From one to seven brands and a single outlet to 700 stores some 30 years later, the fashion retail journey of Golden ABC, Inc. is a story of hard work, perseverance, and triumph over failure.
Bernie Liu, who founded the first Penshoppe store in 1986 and later diversified the business into several clothing brands, said the tale of Golden ABC really started with his parents so many years before.
“Being the eldest, my dad toiled at a very young age. He never finished elementary school but his devotion to his family kept him focused,” he said. As a way to inspire budding entrepreneurs, Liu shared his story during the Cebu leg of the Big Talks series organized by the PLDT Smart SME Nation last July 28 at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.
With money borrowed from friends, Liu said his parents Lim and Norma set up a lumber business. It was the typical setup for most Chinese-Filipino families, with the ground floor of the home being used for the factory and second floor as living space.
Liu said he and his siblings helped out whenever they could. The enterprise grew and his parents ventured into another business, this time garments manufacturing.
“My parents set the cornerstone for our success with the values of hard work, resilience, care for workers, and excellence,” he said.
Although Liu studied architecture, his parents supported him when he proposed the opening of a fashion retail store. The first Penshoppe grew out of Liu’s hobby designing graphic tees.
Core company values
From all those years being in the business, Liu said he learned the importance of having a set of core values to guide the company vision and how they behave as an organization.
To explain what they had done and will continue to do, Liu said they’ve encapsulated these valuable traits that inspire Golden ABC’s mission and vision into the acronym WORLD, for winning culture, operational excellence, responsive leadership, leading brand, and dynamic talents.
The Golden ABC chief executive officer said he has encountered several failures on his way to building his clothing empire and some of them were pretty expensive learning curves, but a culture of winning helped him and his team overcome all challenges.
Learning from mistakes
“One of my big mistakes was using the wrong business model in other countries. I encountered problems with product development for non-tropical places. Sometimes, there are challenges with business partners. I joked about calling these times International Business 101 and I chafe at the high tuition I have to pay,” he said.
According to Liu, although failures offer the best lessons, they can paralyze business owners with anxiety, interfere with decisions, and cause risk avoidance. This spells death for entrepreneurship, he added.
Liu said his company continued to move forward, fueled by a passion for what it does and its vision to become the most admired fashion brands company in Asia. Aside from Penshoppe, Golden ABC is also behind such fast-growing and popular clothing brands as Oxygen, Forme, Memo, Regatta, Tyler and direct selling subsidiary Red Logo.
Golden ABC also made substantial investments in technology as part of its goal of operational excellence.
Liu said his company’s partnership with PLDT and Smart spans decades, adding that digital innovations changed how business is conducted and allowed Golden ABC to work faster and better.
“Continuing to operate the old way would have put us out of business,” he pointed out, citing that Golden ABC, Inc. leverages the latest business innovations to grow all areas of the business.
The Penshoppe founder was the keynote speaker during the second leg of PLDT SME Nation’s Big Talk conference held in Cebu last July 28. The event is part of the company’s “Make it Big Campaign” aimed at encouraging small and medium enterprises to bring their businesses to the next level through technology.
PLDT Smart SME Nation head Mitch Locsin shared during Big Talks the affordable digital solutions that the company offers to enterprises.
Liu said he is just a steward of all that he has and responsible stewardship requires that he builds on it and pass it on to the next generation when the time comes. According to him, the last decade was preparation for his brands going global.
Their strategies were directed towards achieving Golden ABC, Inc.’s dream of becoming the top fashion brands in Asia.
“People ask us why we use international celebrities to endorse the Penshoppe line. If supermodel Gigi Hadid or One Direction tell their fan base how much they love our brand, how does that make you feel as a Filipino?” Liu said.
The product is always an important focus of Golden ABC, the reason why the company has earned a reputation as a leading fashion brands group. Other Golden ABC brands not using celebrity endorsers are also doing well and this is because they come up with excellent products, Liu pointed out.
Business is also about people and Liu is proud that he has the best minds helping him. “In my first four years, I was grappling with a lot of challenges. Being upfront with our team was a game changer for us. Even the best talent can’t help you if they don’t have the full information,” he said.