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Entrepreneur Lorina Tan on giving back to the community and her family

Words by Renee Nuevo Photos by Jan Mayo
Creative Direction by Meg Manzano

“Tiny Buds was given to me as a challenge,” says Lorina Tan, Co-Founder of Tiny Buds. ‘Grow this brand,’ sabi ng mom ko sa akin. ‘Maliit pa ‘yan pero may potential.’” The brand, which has now grown to become one of the top performing baby care essentials in the country, was started by her mom in 2009, before she came on board in 2013.


A marketer by trade, Lorin, as she is known to family, friends, customers, and staff, was already working abroad when she was invited back by her mom to be a part of their family business. 


It wasn’t easy, especially at first. “The challenge, really, was that I had no idea what I was doing. I’m not a mom so I didn’t think the way my customers thought,” Lorin shares. 


“Hopefully, I was able to turn that weakness into a strength. I was very open-minded. I really took the time to listen, to try to get to know the audience very well. The customers—they are my guiding light in this. I really listen to what they say and use that and adapt it back into the business.”

 

Since then, Tiny Buds has become a leading brand in baby care, with a dedicated and loyal customer base. But this wasn’t the case when they started. “When I first joined the business, Tiny Buds was already on Lazada for a couple of months,” Lorin says. 


That year, in 2012, she received a phone call. The account manager on the other end of the call informed her that the shop wasn’t reaching its full potential, and gave her insights on what can be done. “It took a lot of humility to listen and figure out what things we needed to improve. That person handled our store for many years and we learned so much from her and through Lazada as an entire organization. A lot of my knowledge of e-commerce today, I learned from Lazada.”


Dodging double standards


As a woman in business, Lorin says she is “super lucky” to be surrounded by strong women both in her family and in the workplace. 


“But if you take me outside that comfort zone, one thing that I have noticed is that women are asked to be everything,” she says. “It’s as if you can’t choose to be everything! What I’ve personally encountered was, if a woman is too good in business, or if she’s too strong in negotiations, then somehow her femininity is lessened.” Lorin has heard comments like, 


Parang hindi ka babae.”

Bakit ang strong mo?” 

Masyado kang mabilis sa ganyan.” 


“I think it’s really this imbalance of, why can’t you be good at traditionally male aspects and still be very feminine and still be a woman at the same time,” Lorin questions.


Nevertheless, she kept going. Her passion for the brand and the advocacy that comes with it is what continues to motivate her—and the opportunity to make her family proud.


“You need someone you look up to that believes in you. That’s what happened to me. Lazada took a chance on us, a very unknown baby brand back in the day. They showed us that if we just worked hard, strategized, and stood out, we could actually become what we are today.” 



Drops of Hope 


Tiny Buds’ mission is to not only support local jobs and provide quality Filipino products, it is also imperative that they use their platform for good. One of their flagship campaigns is Drops of Hope, a project that raises money to build sustainable water filters for communities in need. 


“The whole idea came from the fact that we use purified drinking water for our products, for the safety of the child. But if we can put that into our products, why is it that there are still families and children in the Philippines that don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water?” To date, they have built three water filters in Davao del Sur, and will continue to build more in the years to come.


“When the [customers are] happy, there’s nothing that gives me more joy than that. I really do this for them, and I think they know,” Lorin says. “We have this amazing close connection to our customers. They give back so much love and support. It’s beyond what I could have ever imagined. We see it getting stronger and stronger every year.”


And for Lorin, whose role in Tiny Buds is two-fold—first, as its head, and another, as a member of the family business—she is happy to keep going, and is motivated by her family, most of all. “I’m in a unique position because as I do well in my career, I’m also giving back to my family,” she ends.



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