BY OYAOL NGIRAIRIKL
As 2022 ended, a new business opened to serve babies and their parents, and a new endeavor rose to encourage young minds to try their hand at being an EntrepreNeni.
Route 30A, which turns into Farenholt Avenue, hosts one of Guam’s newest stores, Guam Baby Co. in Tamuning.
“It’s the perfect location for the store,” said Giana Pangelinan, owner. Guam Memorial Hospital is just around the corner, and a variety of day care centers, schools and Tamuning Church are all nearby.
Pangelinan said she’d never had aspirations to be a store owner. “This was my mother’s idea,” she said. Pangelinan had given birth and her pump broke. She complained to her mother about not being able to find quality items for her baby online. “As I was complaining … she said, ‘Why don’t you bring it in because if you’re having all these issues finding quality items here, then you’re not the only one.’”
This was at the height of COVID-19 and finding items on Guam or even online was difficult, she said. Pangelinan was hesitant since she was working full time. She said her mother replied, “Just do it online.”
And she did. With the help of her other half, Dean Manglona, Pangelinan launched the business. “We started at my house,” she said. Items were posted on the website which launched around May 2021. And as people ordered, they’d meet at the Guam Museum after work. At the time, Pangelinan was an accountant and tax manager at Sanford Technology Group LLC. She was surprised at how well the business did.
With growing sales came the need to keep more items. About a year ago, in November 2021, Guam Baby Co. started renting an office space at the GCIC Building, primarily for storage. But the business quickly outgrew that space too. In October the business officially opened its bricks and mortar store in Tamuning. Pangelinan said, “My entire family – my family and Dean’s family – they all helped to decorate and … make the space welcoming,” she said. “I really appreciate them all.”
The store is a boutique of brightly colored onesies, bibs and toys. Most of the items are made by people rooted in Guam and the Marianas. Onesies and two-piece neni-kinis in hibiscus printed materials, or with colorful prints of “ice keke” a frozen treat that is famously produced in Saipan, fill one wall. Those are Little Neni products made by Y’buena Quinata who lives in Seattle, Pangelinan said. Guam Baby Company also has wooden puzzles and rattles hand carved and produced by Koko Mei Workshop, owned by Arnold and Livvy Altuna. Pangelinan said they take the extra step to get the toys tested and certified for safety, which she appreciates.
She said is grateful for all her suppliers and is always on the lookout for more. “I really try to source local vendors,” she said. “It’s part of building up our community, supporting one another… It just feels great.”
She’s grateful she listened to her mother, Pangelinan said.
As to how she would measure her success, she said, “That question has been asked of me a lot. And I think maybe up to a year ago, my measurement of success would have been a dollar sign. Or a title. But right now, my measurement of success is we’re able to help moms and their babies with their pumps, their swaddles, things like that. … Seeing them walk in and saying, ‘Finally, we have a solution’ to whatever their problem is. That’s my measurement of success.”
Equally, she said, “My other new measurement of success is being able to … maintain a living and being able to spend time with my daughter. To me that’s just awesome.”
Last year, Pangelinan left Sanford Technology to focus on taking care of her daughter. It also had the impact of giving her more time to focus on Guam Baby Co., as well as a small accounting business that she’d set up on the side.
“That is my measurement of success,” she said.
Given her background as an accountant and now as an entrepreneur, the Journal asked if she had advice for others looking into starting a business.
“Be mindful of your budget,” she said.
Things add up, Pangelinan said. “We weren’t going to do some of these shelves but at the last minute, we decided we need it because it looks nice. So, you’ve got to spend it where you really need it. Sometimes I hold off on pretty things for decorations because I want to put (that money) towards inventory.”
The second piece of advice she said would be to do everything properly and plan ahead. “Get all the proper licenses, your bank account, do everything legit so that when it’s time for you to scale your business, you’re not stuck in the paperwork.” Pangelinan is glad that’s what she did. “… we even planned ahead for wholesale and we had our retail (plan) before we even had our store.”
And planning for the future is precisely what some of the littlest entrepreneurs at Guam Premier Outlet did on Dec. 17 at The Neni Market, sponsored by Inspire Marianas.
For Kiana Rae Goode it was an opportunity to learn about things like inventory and business licenses and permits. The 12-year-old said she enjoyed the workshops leading up to the big market day where her table displayed various clay Christmas ornaments that she’d made herself.
“There’s been a lot of customers,” she said.
Her parents, Lori and Jeremiah Goode said the workshop is their birthday present to her. “She’s always been crafty,” said Lori Goode. “We used to live in Hawaii … she would cut some of the flowers in my garden and sell them,” she said. Now in Guam, her daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit is burning brighter, and Lori Goode said the workshop helped focus that light. “For five weeks they had workshops … where they would learn business jargon, what is capital, target market,” she said. “It was great.”
The Neni Market is a youth entrepreneurial program paired with a one-day community event, created for children ages 7 - 13 to learn what it takes to own and run a business.
“Our goal is to encourage creativity, innovation, and hard work through this thought-provoking program, which offers entrepreneurial workshops led by our team and supported by mentors in the business community. It exposes the youth to the fundamentals of business,” according to the Neni website.
A few tables down from Island Rae Designs, another “EntrepreNeni", 11-year-old Jian Park, had caught the eye of shopper Ysa Mercado.
“I came out to see what the kids put together and I was surprised by their creativity,” she said. One young merchant intrigued her with his pitch on “mystery boxes.” “He was so enthusiastic I bought a few,” Mercado said.
Park said he loves mysteries and during the workshops he was inspired to take that love and turn it into business.
For parents Junior and Perinne O’Brien, the workshops were eye-opening, and they even learned things about running a business, which had become the focus of family discussions for the last few weeks.
Junior O’Brien said, “The workshops had some great mentors, always positive and really helping the kids to express what they’re interested in.” He said one of his sons sold out his framed fish prints. “He’s a peskadot, a fisherman. So we went fishing and he took a couple of fish, dipped it in paint and then rolled it on the paper. It was really nice,” O’Brien said. His other son created Christmas cards that people can give out during the holidays. “They both sold out. Everything. Gone.”
Junior O’Brien said during the workshops the mentors, which included several young entrepreneurs, held brain storming sessions and “really knew how to talk to the kids.”
The kids weren’t quiet, he said. “They were paying attention; answering questions. It was on point…. Overall, it was an excellent program and I hope it continues.”
Daria Calvo, who helped found Inspire Marianas with Victor Calvo, said the idea behind The Neni Market was to get more children involved in the community and doing things that got them thinking. “We wanted them to put their ideas at the forefront and to realize that with hard work you can do so much,” she said. There were 22 shops in total on Dec. 17. The plan is to do more, Victor Calvo said. mbj