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Meet These Young Filipina Entrepreneurs Who Prove That You Can Mix Business with Friendship

There’s nothing quite like doing business with your best friend, swear these ladies behind local swimsuit line “Maria Swim.”
Meet These Young Filipina Entrepreneurs Who Prove That You Can Mix Business with Friendship
IMAGE Denisse Caoile
There’s nothing quite like doing business with your best friend, swear these ladies behind local swimsuit line “Maria Swim.”

Best friends Denisse Caoile and Mara Gollena’s connection started when they wore the same shirt to school. From then on, they had this unspoken pact of being each other’s person, sharing a love for fashion and the ocean. But more than their numerous weekend sleepovers and beach getaways, these young Filipinas also share an enviable camaraderie. Enter: their very own swimsuit line Maria Swim.

“I started Maria Swim back in 2017,” Denisse tells Preview. It was born out of her introduction to surfing two years prior when she thought board shorts and rash guard were the sole outfits she can wear for her weekend hobby. Not until she saw a bunch of girls wearing chic swimsuits while standing up to the gnarliest of waves. “Pwede pala yun!” she laughs.

PHOTO BY Instagram/mariaswim
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Pulling from her own experiences as a surfer and building a keen grasp of the importance of both durability and good fit when it comes to creating the perfect pieces, she went on to launch the swimsuit line Maria Swim, an ode to the modern Filipina unafraid to celebrate her femininity alongside a like-minded community.

Style-wise, they made it a mission to focus on silhouettes that are cut in a way that is right and flattering for all body types, creating designs that complement the female form while still being able to hold up in the heaviest conditions.

Mara, ever supportive of her best friend’s ventures, has constantly been there since day one, so when Denisse finally invited her to officially help in running the company in 2020, there wasn’t room for any doubts at all.

PHOTO BY Denisse Caoile
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Not everyone is brave enough to mix business and friendship, so there must be a secret sauce to their longstanding bond despite going to uncharted territory, and at a time of a pandemic, no less! Surprisingly, they never really had any major fallouts while working together, and they credit their opposite personalities for it.

“We learned how to be problem-solvers during this time,” Denisse explains. She says that Mara possesses the calm demeanor that keeps them grounded under pressure—a constant reminder to not dwell on things they can’t control. “If we keep thinking about it, mauubos lang yung energy namin,” Mara says. “For every bad surprise life throws at us, we always remind ourselves not to get stuck or too emotional about it. I mean, we do give ourselves time to absorb and internalize, then we come about and plot our next steps.”

Like many small businesses, they’ve had their fair share of struggles during the lockdown, but unlike others who experienced destruction, theirs was construction. “It’s the most creative the brand has ever been!” Denisse quips. At one point, they even bought studio equipment so they can create strengthen their brand’s social media presence, including creating videos on the Gen-Z dominated app TikTok.

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PHOTO BY Denisse Caoile

Asked to account for their success, they mention their strong attention to detail when it comes to every collection they release, resulting to unparalleled patronage from their customers. Denisse notes, “We have customers that have been wearing our first design three years ago, and up to now she keeps on telling me that the shape still holds up, and it feels like she just bought it!”

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And as for their advice on friends who want to venture into collaborative entrepreneurship the way they did? The ladies share some words of wisdom. “As long as you and your BFF have strong communication, I say just go for it,” Mara says, emphasizing “empathy” as a key trait to building unbreakable partnerships. 

Denisse certainly agrees, listing three factors that contributed to their success: “First, communication. You must be able to communicate whatever you have in mind with your partner so as not to result to a sour relationship. Second, character dynamic. You must be able to balance each other so that the working relationship is efficient and harmonious. Lastly, boundaries. You must be able to respect each other’s boundaries and keep a level of professionalism when it comes to work.”

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