Millennial quits corporate career to build jewelry-design enterprise

In Photo: Abesamis and Signature Dearest Flower ring—18K gold, 1-Carat diamond with Sapphire leaves.

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She was born to a family engaged in the jewelry business in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, but she is actually an accountant by profession.

Germee Ronirose Abesamis, the founder and chief executive officer  of Dearest, a luxury company that creates handcrafted customized bridal pieces, opted to leave her very promising job in a global financial institution to pursue her love for crafting and design, something that was instilled in her since she was a kid.

Since taking that path, Abesamis, has been enjoying her life of customizing fine engagement and wedding rings, among others, these days.

E-commerce, mobile business

THE millennial that she is, Abesamis, who is in her early 30s, uses the Internet to build her business. Moreover, the French cinema buff, who spent half of her time in Manila, and the other half abroad, continues to search for opportunities on how she could take her business to the next level. She takes her business with her, wherever she is. “It’s mobile!” she said.

The Internet is a major tool in showcasing her brand internationally. She leads a multicultural team of passionate professionals to come up with very cool innovative ways for clients to codesign their engagements rings and wedding bands online.

Two Italian designers, Andrea and Giuseppe, Tech Director Art, and Asian business minds Andrew, Klyonne, Mac and Belle compose her creative team.

Germee is open to partnerships with like-minded entrepreneurs who might be interested to collaborate with her in this exciting business of online shopping for fine customized jewelry that is fast gaining traction nowadays.

Her story

Abesamis’S story begins in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan where she was born to a family engaged in the jewelry business. Tracing her roots from a family of artists, with a female ascendant who painted parts of the Manaoag Shrine, Abesamis’s creativity is intrinsic, including her love for precious gems. She remembers playing with her siblings in her grandmothers’ atelier, tinkering with loose pieces of diamonds, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones.

The love for crafting and design was instilled in the Abesamis siblings. “We were allowed to buy toys only at Christmas. So we learned to make our own toys. I made paper dolls with my sister and designed their clothes and accessories. We also created jewelry from newspapers and leaves,” she recalled.

But even at a young age, coupled with a zest for life, she always dreamt of living in different places.

After finishing high school at Saint Scholastica’s College in Manila, she went on to pursue Business Administration and Accountancy at the University of the Philippines, graduated cum laude, and placed seventh in the CPA Board Exams.

“I didn’t think much of getting a top spot in the board examinations. I also found time to relax when I got tired. But [in the]…last two weeks [of review before the board], I kept on studying very hard,” she said.

“After the results came, the companies kept calling,” Abesamis said.

However, her love for the arts and designing never waned, even when she was already a financial analyst in an international bank at age 22, and earning quite well. After saying good-bye to the corporate world in 2008, it was now time to pursue her passion—jewelry design.

“Because I realized there was a day, I didn’t laugh at all.” Abesamis said so she opened her first official business venture called ACouture, with a start-up investment capital of P50,000, an amount she saved from her salary.

“I made gowns and dresses for ladies in Pangasinan. I had to close shop eventually, but the lessons in sustainability and business strategy that I learned were priceless,” she recalled.

A year later, Abesamis taught accounting and finance at the University of the Philippines and designed clothes and jewelry on the side. When UP required her to get a masters degree in finance and sent her on a scholarship to ESSCA Ecole de Management in France for a semester, her passion for European languages and culture was revived. She eventually gained her Masters in Finance at the Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

It was during a social gathering in the Italian fashion center Milan that the jewelry she designed (a round necklace with a pearl accent) gained notice. “A Milanese friend told me that I should be in fashion, and not in finance,” she shared. Abesamis started getting orders from her European friends.

A collaboration of a jewelry brand she cofounded with her sister Mansy and close friend Sergio with a Paris-based fashion designer for “LaboEthnik” in 2013 showcased her designs in Europe. LaboEnthnik was a fashion show featuring French models displaying her luxury jewelry pieces made by both Filipino and Italian artisans.

This, and the good reviews of friends and other artisans, inspired her to take a leap and finally explore her creativity and love for jewelry design.

Through Sergio, Abesamis’s creations found their way to Aurelia Khazan, a Parisian ingénue who wore them at the Cannes Film Festival during the launch of her film Love Me Haiti.

She also had clients in London, when she was handpicked by the International Jewellery London to showcase her designs among young talented jeweler designers.

In 2014 Abesamis decided to live in Vicenza, the jewelry capital of Italy, and created jewelry alongside Italian master artisans. “My Italian friends were laughing at me because they didn’t expect it. They said foreigners don’t live there [which isn’t true].” After living in this city and imbibing its culture for almost a year, Abesamis had come up with a road map for her business.

Growing the business

With the support of her family and friends, and her passion for design, her one-woman business venture was established. Abesamis is now the founder and chief executive officer and creative director of Ronirose and Dearest Jewellery.

“I had to adjust to a more artistic career, but I loved every aspect of [jewelry business], from selecting stones for clients and conceptualizing custom-made pieces. It was a real struggle executing the marketing side because I have always focused on the quality of the product. Now, I have a good team helping [me] out,” she beamed.

Eventually, everything fell into place. Ronirose, her first collection of contemporary rings named after her, evolved into a brand.

She loves both the creative and the business aspects. “I really appreciate art and artistic processes. But since I worked in finance, I appreciate business models, and can also talk to people about the business aspect with the same passion as I have when I talk to artists,” she said.

Love story that sparkles

Dearest’s first clients were friends who were engaged to be married. The rings Abesamis made for them were customized. Each stone and the intricate weave symbolized the years they had been journeying as individuals, and how they were finally beginning a new life together.

In 2016 Dearest was born.

“Personalized rings from Dearest means your wedding bands are born out of your love and not from an already available mold. Every stone is specifically selected for you, every ring is handcrafted with you in mind. Every ring tells a story. Let us tell yours,” she said of Dearest’s mantra.

While Abesamis also accepts orders for classic or vintage designs because that’s the client’s personality, Dearest always pushes design to the next level. “We make traditional diamond rings, solitaire, halo, three-stone rings, but we try to customize when it fits client personalities,” she said.

For wedding band, we want them to go well with the client’s engagement ring. Our designs are a marriage of the classic and contemporary. While we create timeless pieces, we are also playful when our clients are. We love creating nontraditional ones that reflect the eclectic, quirky characters of engaged couples.

Once, we conceptualized an ambigram logo for a couple, and I was with them when they had it secretly tattooed on their body. They loved it so much. It was very fulfilling for me,” she said.

Ethical practice

Abesamis wanted to be an entrepreneur to make an impact—she loves it when her success can trickle down to many people. She works with a network of reliable suppliers who ethically source their diamonds, some of whom have worked with her grandparents since the 1950s.

Since Dearest works with local jewelry artisans, she immediately recognized a problem in the local jewelry industry. “We have great artisans—despite using outdated tools, they manage to create beautiful, world-class pieces,” she said.

“Since precolonial era, Filipinos have been known for our jewelry. Nowadays, we are behind other countries because there’s no real jewelry ecosystem, where there’s no efficient transfer of knowledge, and the industry lacks investment. On the other hand, we have marginalized youth who want to study, to have better opportunities,” Abesamis added.

She intends to open The ART School, a projected world-class jewelry arts school that will help marginalized youth out of poverty. She pledges 2 percent of Dearest’s revenues to fund this, and hopes to open the school in two to three years.

“When you wear Dearest, we make sure your investment goes beyond your jewelry, you make a huge social impact that will be felt for years to come.”

by Rizal Raoul Reyes | Business Mirror | July 24, 2018