Kim Lato and her 15-year e-commerce journey with Kimstore

More than a decade ago, then-sophomore student Kim Lato's pursuit of e-commerce business was unheard of, more so as she could have easily led a comfortable “career” in her dad’s own textile business.

Kim Lato and her 15-year e-commerce journey with Kimstore

What set her on an entrepreneurial path in 2006 were her love for photography, a blogging hobby, and a challenging online experience. Over the years, it would be further refined by a vision to “build the Amazon of the Philippines.”

“I was looking for a particular lens on Amazon. The thought came to mind: ‘Can I do this but with gadgets available here in the country?'” Lato said.

It was a eureka moment for her: Recognizing a potential customer need was her first step in building Kimstore, which specializes in on-demand delivery of smart phones, laptops, cameras, and other gadgets and accessories.

Building the brand

During its early inception, Kimstore began at the now-defunct social networking site, Multiply, which was the Facebook of its time.

“There were a lot of inquiries online. I also received support from my professors and classmates. However, there were no sales,” she recalled.

It was the very first sale bought by her orgmate, Zyla Quiambao, who Lato remembers fondly to this day, that became her working proof of concept.

Her sale of one product per week turned to 10.

“Morning, I took all the classes, but in the afternoon, I was a business owner,” she said.

Her sales soon skyrocketed, leading her to literally showing her products to her customers while having snacks at the McDonald’s beside De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, Manila.

“A lot of people were seeing the stock right there, and they were buying as they saw the stock,” said Lato.

Transitions, challenges, and transformation

Because at that time, physical stores were still the primary places where people bought their gadgets, Lato made customer service her differentiator.

To compete with Lazada, which was also then starting out, she offered money-back guarantees and personal consultations in meet-ups.

It was not a walk in the park either, though. Some meet-ups and the risks entailed were nerve-wracking.

Her unique solution: the establishment of the different pick-up points which now number to 15 different locations around Metro Manila.

One of Lato's strong entrepreneurial beliefs is that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. This became truer when Multiply closed down in 2013.

“A lot of friends in the industry helped especially in building my website, and I transitioned over to Facebook,” Lato said.

By 2015, people outside Metro Manila were already inquiring about how to buy products from Lato. To meet the demand, she partnered with a courier that provided a COD (cash on delivery) service, a true gamechanger in the e-commerce space.

A woman in the tech space

Lato's success earned her praise for being one of the few women who could breakthrough in a frequently male-dominated tech space.

Initially, Lato encountered a few customers who had to adjust their expectations early in the business.

“When they see the brand ‘Kimstore,’ their first thought is that a Korean owns the business. Or the owner is a man. But when they see me, it’s like they think, ‘Oh, it’s a woman.'”

That courage she showed in deciding to pursue Kimstore fulltime around 2008, right at the peak of the financial crisis. The solution for survival was to scale the business.

“It was how to make it big. The vision is to become the Amazon of the Philippines,” she said.

She has carved a leadership niche in the on-demand online gadgetry space as she champions different e-commerce verticals and has certainly reached something similar to that goal, with her accomplishments recognized by awards from leading business organizations like Go Negosyo and PLDT.

The next step for Lato is to give back. By focusing on her passion – entrepreneurship, e-commerce, and empowering women – she wants to go back to her roots by holding masterclasses and other engagements for women startup owners and newbie business executives, enabling a stronger community for her professional peers and siblings in the e-commerce space in the future.

“I really want to take this opportunity to share my knowledge, time, blessings, and really help the e-commerce community and empower women,” she said.

Topics: Kim Lato , e-commerce business , Kimstore , entrepreneurship
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