As a seven year-old girl, Ms. Mary Ann Cruz Dela Vega would help out in the family’s store – Balikbayan Handicrafts – which started as a stall under the Quiapo Bridge. From this small, cramped space she saw how her parents built the business through sheer hard work, perseverance and determination.

After working in a bank for three years, Ms. Dela Vega decided in 1993 that banking was not her calling. The handicraft business beckoned and she joined the family trade which catered primarily to tourists. Ms. Dela Vega, however, was convinced that there are other innovative ways to design Philippine handicraft that would appeal to local consumers and help change the perception that such products are only for the export and tourist markets. In time, she hit upon her breakthrough idea. With a partner and P50,000 initial capital, Ms. Dela Vega set up in 1997 the Bluer Than Blue Joint Ventures Co., and opened the first Regalong Pambahay shop in SM Southmall.

Ms. Dela Vega wanted Regalong Pambahay to be different from the start. Its merchandise comprises Philippine-made home décor, accessories and gift items that are innovations of traditional handicrafts. Moreover, Ms. Dela Vega sells her products at reasonable prices and her designs have a global, export-quality, and youthful appeal. Target customers are newlyweds, homemakers and young individuals who live on their own.

Today, Bluer Than Blue Joint Ventures Company oversees a chain of 23 stores that sell mainly handcrafted Filipino novelty product lines under the brand names Regalong Pambahay, egg (fashion accessories for teens and young adults), and Simplejoys (creative notions). Ms. Dela Vega plans to expand with more stores, concentrate on product development, launch new product lines, tap the export markets through the Internet, and improve its management scheme.

For her innovation and creativity, Ms. Dela Vega received citations from the Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Retailers Association. In 2001, she was awarded as the Most Promising Retailer for Non-Fashion and in 2004, as an Outstanding Filipino Retailer Small Scale Non-Fashion.

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