselor in the US, wait for her to reply the next day because of the time difference, then email back again.  I started doing breastfeeding seminars with fellow mom advocates, and our events grew from 50 moms to 100 moms, to later on 400-500 moms per seminar.  I saw moms (and dads!) eagerly listening, asking questions, even taking notes and I knew they were hungry for information, just like I was. And this was what started me on the journey to what I’ve been doing today with Mommy Mundo.

At around the same time, I also saw a need for breastfeeding friendly clothing since I would have a hard time nursing my son in public. So along with my cousin, Candice, we started a nursingwear line called Mommy Matters, which till today is a leading brand of breastfeeding clothing and accessories in the country and is carried abroad as well.

The advocacy to promote healthy pregnancy came about when I partnered with Rome Kanapi, a pioneer childbirth educator. Rome has been teaching expectant couples prenatal classes and techniques for the past 30 years and of course we know that the first step to having a healthy child is to have a healthy, informed pregnancy.

Later on, I adopted advocating active parenting- which refers to being a present and conscious parent, and mompreneurship, after we did the first successful run of Expo Mom, our biggest trade event for moms, because I believe that moms going into business allows her to fulfill her passions, live with even more purpose, while raising our families!  Imagine from our first Expo Mom 7 years ago where we had maybe 20 mompreneurs, our last Expo Mom had more than 60 mompreneurs- all dynamic, successful women entreps!

The 4 advocacies that now guide us are indeed linked together. Through Mommy Mundo, we encourage moms to have healthy pregnancies, to choose to breastfeed their baby, to be active parents, and for mompreneurs, we hope to provide support and venues for learning and interaction.  Through our events, our publications online and in print, our Mommy Mundo blog network, we hope to provide service and information in the hope of enriching her life as a woman and mother.

Q3: What is your inspiration for Mommy Mundo as the go-to-resource for Moms. Can you describe your journey in establishing yourself and your business-advocacy?

Being focused on Mommy Mundo being a mom resource first and foremost keeps things on track and myself grounded. While it is sometimes challenging to balance advocacy while ensuring the business-side is sustainable, I have learned that as long as you are able to establish a track record for service, if you act with sincerity, and communicate intentions openly while keeping a certain standard, stakeholders will always see through this and will not think twice about extending support.

Now that we are an established mom resource, portal and community the past decade, the challenge has also become more about accountability.  Now that we have a bigger community that we affect and influence, we have to be more careful to make fair and considerate decisions. We also need to work harder to protect the trust that people have placed into Mommy Mundo as an organization.

As for me, I strive to keep growing, innovating, exploring ways to reach out to more moms. For my fellow mompreneurs, I espouse pursuing our passions while always being guided a higher purpose. The best reward for my work, I find, is when moms tell me how Mommy Mundo has been able to help them have an easier time at birth, breastfeeding, or how our events allow them to bond with their children. or how our events have helped them grow their businesses.  That’s what keeps me going in spite of all the challenges and obstacles. Knowing that I made a difference in my fellow moms’ lives makes me feel like the most blessed person in the world to be put in this position to help:)

Q4: Your target market is the ‘active and modern moms’.  Does this mean there are passive and traditional moms? Can you describe to me how different are these active and modern moms?

I’ve chosen to define Mommy Mundo’s market to focus on “active and modern moms”.
“Active” refers to being a “present”, conscious or intentional parent to her children. “Modern” not only refer to being “modern’ in choices of products, or perhaps use of technology, but also refers to moms having a progressive mindset, always learning and searching for new parenting principles and choosing what will best work for herself and her family.

Why did we choose to define this specific target market?

In Mommy Mundo I also believe in respecting every mom’s principles and parenting style. Yes there are do’s and don’ts, a mom should know to effectively parent, our job is to provide the information and awareness but in the end we respect individuality and choice.  This being said, however, we want to encourage the mindset of “active and modern” parent- one of involvement, openness, intent and continuous learning, because this will always be of benefit not only to the mom herself but her children, her family, even her community.

Q5:  What made you enter the exhibit and event organizing business arena?

Setting up our events agency, Creative Juice was a totally unplanned endeavor. I sometimes say that the business “landed on my lap” and seeing it now as an almost full service agency is one of those things that makes me believe in the saying that “You are where you are meant to be.”

Backtrack to the time when I was a fairly new mom and wanted to create events for fellow moms like myself who desperately needed information on breastfeeding.

My very first event which was in partnership with fellow mompreneurs then, Joanna Duarte and Vicky Jalandoni of Big and Small Co, now Senator Pia Cayetano who was then owner of a chain of toy stores called Maxibear and was an advocate for early childhood development, Tesa Geronimo of the TV show Mommy Academy, and my cousin and partner in Mommy Matters. Candy Yaw.  Our first event was aptly entitled “Moms in the New Millennium” and this was the first of many more parenting events I would organize with the group.

Not long after, I started publishing a free quarterly guidebook called Mommy Pages. In this one book, I placed all pertinent contact numbers of all things a mom might need- in a Google-less world it became an indispensible directory for moms in that I was told moms would photocopy the book and gift it to friends:)  Mommy Pages was a self-liquidating publication and totally sponsor-funded, so I would meet with brand managers, and marketing managers to convince them with placements.  One brand manager, for whatever reason. asked me to manage his upcoming mall tour. I told him that I was not in the business of doing events but he kept insisting and even said that if I handle the mall tour, that he would support Mommy Pages. With that I took on the project and that mall tour not only sustained my Mommy Pages publication, it also became the seed for a full blown events agency, Creative Juice (www.creativejuiceph.com) which handles companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Bayer, Rockwell, The Blue Leaf, and major brands like Havaianas, ColeHaan, Lactacyd, TheBullRunner.com among others.  Creative Juice also acts as the logistics partner for all Mommy Mundo events.

Q6: What makes a mompreneur different or challenging versus a ‘dadpreneur’ (pardon the expression used)?

A mompreneur is, of course and by all means, just like any entrepreneur or woman entrepreneur, though we find that mom entreps have certain needs and concerns that are unique to her and more compelling because of the numerous roles she plays in life. Mom’s are multi-taskers and though raising her kids is in most cases priority, a mom’s responsibility goes beyond this, and would include running her household, caring for her husband, (sometimes even her own parent and siblings), being active in her community, plus giving time to nurture herself. Add working or “running a business” to the equation and numerous concerns are faces by mompreneurs that ‘dadpreneurs’ would not experience.

Issues like time management, work-life balance, prioritizing goals, even family+business budgeting are just some major concerns of many mom entreps.

One more thing that sets mompreneurs apart is that because of the many hats that moms put on on daily basis, we have developedabilities and skills that make us natural entreprereneurs. Just think about these tasks that moms do on a daily basis and the corresponding entrepreneurial skill set she exhibits:

– feeding a baby while answering the phone (superb multi-tasking abilities)

– helping kids with their homework (problem-solving)

– managing yayas and the household help (leadership, managing operations)

– helping our kids to excel (motivators)

– getting a picky toddler to eat (goal-orientedness)

– shopping (purchasing and R&D)

These are just some reasons why I am passionate about advocating parenting and mompreneurship!

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