From Childhood Ventures to Business Triumphs: The Multi-Faceted Denise Villanueva

February 23, 2024 – Alike Editorial

While other kids were living out their dream careers through playing pretend and make-believe, Denise Villanueva, co-owner of iDarts and founder of Fauna Manila, was already dabbling in business. When she started receiving her weekly allowance, she opted to explore ways of growing her money, instead of spending it on toys, clothes, or other pleasures.

“When I was in grade one or grade two, I would receive 100 pesos every weekend. That 100 pesos, I would grow it to 400 pesos. I would use the 100 pesos to make ice candy, bring this cooler to school, and sell it to my classmates for five pesos each,” she recalls.

Noticing her spirit and mind for entrepreneurship, her parents nurtured her skills at a young age, encouraging her to learn more about running a business. “They saw that I was earning back then, and then they were like, ‘Oh, you should pay for the electricity you use.’ At that early age, I already accounted for different factors like electricity, freezer space, and stuff like that. It started from there, and I enjoyed it,” she says.

This attitude in business continued into her teens and adulthood. At one point, the eager entrepreneur even designed her own shoe line. “Part of me is also creative. I would go to Marikina, have shoes made, and then I would sell it for a premium price because for me, quality should always come first,”  she says.

Although she enjoyed flexing her creative muscles, she stopped designing shoes to focus on working a corporate job. “When I started to go into corporate, I didn’t have time to continue and I wanted to gain more experience and knowledge. I wanted to focus on one thing, so I went to corporate and then I went back to the family business to apply what I learned,” she shares.

This bright-eyed businesswoman has come far in her career, but she still strives to gain more knowledge and skills. At present, she is studying at the Hult International Business School as a Woman In Business scholar. “I feel like I still need to learn more. So right now, I am currently studying abroad. I’m in the US taking my post-graduate studies. I want to learn more to apply it again to our business,” she says.

On developing iDarts, Fauna Manila, and BNY Jeans

With her entrepreneurial mind and spirit, Denise opened iDarts, the first electronic darts bar in the Philippines. “The bar concept started with my sister. She was in Sydney for eight years and she got addicted to playing darts there. So we talked about it, and my dad was also trying to convince her to come back to Manila,” she shares. “We were thinking of what to bring from Sydney to Manila, and that’s how we decided to bring in iDarts.”

When one thinks of a bar, the focus is typically on getting drunk. However, Denise chose to deviate from this expectation, focusing instead on offering their guests a fun and unique experience. “We want people to play. We have a game master who teaches people to play, because we want the customers to get hooked by playing, not because of drinking,” she says.

That isn’t to say that Denise isn’t fond of drinking. In fact, her love for cocktails inspired her to open Fauna Manila, a progressive mixology bar located in Bonifacio Global City. “I am very fond of cocktails. Whenever I go to a new city, I would make sure to visit a good cocktail place because I like trying new things. I like applying that and bringing it to Manila,” she shares.

Aside from managing iDarts and Fauna Manila, Denise also has a hand in running their family business, BNY Jeans, a local clothing brand that aims to change the casual streetwear scene in the Philippines. Currently, she is studying to develop BNY Jeans. “I want to apply everything that I’m learning. Sustainability and how the future would look like, so we can apply it to the company and further develop the brand,” she says.

Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

“You have to go out and see the world and see how they do things differently,” she says. “It’s different when I moved here in the US. I saw a different type of approach in business and how they work, and I feel like it’s really going to help entrepreneurs, especially in the Philippines.”

She doesn’t shy away from using new tools, either. “If you know the right tools, you will thrive in any business that you have right now,” she says. Although AI technology is still a relatively new business tool, Denise is enthusiastic about using it. “There are a lot of AI programs right now. You can strategize in marketing using AI tools. You just have to have the right data to feed them, and then they will give you the result you want that’s beneficial to your company.”

But above all, knowing the core of your business is of utmost importance for Denise. “For me [businesses] don’t necessarily have to be progressive and innovative. For me, you have to focus on your core, what’s your value as a brand,” she says. “That’s what we focus on. Your brand doesn’t have to offer something new, but it has to be real. It has to come from the heart. And you don’t want it to be a fad. Always strive for quality.”

She advises the same for dealing with doubts: “A lot of people will doubt you and bring you down. But you have to always remember that you have your own core. You just have to have your own core and believe people who will believe in you.”


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