A relentless seeker and purveyor of all things uniq, Mikka Padua lives in a world fueled by passion and creativity. Inspiration from a trip to Mexico (or even to the supermarket) is turned into insightful storytelling and rich retail experiences for her company Seek the Uniq. We sat down with the Commander-in-Chic at STU’s guide shop dubbed as ‘Habitacion’ where she shared her tips on overcoming an entrepreneur’s worst enemy and why she believes fashion is a powerful tool.
On personal style: “I would say it’s contemporary bohemian but it’s really a mix of things. I like doing high-low and mixing say a statement skirt from Seek the Uniq with a classic sweater or a button-down. I don’t like doing a lot of trendy things at one time so I stick with just one and build it up from there.”
“When it comes to dressing up, my criteria would be a look that would make me happy. I believe that fashion is so powerful. If you’re feeling a bit lazy or not in the mood and it’s a blah day, you can easily pick yourself up with a good outfit. If I have a big meeting, I feel more confident if I’m dressed for it. Dressing up is really important – it’s not something I take lightly. It gives you more credibility and changes your whole disposition.”
On what she wears on a typical day: “I usually build my outfit around a certain piece, which is my highlight for that day. Right now, I’m into casual tailored pieces because they’re so easy to dress up or down. I would wear a jacket and dress it down with jeans or linen pants. If I’m working, I would wear low heels then if I’m going out at night I would just change my shoes, add a few pieces of jewelry and change my bag.”
Mikka's favorite accessories are a mix of bohemian and classic pieces; these low heels by Zarah Juan were her work shoes for the day
Some of Mikka's everyday essentials include skincare products from Boots and Pixi Beauty
On her journey from corporate creative to fashion entrepreneur: “I built a career on merchandising for jewelry and beauty before I found my calling in fashion - and that's where I stayed. Even when I had a corporate job, I had businesses on the side – hobbies that turned into small businesses. I never stopped even when I got so busy with my day job. It was an outlet for me – creating things and selling them. It kept me going and it created a good balance. When I finally had the confidence to start Seek the Uniq, it helped having that kind of mentality.”
“I appreciate my corporate background now that I’m in a less corporate environment. The corporate world molds you to become a better professional and I feel that it’s very important to have that kind of experience before you run your own business.”
On the most important lessons she learned as an entrepreneur: “There are a lot of things that come with a loosely structured business that you don’t expect. We’ve been running for 5 years and I would say we still have birthing pains up until now. Running a start-up becomes increasingly difficult as you scale the business, especially if you’re not set up as a proper organization wherein you have the support of an HR or an accounting team. Those are the things that I would say is tough for an entrepreneur like me because I’m more into the creative side."
"In hindsight, I wish I was more diligent with accounting from the very start. It’s not the glamorous side of the business but it’s a crucial part of it. Another challenge would be finding the right people who understand your vision. Joining a start-up is far from a big corporation because it means you’re expected to do multiple roles. It’s not easy finding people who are willing to do that but we’ve been lucky.”
“In the digital world, we don’t sleep. The business does not even close. Even if we close our brick-and-mortar location, we go home and still answer our customers. It’s exhausting but if your heart is in it, it’s fun and fulfilling.”
On finding inspiration: “I find inspiration even in the most mundane things. Traveling helps a lot but with the kind of work we have, I can’t be away for a long time."
"If it’s a question of finding inspiration, you can create it and live in a world where you’re constantly inspired. When we created the guide shop, we wanted a place where people feel instantly inspired and they would want to hang around and take their time versus going inside a typical store.”
On the inspiration behind Habitacion: “Our guide shops are always travel-inspired and is just about putting things together that make us happy."
"The first one was inspired by the places that I love like India, Morocco and Mexico, a culmination of all the things that we found inspiring."
Mikka's travel books on India's most famous cities
"Habitacion is our fifth guide shop and the word was something I picked up during our last trip to Mexico. I liked the sound of it and it was perfect for what we had in mind. Since it’s going to run for a longer time, it had to be something that always feels fresh and homey.”
Inside Habitacion, Seek the Uniq's guide shop, which will run until January at Powerplant Mall
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “I would say don’t quit your day job yet. It’s not going to be easy for the first few months or years even and you would need a steady flow of income. Otherwise, you’ll run out of funds and you’ll feel like a failure. If you can, hold on to that job first even if it doesn’t inspire you.”
“When you have an idea, get to it right away. Own it and launch it even if you don’t have a website. If it doesn’t work out, then you pivot."
"Your biggest enemy would be overthinking. You will never be able to start if you overthink because it will never get to perfect – just polish it along the way. You fail fast, you learn and then you pick yourself right up. That way you’ll find your calling sooner. The most important thing is to just do it because you’ll never know if it’s going to work or not until you take action.”
Follow Mikka on Instagram: @mikkapadua
Follow Seek the Uniq on Instagram: @seektheuniq
Photography by Sheila Catilo (@sheilacatilo)
Make-up by Angie Saul from Estee Lauder Philippines
Hair by Malou de Guzman of Jing Monis Salon