When this month’s cover personality arrived for the shoot with a bright and charming smile, she seemed to bring life in the entire room. Lifestyle Asia digital and the production team were thrilled to greet Stephanie Ayson for the September digital cover shoot at Shangri-la Fort. Steph knew right away what she had to do, walking towards the artists to get her hair and makeup done. The team went back to setting up, looking forward to the day that will be filled with insightful conversations with a smart, young woman who undoubtedly creates her own path in life.
Taking the initial steps
The business of jewelry-making has always been in Steph’s blood. Coming from a family who founded JMA Jewelry, she grew up surrounded by the craft. Yet she never expected to be working in the family business after graduation. “I was just thinking of taking a break from college and my mom said, ‘Why don’t you help me out a bit?’ So [it] was a rabbit hole,” she chuckles. It was not part of her initial plans. She took up a pre-med course for two years before shifting into communication arts. Though it was a childhood dream to be in the field of medicine, she was uncertain of pursuing it. It seems to be the right decision though. She now enjoys spending time and energy on her full-time job and on her jewelry line, Pranca.
Steph admits she had a lot of fears and hesitations when her mother and her cousin encouraged her to start her own brand. It was understandable, given her focus on her work in JMA Jewelry. “It’s always [those questions], ‘Am I capable of doing this?’, ‘Do I have the energy [and the] time to start something new which is Pranca?'” Even at present, she fears the clients may not like what they have made for them. Yet with courage, she shares, “I think it’s always there, those hesitations, those fears, but they’re good to have because it’s like a check and balance for you. [You’re] always trying to assess yourself and your actions.”
Crafting the brand
Establishing her own line was a real challenge for Steph. “[I was] trying to see where I fit in that picture coming from a family business that wasn’t my own initiative and I found the solution to be putting up my own line also,” Steph says. What sets Pranca apart from other jewelers in the industry is its attitude towards clients. Steph shares how they offer an educational approach to buyers. “In the Philippines, it’s called ‘alahera’ culture. You’re used to people buying jewelry from people who would visit them in their homes [because] that’s how they want to purchase products,” she says. But for Pranca, “The idea is that we want people to understand what they are buying… Instead of pushing na ‘ito meron, and you should buy this,’ it’s more like, ‘What do you want? This is what we can make for you.'”
Growing a leader
A day in the young entrepreneur’s life begins with a quick meditation to prepare herself for the busy day ahead. After all, her work in the family business demands a lot from her. “You can’t really be away for too long because things happen so quickly,” Steph says. When things get tough, it is a sense of responsibility that motivates her. “When I say that I’m going to work on something, I really try to do it even if in the middle I feel like I’m sort of losing my fire for it,” she continues. Meeting the expectations of their clients drives her to find ways to further improve the brand’s creations.
Apart from the responsibility, Steph says she gets motivation from how they treat their goldsmiths, stone setters, and other people who work with them. The young entrepreneur knows it is not enough to manage people; she also has to look out for their welfare. “If we take a look at how things were running in the past, [the workers] were paid ‘pakyawan,'” she explains. There is a tendency for them to rush working on pieces; otherwise, they would not earn anything. “We try to change things up for them, we treat them like professionals… they are worthy of benefits and we give them those. We have performance bonuses [and] we have healthcare,” she says.
From witnessing the working conditions in the industry, Steph stepped up to provide their employees with a secure working environment. Managing a business is tough and thus, she always returns to the goldsmiths and stone setters. She studies how she can help improve their lives and craft. She even advises aspiring entrepreneurs, “I feel like if they’re going to start a business, make sure it’s something that protects the craft.” Her experiences in the industry continuously mold her into an effective leader. One who is intent on securing the craft, the welfare of the team, and the growth of the business.
The art of giving back
As a leader, Steph knows the value of having a vision and pursuing it. It only becomes possible when one acknowledges the effort of the rest of the team. “You have to take into account how your decisions can affect [others],” she says. And with this mindset, it is not surprising to know how Steph defines a meaningful life. “A meaningful life is one that gives back,” continuing “I always believe that we’re not put into the world to just better ourselves but to find a positive effect [on] those people that are around us and make sure that our actions are geared towards that goal.”
Photos: ERWIN CANLAS of NEW MONARQ MANAGEMENT
Art Direction: PAU DE MESA
Makeup: TIN ALBANO
Hair: RUDOLF DAVALOS
Shoot Coordination: ALY TIMOG
Special thanks: MARC PAGDILAO
Shot on location at RAGING BULL CHOPHOUSE & BAR and THE MINISTRY OF CRAB at SHANGRI-LA THE FORT