From Side-Hustlers To Multi-Brand Retailers: An Inspiring Story

Rosanna Aranaz and Claudine Baron-Paulino were side-hustling even before ‘side- hustling’ was a thing. They were the brave, creative souls who realized early on that the structure of a corporate life was too limiting for them, and soon enough, their individual hustles led them to a joint business venture—the fashion and lifestyle multi-brand store we now know as Retail Lab.

Retail Lab, in fact, began as a project of the fashion and design school SOFA Design Institute. It was an avenue for its student designers to showcase and sell their works, and experience the business side of fashion. Rosanna and Claudine were tasked to head it, as their older sisters, who are the founders of SOFA, saw their knack for managing multiple brands and businesses. “We were really what people would now call ‘raket’-ers,” says Rosanna with a laugh.

Rosanna was then busy with her own clothing line called Looking For Lola and would accept part-time gigs as a fashion stylist; while Claudine, would be organizing her own bazaars, such as Santa’s La Vista Bazaar, and sell clothing and accessories she’s curated from different countries around the world.

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Until it came to a point when Rosanna and Claudine both realized that their small businesses could use a physical space that was inside a mall. “We couldn’t afford having our own store and hiring our own staff since we were just starting, and then we learned that many other brands had the same problem,” recalls Claudine. And so an idea of growing Retail Lab beyond SOFA seemed to fall into place.

Being the risk-takers that they are, Rosanna and Claudine both decided to jump right in and try it. “We were trying to be brave and literally just said yes to everything!” exclaims Rosanna. It was certainly a huge risk, but the rewards were fulfilling. Imagine—it was 2009 back then, an era when multi-brand stores, online shops, and Instagram marketing were practically unheard of, and Rosanna and Claudine were only in their early twenties.

“We put all our savings into our first project without any reassurance that the money would return,” reveals Claudine. And the end result was definitely worth it. “The exciting part comes in discovering new online labels, getting to know the owners behind them, learning about their products, and supporting these home-grown brands,” adds Rosanna.

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Like yin and yang, their partnership worked so well together, with Rosanna taking charge of Retail Lab’s creative direction, as Claudine heads the day-to-day operations and sales management. Without social media to boost their name and presence, they relied heavily on word-of-mouth and the mall’s foot traffic.

“Ten years ago, there was no social media. It was much harder for small businesses to have a market presence. You either had to join bazaars or have a physical store to showcase your products. There weren’t a lot of local brands, too, and not a lot of young entrepreneurs, either,” shares Claudine. Fast-forward to today and the rise of social media as a selling platform has definitely propelled the boom of emerging local brands. “It’s great, but competition can be stiff,” she adds.

So where exactly does the need for a physical space come in—especially when online selling is always an option? “A physical place enables the brand to grow more, it gives integrity to a label, and shoppers today still have that urge to see, feel, and experience the products first before purchasing them,” Claudine explains.

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“Knowing who our market is and what they are looking for is one of the key reasons behind our success,” adds Rosanna. After all, it helps that the two have been in the fashion and retail industry for a long time. Rosanna and Claudine are always one step ahead and have successfully foreseen that online brands would soon feel the need for a physical space to sell at through Retail Lab (and it’s four branches—and counting!). But they’re not stopping there.

Retail Lab is proudly on its 10th year milestone today, and Rosanna and Claudine are celebrating it with a bang. Breaking yet another mold in the local shopping arena, the partners are excited to launch its biggest-ever shopping party, called SOIRÉE by Retail L a b . “Nowadays, when you think of shopping at the malls, you associate it with all the stressful things that come with it—the heavy traffic, looking for parking, the crowds,” shares Rosanna. “So we decided to do something about it. We wanted to offer our buyers a pleasant and memorable shopping experience!”

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True to its goal, SOIRÉE is a celebration and a culmination of everything that Retail Lab stands for: supporting up-and-coming brands, showcasing unique and hard-to-find goods, and in a setting that’s social and fun, bringing back all the good things about shopping. You can expect wellness workshops, talks, and customization booths at SOIRÉE, too! If you’re one who has always considered shopping a fun and stress-relieving activity, and would like to shop from the best of the best fashion and lifestyle brands out now, then SOIRÉE is definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss.

See you at the SOIRÉE on April 27 & 28 at The Fifth at Rockwell. Follow @soireebyretaillab or visit