Jessica Stout is a wife, mother of three, and business owner of Bonita Trading Co. along with Joe Leon Guerrero & Margaret Leon Guerrero. This locally owned and family run business offers hair and baby accessories and kid-friendly apparel designs under their brands: Bonita Baby, Kidd Pacific, and The Original Guam Polo Collection are inspired by their children, culture, and love for Guam. Jessica discussed her business venture journey through the challenges and triumphs and also talked about what lies in store for Bonita Trading Co.
Please tell us about yourself and your family. I’m a Wife (to Michael) and Mommy to 3 wonderful children: Celia, Michael and Olivia.
Why did you decide to start your own business? My business was inspired by two things: A passionate hobby and the desire to pass on our culture to my children. I realized that the selection of unique and locally inspired children’s gear was very minimal and found my niche in designing and creating, alongside my brother Joe, some kid-friendly designs that were Guam themed.
What experience do you have in this type of business? I have an MBA and a background in sales and finance. While becoming a business owner seemed like a natural progression, I really didn’t have any experience in the retail or craft business. I learned a lot from other business owners and artists. I also read through business articles and trade blogs online.
How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you? The Small Business Development Center really helped me to identify my business objectives, develop realistic steps to reaching my goals, and formulate a solid direction to take my business. Even though I already have my business plan in full motion – it’s comforting to know that if I have any other questions or concerns, the team at SBDC is always there to help me.
What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business? We self -funded our business from the start so our inventory was fairly small and selective to only the items we really wanted to bring to market. However, last year, we were fortunate enough to receive a grant which helped us launch our newest clothing line – the Guam Polo Collection.
What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process? I believe in any business, funding is always a big challenge. We just started small and continued to reinvest in our business. We took baby steps to get to a comfortable point. Self-doubt was something I also had to get over. There were times I wondered if my business was going anywhere, but when I have customers send me photos of their babies and children in their Guam bibs or Guam Seal headbands or Hafa Adai tee shirts – that’s when I know the challenges have been worth it.
What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process? I have two memorable triumphs: Starting a collective boutique with talented female artists from around the island was just amazing. You can’t help but to draw inspiration from like-minded women who just want to help lift you up. I have so much gratitude for the experience. Also, being the recipient of the Guam Unique Merchandise and Art Grant was truly memorable. Having some of Guam’s most successful business men and women believe in you and your products is so encouraging.
What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business? For Bonita Baby and Kid Pacific, in the short-term, we are launching our very own storefront in just a few weeks. It is truly an exciting time for us. In addition, we have a lot of new ideas and designs that we will release throughout the year. Longer term, we just want to continue on with our mission of cultivating and preserving our beautiful Chamorro culture through our kid-friendly products.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time? Starting a business is frightening and amazing all at the same time-- but you won’t ever regret believing in yourself and putting your ideas out there. All it takes is a vision, determination, and that very first step. I believe Guam is ripe for new businesses.
For more information on Bonita Baby and Kid Pacific items, visit www.bonitaguam.com. You can find their products at the Guam Art Boutique and GUMA Store in Chamorro Village, Neni & Me in Sagua Managu in Tamuning, and Two Lover’s Point Gift Shop. Be on the lookout in March 2017 as they open their storefront in Hagatna directly besidre Buzzcuts & Ponytails.
To find out how the Guam SBDC can assist you start or expand your business, visit www.pacificsbdc.com or call their main office at 671-735-2590.