MANILA, Philippines – With over a hundred outlets nationwide and abroad, Filipino brand Zen Zest Asia has become a household name in perfumes.
But not many people know that the million peso brand started in the bedroom of its founder, Michelle Asence Fontelera.
Fontelera said her passion for perfumes led her to concoct her own mixes, which she did primarily to curb spending her hard earned salary on imported perfumes.
“Mahilig talaga ako sa pabango, bata palang ako. Sure ako na kikita kasi noong time na ‘yun, wala pang local na brand ng perfume. Nu’ng nagtatrabaho ako, nauubos ang pera ko sa kakabili ng imported na perfume. So naisip ko kung may local, makakatipid ako at makakatipid ‘yung ibang tao,” she said on “My Puhunan.”
Michelle Fontelera. File Photo.
At 23 years old, Fontelera began experimenting scents for perfumes and lotions with the help of a chemist.
She started with 300 bottles of perfume, and sold each for P140.
“Ginawa ko lang sa kwarto ko ‘yung 300 bottles na ‘yun tapos gumawa din ako ng sabon,” she said.
Her first venture, which she started without any mixing apparatus, earned P21,000.
Fontelera grew the business from there, and was able to open a stall in SM Megamall.
Zen Zest. File Photo.
After just a few years of operation, Fontelera engaged in franchising, which now make up about 40 percent of Zen Zest outlets.
Coming from a broken family, Fontelera said growing up without a father taught her to be independent and pushed her to work hard to keep the business running.
“Kailangan nangangailangan sila, kasi kung hindi nila kailangan, hindi sila magpu-push. Kapag talagang naghirap ka o madami kang napagdaanan, alam mo ‘yung pakiramdam ng wala,” she said.