Of Microblading and metamorphosis: Ramon Padilla on entrepreneurship and Filipino identity in New York
In the heart of SoHo in New York City, around the corner from Louis Vuitton and Chanel, New Yorkers can find the third branch of EverTrue, a salon specializing in Microblading, a beauty technique that embeds color pigment into skin.
It’s most frequently used to enhance eyebrows, hairlines, and lips; and EverTrue, averaging 700 Microblading treatments per month, is a recognized leader in the niche. Its founder, Ramon Padilla, is Filipino.
One afternoon last week, Ramon moved around the salon attending to details with a purposeful stride, then relaxed into one of its plush velvet armchairs. Lean and dapper in a pressed gray linen shirt paired with crisp white jeans and sock-less loafers, he settled in to share insights on his journey from a small Montessori school in Manila to the Big Apple.
Outside, it was a sweltering 38 degrees Celsius. But in the salon, the air-conditioning was set to perfectly comfortable — cool enough to ensure that not a single bead of sweat ever broke in the room, but not too cold for sleeveless summer outfits. A predominantly white space devoid of clutter, the salon’s air of calm was capped by a vertical garden of spring flowers and butterflies - a clever metaphorical backdrop for post-treatment selfies chronicling the metamorphosis of EverTrue’s clients.
“The best thing about being an entrepreneur is owning my time.” Cerebral and outgoing, Ramon began by reflecting on a major difference between his current professional life and his previous one in multinational corporations. After graduating from Ateneo, he was a brand manager for beauty at Proctor & Gamble in the Philippines. And after an MBA from Harvard Business School, he was an executive at L’Oréal in New York.
“Then, neurosis was the norm. I answered emails as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, even before getting out of bed. Now, I use my early mornings to think and dream. 6:30am, before coffee or peloton, is when I get my best ideas. These are the ideas that have led directly to increased revenue for the salon, or greater workplace happiness for my team.
He added, “Now I have time for the important things in life, like scrolling through Instagram for inspiration.”
“Always looking for inspiration, always ready to be inspired,” is how Ramon described himself. Opening New York’s first dedicated microblading salon was one such inspired moment.
“Of course by then I had already been in the beauty industry for 20 years and knew it well,” he qualified, bringing to mind images of a graceful Kung Fu master waiting for his moment. “When I heard about Microblading, I knew that it would sell. After that, I didn’t waste my time over-thinking. (Never waste your time over-thinking). I just went for it.”
It was 3 months from the time Ramon unwound his partnership with Browhaus in the US, which he had joined after L’Oreal, to the time he opened EverTrue. “That’s the time it took to find the right space, sign the lease, renovate, and take a quick break.”
He seemed dissatisfied with the fast turnaround and felt he had to account for it.
EverTrue opened as a two-person operation in 2015 in Manhattan’s beauty mecca — the Flatiron district. Ramon’s partner Michelle Wu was the master esthetician and did all the treatments; Ramon did everything else. “It was a great way to know the business inside out. I was even my own receptionist. I had never done that kind of work before and really enjoyed it,” he laughed.
Ramon already had a lot of PR contacts in the beauty industry and he maximized them to get the word about EverTrue out. He invested properly in important facets of the business. Famed Filipino designer Blue Carreon did the salon’s interiors, while keeping non-essential expenses low. Most of all, he made sure that EverTrue’s Microblading service and experience were the best one could get in New York.
Within three months of opening, the salon was in the black. In its second year, it moved to a bigger location; and by the third year, it opened branches in SoHo and Chicago. The team is now 15-person strong.
Did he have advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Do only one thing, and do it well. 99% is not good enough.” Ramon emphasized that it was EverTrue’s culture of excellence that enabled it to stay ahead in New York’s brutally competitive beauty market.
“We are always looking for ways to do better. It could be something major like having the best estheticians, or using only the gold standard of Microblading technology. But at the same time, no detail is too small or unimportant.” As he was sharing this advice, his team was engaged in deep debate about how to improve the salon’s trashcans.
Is there anything in being Filipino that hindered entrepreneurial success? “Not being aggressive enough,” he admitted.
“We accept when we’re told that’s how something should be done and tend to be fatalistic. It’s a recipe for mediocrity. We are easily satisfied and it keeps us sane, but it doesn’t cut it if we want to be successful.”
Is there anything in being Filipino that buoyed entrepreneurial success? “Having an instant support group,” Ramon beamed, offering a surprising foil to the common belief that Filipinos in the diaspora exhibit a crab mentality and pull each other down.
“At any time, I have a friend to call on and its a powerful weapon to counteract the toughness of the city and entrepreneurship,” he elaborated earnestly. It was a group of Filipino friends who made it easy for Ramon to stay on in the US and work after graduate school. It was a Filipino friend who invited him to partner for the launch of Browhaus in the US, facilitating his jump from the corporate space to the entrepreneurial. And albeit teasingly, it was also Filipino friends who offered to house him if he needed, when he ventured on his own for EverTrue.
Suddenly, Ramon’s dog, which had been napping nearby, awoke from its siesta. A ball of fluffy and impeccably groomed white fur, it bounced around with elegance – the canine manifestation of its master and perfect greeter for the salon.
Its name? “Beefsteak!” Ramon grinned. Apparently the dog too was Filipino. — Rappler.com
Based in New York, the author is a writing enthusiast using this space as a good excuse to embark on some adventures, gain wisdom, and make friends along the way. Follow her on Twitter @beingleticia.