In Conversation With California-Based Pinay Businesswoman Yoliesil Pontino
Filipina entrepreneur Yoliesil Pontino follows a life of giving love, chasing dreams, and charity
From small-scale entrepreneur to bag empire boss, business hustler Yoliesil Pontino of Luxury Closet By Yoliesil braids her passion for bags with her personality. Magic happens when she melds the two together, paving way for possibilities that fetched her the opportunity to foster not only a name for herself, but also for the bold initiatives that she has ignited the spark of.
A change starter, charity chairwoman, mother of three, and wife, Yoliesil walks us through how her visions and ventures took off: “People would not really trust you right away. You still need to be felt. That’s how I started.”
“Brand new” beginnings
Making it to this terrain was once only a dream for Yoliesil. A self-confessed bag collector, she started purchasing luxury goods not until her first job. “When I was in high school, I loved collecting perfume and it's so funny because I only use maybe half of it and then keep it, ‘cause I’m collecting bottles,” she introduces.
“And then,” she proceeds, “when I started working my professional job, I got my first Louis Vuitton. The feeling is really good, you know?!” Yoliesil laughs.
Upon finding joy in that very first valuable investment of hers, Yoliesil began purchasing bags, though she guarantees that she was able to own one only after getting salaries and saving up.
From call center to California
Apart from having experiences in the hotel business, Yoliesil has also taken on an array of jobs. In the Philippines, she jump-started her career in customer service as a call center agent prior to her receptionist positions. “I didn't really last, especially [with] the schedule. And then, I worked for Holiday Inn Ortigas as Receptionist of the Front Office—I forgot the title, but I work at the desk where I met my husband,” Yoliesil shares with Metro.Style.
Just as other entrepreneurs who are now enjoying the benefits of having their own business, Yoliesil is one to have joined the corporate clique as well. She worked as a stylist for New York & Company’s Eva Mendes Collection before her full-time affair with her business. “I worked there for five years. That’s actually my first job in the States,” she fondly tells us. “Customer service is still there; passion is still there. I think, also, selling is actually [a] skill,” Yoliesil adds, mentioning that her early start in entrepreneurship made her business-minded more than ever.
“It’s so funny because even when I was young—maybe [in] my fifth grade—before the summer ended, I used to save my allowance to do business on summer days. I think I started saving two months [worth] of allowance for my business. I [used to] make halo-halo outside the house. I also made ice candy from my own allowance. I was already business-minded when I was young.”
Despite Yoliesil’s tireless timetable, she dedicates much of her time managing a community-oriented charity organization called Volunteer Team or V-Team for short.
“I wanted to make a difference,” she chimes in, when asked about what her advice is to budding entrepreneurs. “We already started this charity event before I started the #ShowYouCareHumanitarianMission. It was only once a month or [every] after two months, but I told them, ‘What if we do this once a week so at least we’re more active?’ At the same time, we can give more inspiration to the rest of the people.”
As she brainstorms with her volunteer body about the possibilities of allocating more resources for their movement, Yoliesil arrives at a realization. “You don’t need to have a title in the community like a politician or a rich person to show your care or to make a difference. I even told my volunteers that if someone—like the barangay tanods—[are] walking in your street and you see them, tell them, 'Thank you so much for your service for making our place safe.' Or, make them a coffee! That’s making a difference. [It] won’t even hurt your pocket,” she asserts.
With a total of 18 participants on the team, Yoliesil’s desire for volunteer-driven community contributions only grows stronger. “Some of them are tricycle drivers; some of them are housewives,” she says. “There’s one factory driver, and then a saleslady. They are pretty much housewives and part-time workers.”
A suitcase full of surprises
Long before living in the States, Yoliesil has already made peace with her situation. A then-single mother, she proclaims, “I feel like I already have a good job, I have my place, and I have a son already. I wasn’t looking for anything else, but maybe God is with you.”
With the acceptance of her newfound fate, she names her husband Jeff Pontino as the other half who is meant to meet her: “God gave me somebody who can embrace me—accept me with the package, which is my son—'cause I've been a single mom for six years.”
“I feel like it’s destiny,” Yoliesil reflects, revealing that her husband pursued her in the past—hard it may be. “It was my last day working for Holiday Inn 'cause I was moving to a different hotel. I was closing my register already and then, one of his close bellmen, who is a close friend of mine, too, said, ‘Hey, just check Sir in.’ He went like, ‘Oh, Sir, she’s no longer connected with us tomorrow so you can ask her to go out.’ Since then, we started to get in touch,” she muses.
Now based in San Francisco, California, Yoliesil’s new life allowed her to learn more about managing a business, building a community, and making a change. “Even though you have a lot of money, if you don’t have patience to do your business, it’s not going to grow. Patience is number one. It covers everything—answering the clients, cleaning up the bags, [and] packing them,” she advises the young aspiring entrepreneurs. “Know how to manage your time for your business and your family. It’s the most important lesson for me.”
Photos courtesy of Yoliesil Pontino