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For Anne Suaverdez, the line to entrepreneurship was not linear nor vertical. Instead, it was an industry zig zag that eventually brought her to what she loves most – helping small businesses and budding entrepreneurs.
Coming from a Media and Communication Studies background, her story brought her from the Philippines to Hong Kong, where she started building, brick by brick, a career in marketing and business development within legal, B2B, retail, telecoms and technology sectors, gathering the skills that shaped her career today. Today she runs her own digital marketing agency – Wresonate Media – where she helps other entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and start-ups to improve their online presence and boost their growth.
Foundations and decisions
Even though she previously worked in different companies of various sizes, Suaverdez always displayed an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2011, she started an e-commerce business where she designed, manufactured and sold her own shoes. A year after launching, her business started to gain intense traction from what we now ubiquitously know as influencer marketing.
"I was working with KOL's in the Philippines who started as bloggers at that time and who are now huge blogger celebrities. My shoes were selling out quickly. But at that time, I wasn't really ready yet to transition from being a corporate employee to being a fulltime entrepreneur. The stakes and risks were high and so I let it die down," she explains.
"It was a great learning curve for me. Since 2011, the digital landscape has totally changed. But those were good foundations I would say of what made me today a good entrepreneur. It gave me that first-hand experience and insight as to what it means to become an online entrepreneur, a small business entrepreneur with limited resources." Her experiences as an entrepreneur before the social media boom, and her beginnings working in customer service, were how she was exposed to – and inspired by – creative leaders. She had the opportunity to absorb business insights and gain first-hand experience in retail and consumer marketing. "So, when I went into my venture in 2011, I already had a base that was helpful for me in terms of building what I have now. Fast forward to 2011, and my background in B2B, client relationship and account relationship management has helped me in the business development side of my business. And I wouldn't say it was easier, but I would say I had a head start," explains Suaverdez.
However, the COVID era made her pause, explore and pursue.
It was the time when "people were actually pursuing their passion. So, I was one of those people that started to make a living out of their passion," she tells us as she reflects on the inspiration in flipping the perspective and taking the opportunity to think about what makes her truly happy. "I wanted to be on the path of entrepreneurship," and she told herself, "this is it. I need to do it. I need to know for myself whether I can make it," describing the trigger of the idea. However, this was less a watershed moment and more a seed that, in time, grew into something palpable.
After more experience and exposure, she finally decided to take the step, replicating her skills and experience on a smaller scale but with a bigger impact. "Today, I believe in myself more. That's why I had to make that transition. I believed in myself, in my skills, and I let myself test it and explore it."
Passion, set, go!
What does it take to be an entrepreneur on a personal level beyond a healthy business model? For Suaverdez, it lies in the "passion to change the world even if it is just helping one person."
It is about a deep-seated belief in who you are and what that can do for a person, a group, a company and ultimately, the world. For that reason, targeting smaller businesses and leaving a stronger impact is at the heart of Suaverdez’s company. For "helping a person, not only financially, but personally, so that they are able to continue to do what they love" is what drives Suaverdez every day.
However, while Suaverdez is more settled in her journey as a business owner today, she admits that with the ebbs and flows of entrepreneurship, her journey also came with adversity and hard lessons.
"On a personal level I learned that following your passion is hard," confesses Suaverdez. Motivation is not just derived from passion; it is also about believing you can do more. "I think that's what made me push through. It was a challenge for me at that time, starting out in Hong Kong, I was not Chinese, I was not speaking Chinese and I was frustrated because I couldn't get the jobs that I really wanted to get and I thought to myself, 'I'll give up. I'll just sit at this desk for eight hours a day.' But I always got out of my comfort zone and looked for opportunities for me that I thought would build my confidence and skills. And to me that was a realization. And yes, I'm glad that my success was not a straight line."
Amid preconceptions about what success looks like and by whom it is personified, Suaverdez challenged the trope that extroverts win the day and carve out their own path whilst staying authentic to themselves. Results come in different forms, and success lies in using your own strengths. "I made it, even if the world told me that if you are an extrovert you will easily become successful, and I was the antithesis of that," she adds.
Not just another venture
Wresonate Media differentiates itself from other enterprises in a few ways. For Suaverdez, the business and entrepreneurial sides are deeply interlinked with instincts and emotions, filtered on a personal level.
Having been a two-time entrepreneur, she has mapped out her own playbook. Driven, determined and directed by experience, she goes above and beyond in taking care of her clients. What makes the difference is the relationship and level of intimacy that creates profound trust among her clients.
"Many other agencies," she tells us, "offer digital marketing COSTM, social media management," and they "would tell you the same technical things that they will provide and deliver for you." But for Suaverdez and Wresonate Media, "it all comes down to passion in terms of taking care of my clients, making sure they feel safe and that they trust me."
When asked about three words that describe her journey of building her company, Suaverdez defines her experience as satisfying, self-revelatory and enduring.
Taking her life into her own hands, listening to her instincts, and being true to her calling are only some of the factors of her success today. "What makes me unique when it comes to decision making for my business and for my ventures is that I trust myself, I trust the environment and what I think will happen in the future. I am forward-looking in terms of the financial and business outcomes if I go further down a particular route."
On woman and motherhood
Part of becoming a mother involves analyzing your own perception of motherhood, which is crystallized in a series of life-sized realizations from your own life journey.
For Suaverdez, being a mother has "changed the way I think about my own motherhood because growing up in a culture where you need to earn your living and just forget about your passion is something that I grew up with.
"You are meant to study, finish your course, get your job. It doesn't matter if you like that job in the first place, but what matters is you earn a living. And when I made that transition [into entrepreneurship], I've recognized that it was also pivotal for me and my children because now I can say to them that they can be whatever they want to be and that I would always support them. Because maybe, if I had had that support in the beginning, I would have done it much earlier in my life," acknowledges Suaverdez.
The power stems from the simple yet resounding realization that "you can pursue what you love- whatever you can think of, and not listen to what others would think for you. Just believe in yourself. I think that those are the key pillars that I'm starting to build for my children; so that they have the confidence to do that," she expands.
Yet there is still so much unsaid, so much to be unblurred and unravelled about both womanhood and motherhood in business. Suaverdez believes that support remains unspoken and unintegrated in the business ecosystem. She told us about the prevailing default setting that is still quietly but painfully reigning over the dynamic of a woman's and a mother's life.
"You are still expected to perform, even outperform, as a mother. And I think those are still some of the challenges that mothers and women face; that you must still do the job at home. And if you don't do that, or if you are subpar at your performance at home, you don't deserve [success]. I think that is one of the reasons why I said that running a business is hard, but raising a family and children is harder- because you still have to comply with the social norms, with the expectations from family and society that you still need to take care of your family 110%," says Suaverdez.
Understanding and talking about the burden is important because it floats the challenge and brings it back to the surface. No longer buried and embedded in the spiritual circulation of women. The set of challenges that women and mothers face outside the business when they are at home has to be addressed.
Suaverdez not only plays an active role in motivating and inspiring her kids, but in her free time, she also volunteers with Inspiring Girls Hong Kong, where she encourages young girls to take chances to trust themselves as that can be, as she tells them, "our superpower." She shares candidly that she wants them to realize that "what they have built for themselves, or what they've acquired all these years, will allow them to have a foot in the world. We leave an imprint in the world, no matter how big or small we think the world is. I think that is one of the reasons why I keep on doing what I do."
When asked if she could give her 16-year-old self some career advice, she states, "do not be afraid of opportunities and do not shy away from these opportunities because these will help you build your confidence."