Alexa Uichico Gutierrez and Ary Duarte of Shoplaya prove that you can have it all
By Jane Kingsu-Cheng
When you’re feeling down and lost, what do you do? You find reasons to get out of it, and make those reasons your daily inspiration.
These two moms, Alexandra “Alexa” Uichico Gutierrez and January “Ary” Duarte, got together and made it a mission to pursue their passion. Alexa was a manager at a fashion retail company when she was still in the U.S. She flew back to start a family and found a job as part of the Fixed Income Sales under a banking company. Soon after she gave birth, she went through postpartum depression and felt incomplete: “I needed a profession where I could spend more time with my children, connect with people. At the same time, create and build my own brand.” Alexa is married to Elvis Gutierrez and has two daughters named Aria and Ezra.
Her partner, Ary, was with an airline company and decided to be a homemaker after giving birth to her now three-year-old daughter Tala. She is now expecting her second baby girl, Luna. “We wanted to do something significant and inspiring that will involved our kids, family, and a touch of our lifestyle,” added Ary.
After giving birth to her second daughter Ezra, Alexa went through postpartum depression. She shared, “Being away from my children made it very difficult.” One time, her husband caught her crying early morning and gave her the best advice: “Do what makes you happy.”
A few months after, she opened up to Ary about wanting to create something. “At that time we still had to figure out what it was but she was on board! Imagine, to find a partner that trusted whatever I wanted to do was priceless,” exclaimed Alexa. She quit her regular job and spent a year working on their passion project.
Here they go
Barely a month since they officially launched their baby clothing brand @shoplaya, the two moms have a lot to be thankful for. “One of my guardian angels and now mentor, Janice Villaunueva of Mommy Mundo, asked me to launch @shoplaya at her event and we happily agreed. It was just what we were manifesting the chance to connect and share our baby clothing to the growing parent community,” explained Alexa.
In addition, their kids are their source of inspiration. They get their constructive feedback from their daughters. Ary added, “@shoplaya was inspired by the name of our first borns, so we got their last two letters, Tala and Aria “La-ia.” The kids are actually our bosses. They tell us what’s nice and what’s not, what’s comfortable to them and what’s not. They tell us if ‘ouchy’ or pretty.” The brand carries clothing, accessories, vegan bags, and more awaits online at shoplaya.co
Read on to find out more about this pretty mommy duo and how they are able to juggle motherhood, work, and life in general.
MB: How’s your day like?
Alexa: My day always starts with meditation and lifting everyday to the Lord, because he really is guiding us with @shoplaya. I do a little yoga and attend to the kids. I take care of the kids in the morning. I work in the middle of nap times of Ezra & while Aria is in school. I check orders and take photos for Instagram in my little home studio. I love that I am able to connect, meet people and be creative, and at the same time, spend time with my family. Some days, I need to be out, so I’m so thankful for my supportive husband who helps me with the kids.
Ary: Now that we have @shoplaya, it’s a full day! Juggling work, my little girl, pregnancy, and family time, in general. In the morning, I attend to my daughter, spend time with her, sneak in @shoplaya duties once in a while, especially when she naps in the afternoon. Then, the whole afternoon is definitely family time until dinner. I try to stay away from my phone, since its my rule for her to avoid screen time as well. You would also often hear her say “mom no phone.” When my little girl is asleep, then I spend time like watch a movie time with my husband. Yes, wife and mommy duties never ends. Then, @shoplaya work again before calling it a day.
MB: What’s your favorite style piece and why?
Alexa: My favorite style piece is the Ezra dress named after my second daughter in forest green. I fell in love with the fabric right away (I love fabric and their character). I have never seen anything like this in children’s clothing.
Ary: For me it is the Tala jumpsuit. It’s actually named after my daughter. Its stylish, different and at the same time comfortable.
MB: Describe Shop Laya. What type of girl wears them?
Alexa: @shoplaya is not a cookie cutter brand. It’s for the girl who falls down, scratches her arm and brushes it off. It’s for girls who spends her day painting in her room, loves to dance,likes the beach and the jungle gym. We created Laya Baby to cater to all types of girls. We love when girls style them with sandals or sneakers.
Ary: @shoplaya is very diverse. It’s quirky and timeless, it is about letting children feel free, to make them want to have their own identity through the clothes they wear.
MB: Can you share your top 5 business tips?
Alexa: We went through a lot of trial, error and mistakes. We continue to face these challenges, but we take it with a grateful heart and learn from them. It is really part of the journey and makes us more resilient. Don’t dwell too much on the problem, but just find solutions. Ary and I balance each other out. We always try to give each other support even through rough times. Moms go through a lot in life and we learn to adapt, find help and support so I apply this to business. There is an amazing mom community out there and the key is to help one another.
MB: You’ve set up a physical store a few weeks back. How was it like?
Alexa: Exciting and nervous at the same time, because it was something very personal and close to my heart. The best feeling to be supported by the amazing parent community and to meet so many inspirational moms.
Ary: It was familiar for me, in a way. I did two-day bazaars a long time ago during my college days and also food stalls a couple of years ago for an event and summit. This one is more personal and interesting. It was such a great experience for both Alexa and I to be working around great moms, and inspiring people. Not to mention a really great team who supported us on our first bazaar. We loved it and were excited to do more.
MB: What is your favorite part in running the brand?
Alexa: It’s the creative process: from the mood board, fabric selection, design, photo shoots, Mommy Mundo events, and connecting with other moms.
Ary: Apart from the fact that Alexa and I have met so many kind people along the way, and learned a great deal from them, I think it’s also a lot about being able to share our talent and vision, not to compete but to be an instrument to this growth. Its seeing an opportunity to come up with good quality and affordable line where designs are closest to how many moms like us want our kids to wear. It’s how our hearts beam with delight when we see kids smiling with glee every time they get “kilig”wearing our clothes!