ONCE upon a time, there was a girl who was born and raised in a small city. Her name was Lea Lei Mapalo and she loved to make everything nice and pretty using her magical bare hands with the raw materials around her. Her very first creation was a handsewn dress for her favorite doll. Ever since college, she had always dreamt of having her own craft business. But due to the limited materials and opportunities in the place where she lived, she did not take this dream of hers seriously.
But later on, when she moved to the Queen City, she saw opportunities that sparked her passion and dream. She tried opening her first-ever craft shop where she sold handpainted canvas bags and shoes. After developing more skills and finding her niche in crocheting and making accessories, she took a leap of faith, followed her passion and decided to bring her dream business to life.
The Mermaid Collection was born.
The Mermaid Collection is a one-mermaid (woman)-team shop owned and managed by Lea Lei, who is also the crafter of all its products that include hand-stamped accessories, bag tags, keychains, passport holders, and cute and miniature stuff made from polymer clay.
Just like any story, Lea Lei’s story wouldn’t be complete without any conflict. There were times when she only had two orders in one month but it did not stop her from pursuing her dreams.
“I just went on until I joined my first-ever Pop District Bazaar where I witnessed people appreciating and supporting my craft. They were even shocked because they did not believe at first that I was the only one who made all my products. During that time, I felt really great and was proud of myself. And, it changed everything. I had the opportunity to meet my target market, new crafters and broaden my vision,” she said.
Aside from expanding The Mermaid Collection, the mermaid at heart herself, wants to create a livelihood program for housewives and teach them new craft skills that can help them sustain the needs of their families. She also wants to create an organization wherein she can give back or help people who are in need.
“Ever since 2014, I already practiced my yearly tradition to give back and share my blessings to the community. So, I wanted this tradition to grow so I can help more.”
For Lea Lei, everyone starts at the bottom no matter what kind of business they’re in or what they’re pursuing. But she believes in trusting the process, not letting obstacles hinder one from reaching his dreams, and instead, making them a motivation.
“Remember that when hard work pays off, it’s very rewarding. Don’t hesitate to ask from your family, friends, loved ones, and God for guidance every time you feel down and invalidated—they’ll make you stronger. And of course, the most important thing is you have to enjoy and love what you’re doing,” she shared.
You can find and check out The Mermaid Collection online @themermaidcollection, Makers by Dear Papers in Bonifacio District, and in La Local in The One Torre Santo Tomas, Manila.
“May the story of my humble beginning inspire you to work harder and push yourself to achieve your ambitions and dream in life,” Lea Lei added.