More than a decade ago, sophomore student Kim Lato started pursuing an e-commerce business based on the template of the American giant Amazon which was a leap of faith considering that she can comfortably take a career in her dad’s own textile business. What set her on the entrepreneurial journey in 2006 was her love for photography, a blogging hobby and a challenging online experience.
Over the years she nurtured a dream to “build the Amazon of the Philippines.”
Interestingly enough, that Amazon-fueled goal was set off by her own experience with the online global marketplace giant.
Lato recalls “I was looking for a particular lens in Amazon. The thought came to mind: Can I do this but with gadgets available here in the country?”
Her eureka moment came when she recognized the potentials based on need of Filipinos’ to instantly obtain their dream gadgets, resulting to her putting up Kimstore, which specializes in on-demand delivery of smartphones, laptops, cameras, electronic gadgets and accessories.
Building the brand
During its inception, Kimstore began at the now-defunct social networking site Multiply, which was among the predecessor of what would become the social media craze which is Facebook.
Lato recounts her first struggles: “There were a lot of inquiries online. I also received support from my professors and classmates. However, there were no sales.”
Her first sale came from her school mate, Zyla Quiambao who Lato remembers fondly to this day and who became her working proof of concept.
Lato wanted to prove that online selling of gadgets was possible and that her platform works.
Her sale of one product per week turned into 10. Lato soon adjusted everything in her schedule to keep on doing the business. She said: “Morning, I take all the classes, but in the afternoon, I was a business owner.”
Her sales soon skyrocketed, leading her to literally showcase her products to customers while having a snack at McDonald’s beside De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, Manila.
“A lot of people were seeing the stock right there, and they were buying as they see these,” Lato said.
She sat down with customers, explained the products’ benefits and closed deals on the spot.
Not surprisingly, other young student entrepreneurs followed her business model. However, while most of her young followers regarded the business as a side hustle, Kim saw it as her future.
At that time, brick and mortar stores were preferred where people can touch and inspect what they set out to buy.
Lato made customer service the game changer. With the goal of making Kimstore closer to every household, she shared the necessary information on gadgets she offered.
To compete with Lazada, which was also then starting out, she offered money-back guarantees and personal consultations during meet-ups.
It was not a walk in the park either, some meet-ups and their risks were nerve-wracking.
With the main office of Kimstore in Tondo back in the day, her team faces great risks as they carry almost P50,000 cash around town when deals are made.
There was also a time that they were not allowed inside malls for meet-ups, which created uncertainty among the customers.
“Mall security usually accosts our team then,” Lato lamented.
With the onset of the pandemic, Kimstore rode the wave of virtual shops and now competes with e-commerce giants Shopee and Lazada.