WILLYN VILLARICA Managing Director, Dominion Pawnbroker Inc.
Gemologist stays true to a customer-centric service mantra
“Mom mentored me in attention to detail, business acumen and art. But the most important lesson was to always pay the obligations on time and in full… Money can be earned. Once a person’s business reputation is gone, you’re done. “
“Jewelry is in my blood, so I keep coming back to it,” says Willyn Villarica. She is the granddaughter of Paz Villarica, founder of the family chain Villarica Pawnshop, aged 67, born on P. Paterno Street, Quiapo, Manila.
Villarica wanted to be a dentist when she was younger, but exposure to the pawn shop drew her to the gemstone world. “I grew up surrounded by jewelry,” she says. Her mother Ludivina married her father William at 18 and became Lola Paz’s apprentice, working at the Quiapo store.
Villarica says, “Mum is my superhero. Mum mentored me in attention to detail, business acumen and art.” But the most important lesson was “to always pay the obligations on time and in full.” Borrow or sell everything to pay. Money can be earned. Once a person’s business reputation is gone, you’re done.
She continues: “I was four or five years old when I became mom’s assistant. I put price tags on his inventory. We went to Binondo (in Chinatown) to meet with suppliers and customers. ) taught him. “
As Managing Director of the family-owned Dominion Pawnshop and Money Changer since June 1999, Villarica had honed the appraisal skills of more than 150 fine jewelry employees, as well as their ability to detect counterfeit banknotes. She also owns a jewelry store that bears her name, which values jewelry and stones, and sells new and old jewelry.
After living through quarantine for the past few months, she says, “The pandemic has taught me to be more flexible. Being able to stay home during the lockdown and eat full meals has made me realize the blessing and the luxury. given to me. ” However, it was not all smooth sailing. She may have been vaccinated, but managed to contract the Covid-19 virus from unvaccinated and asymptomatic staff. Her symptoms required hospitalization.
Of the business, she says, “My jewelry sales have really taken a hit. I push my valuation services to stay afloat. I mainly resell second-hand or subasta items from our pawnshop.
“Our Dominion Pawnshop Inc. has had to close 14 of our 35 locations in the Metro Manila and Bulacan area due to foreclosure. Our lessors have not given us enough discounts to keep us operating.
“It was very painful to let our employees go, who have been with us for over 20 years. Finding stable employment in today’s climate is difficult. I had sleepless nights when I knew we had to downsize our operations. . “
Its appraisal services are for loan purposes, not appraisal, she says. “It’s going well since people are using my appraisal report as proof that their jewelry is what they say it is when it comes to gold purity and diamond quality.”
She encourages customers “to buy lab-certified diamonds as an investment, so they know what they are paying.” After all, buying diamonds comes down to your budget.
She recently purchased a GIA iD100 device that distinguishes 30% to 40 cheaper lab-grown diamonds from natural diamonds mined from the earth. She has other gem identification tools. She explains, “There is a scientific method for classifying colors, which is not as simple as saying the stone is red, purple, or blue.” When it comes to colorless diamonds, the cut is the most important attribute, she adds.
His teacher at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Dr Eduardo Morato, made an indelible impression on him with this precious nugget: “By constantly learning, you make your old self obsolete because you have acquired new knowledge.” And so, Villarica makes the effort to educate herself year after year. “To live up to international jewelry appraisal standards,” she says, “I signed up for a course with the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers in New York. Once I finish, I’ll be her. first Filipino member. “
She also holds a 2020 Kellogg Executive Education (Digital Transformation) certificate. She says, “With technology, tools and software, I am competing on an international scale that counts in the grand scheme of things.”
EVERYTHING THAT SPARKS Villarica (bottom photo, center) with (left to right) her nephew Keito, her mother and mentor Luduvina, her sister Windie, her nephew Hikari and her brother Wesley and (top photos) some tools from the trade in precious stones. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
She admires Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for “how he’s so customer-centric (and is) constantly looking for ways to keep customers happy.” She applies her principle of “laser focus on what her customers want” to her business.
Villarica is a framework with multiple interests. Besides gemology, she has also been involved in real estate, law, food and beverage, microfinance lending, private equity, private venture capital and, briefly, the aviation industry.
Until September 2019, she was involved with Philjets Aero Services Inc. and Philjets Aero Charter Corp., created by her good friend Thierry Tea in 2013. Before Philjets, a helicopter owner had to find his own pilot, mechanic, crew management and hangar. , and also handles the paperwork, says Villarica.
Born in Manila into a family of entrepreneurs, Villarica, a middle child, spent most of her childhood in Bocaue, Bulacan. Her older sister is a dermatologist and her younger brother is a professional photographer. She traveled daily from her hometown to the Colegio de San Agustin in the village of Dasmarinas, Makati for high school, then, Assumption College San Lorenzo, Makati for her Bachelor of Science in Business and Management and finally, AIM for her Masters in Administration. Business. , completed in 2004.
She adds, “I have a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in New York. I learned how to properly classify diamonds and identify colored stones for jewelry. Filipinos only prefer diamonds.
“Most of my cousins went to GIA, but not all of them are GGs (graduate gemologists) because they only took the Graduate Diamond course,” she says.
Before the pandemic, she traveled four to six times a year. She practices yoga, dives occasionally, watches movies and listens to classical music.
Villarica’s strategies for success are simple, yet practical: study and apply what you’ve earned, and be agile.