Earlier this week, Rissa Mananquil Trillo dropped a bombshell on Instagram: She was leaving Happy Skin.
Trillo was the beauty company’s chief brand officer. Chief executive Jacqe Yuengtian Gutierrez and Trillo are known as the cofounders Happy Skin, which was launched in 2013.
Back then, Trillo, who had spent 15 years of her life as a model and beauty columnist, said their goal was to create “makeup that cares for the skin” and one made for the Filipina skin tone.
In its eight years of existence, Happy Skin has been a tremendous success, with stand-alone stores and beauty counters in malls all over the Philippines, memorable collaborations with big celebrities and global brands, awards won and countless fans who swear by its products. Happy Skin was a pioneer, competing with international labels, changing the mindset about local beauty brands and paving the way for many others to enter what has become a flourishing market.
So why is Trillo leaving?
“The perfect business is one that is true to your values. Anytime I see something that is not aligned with my values, I won’t take it as a loss but as a gain that I knew it early on,” she told Lifestyle.
She wrote on Instagram, “Shared values are so important. Doing a good job has always meant so much to me—not just a good job, but doing it with integrity. It never made sense to me to compromise what I believed in because that meant compromising my respect for myself, too.”
Asked to elaborate on what she means by “values,” Trillo said, “The standards for doing good are universal, whether in business or in life.”
Trillo, who was Ernst & Young’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and GoNegosyo’s Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneur in 2018, said, “When Happy Skin started, I wanted to genuinely offer a skin-caring makeup solution to Filipinas. Financial rewards were secondary . . . Now when I think back, everything on my checklist is done.
“Happy Skin served its purpose. More than that, Happy Skin paved the way for other local beauty brands to enter the market, and I think that it will always be remembered as the homegrown brand that opened doors for both entrepreneurs and consumers to embrace loving local. I will always be proud of that.”
Colourette, Vice Ganda’s Vice Cosmetics, Sunnies Face and BLK Cosmetics are just some of the homegrown beauty brands born after Happy Skin. Gutierrez is also CEO of BLK Cosmetics—she cofounded it with actress Anne Curtis in 2017.
Leaving the brand was not a decision she took lightly, Trillo said. “It takes a lot of strength to leave something I poured so much of my life into.”
She told Lifestyle, “I look back on everything with gratitude and a full heart. To prove that local brands can compete with international brands is definitely a lasting legacy I can tell more about to my daughters.”
In her Instagram post, she mentioned seeking advice from “some of the country’s respected business leaders.” Who? we wanted to know. Trillo said, “I can’t reveal who exactly, but what I can tell you is these are the business leaders I interviewed for my book, ‘Read My Lips: What It Takes to Build a World-Class Homegrown Brand.’ My conversations with them reaffirmed that no matter what generation you are from, right is right and wrong is wrong.”
She added, “I am not the first partner to leave. I could’ve left at the same time as our other partner several years ago, but I wanted to give it a chance. No one can say I didn’t try.”
Trillo said that she and her husband Paolo put their joint savings into the brand. So how does he feel about her departure? “He’s actually the happiest,” she said.
Trillo has a message for the many fans of Happy Skin. “Thank you for giving Happy Skin a chance and supporting homegrown. Nothing is more fulfilling than to create a product from scratch, see it come to life, see women wear it and witness how it makes a difference in the lives of Filipinas.”
She added, “To this day, I still get messages from women about how Happy Skin has helped them discover their own kind of beauty and how it has empowered them to feel their best during important moments in their lives.”
Asked what she wishes for Happy Skin, she said, “More of a message for all homegrown brands—I hope for all local brands to continue being appreciated by Filipinos and to continue striving to elevate the industry. More importantly, to never forget that good values will always make good business sense.”
Trillo’s announcement was met with a lot of support on social media. “I didn’t expect it. I’m touched by the overwhelming response,” she said.
We reached out to Gutierrez and she provided us with a statement from the Happy Skin partners: “Though Rissa has not been working with Happy Skin since March 2020, we will always be grateful for her contributions to the brand. We wish her well on the journey ahead of her. Happy Skin will of course continue to fulfill its mission of elevating Filipino beauty and offering world-class products.”
Trillo said, “It’s not easy to say goodbye to one of my babies but at this point, my focus is moving forward. I received so many messages telling me ‘It’s an end of an era,’ but I’m excited for what’s next. I will continue to use my platform for things that matter to me—women empowerment, gender equality, sustainability, and helping start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs. More than that, I feel the same fire in me again. The same fire when I started Happy Skin dreaming about a game-changing brand. And it feels good. There are far more opportunities than I imagined.”