Kim Lato’s pursuit of an e-commerce firm was unheard of more than a decade ago, especially because she could expect a cushy “career” in her father’s textile business. Her passion for photography, a blogging pastime, and a tough internet experience led her down an alluring business route in 2006. A desire to “construct the Amazon of the Philippines” would further redefine it over time.
That Amazon-fueled ambition was sparked by her personal encounter with the online global marketplace behemoth. “I was hunting for a certain lens at Amazon,” Lato recalls. ‘Can I accomplish this using gadgets accessible here in the nation instead?’ I wondered. Her first step in founding Kimstore, which specializes in on-demand delivery of smartphones, computers, cameras, and other devices, as well as their accessories, was this eureka moment that detected a possible client need.
Kimstore had its start on the now-defunct social networking site Multiply, which was essentially the Facebook of its day. Lato describes her initial struggles: “There were a lot of questions on the internet. My instructors and classmates backed me up as well. However, no sales were made.”
It was her “orgmate” Zyla Quiambao’s first sale, which Lato remembers warmly to this day, that served as her working proof of concept. Lato wanted to show that it was feasible to sell goods online and that her platform functioned. Her weekly sale of one product grew to ten. Lato quickly rearranged her schedule in order to continue conducting business. “I took all the lessons in the morning, but in the afternoon, I was a company owner,” she explains.
Her sales quickly soared, prompting her to practically demonstrate her items to people while eating food at a McDonald’s near De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Manila. “A lot of people were seeing the stock right there and buying it as soon as they saw it,” Lato adds. She sat down with consumers, discussed the benefits of the items, and made sales on the spot. Her company idea was quickly copied by other young student entrepreneurs. While others saw it as a side business, Kim saw it as her future.
Transitions, challenges, and transformation
Lato made customer service her difference because physical storefronts were still the key venues where consumers acquired their electronics at the time. She offered the required knowledge when it came to buying or acquiring goods, with the purpose of bringing Kimstore closer to every family. She provided money-back guarantees and personal advice in meet-ups to compete with Lazada, which was also just getting started.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though; some of the meet-ups and their associated dangers were nerve-wracking. Her crew would routinely carry approximately PHP50,000 cash across town when their primary office was in Tondo back in the day. There was also a point when they weren’t authorized to have meet-ups within malls, which caused confusion among shoppers. Lato says, “Sinisita ng security yung team namin noon.”
Her one-of-a-kind answer was the construction of several pick-up spots, which today number 15 around Metro Manila.
Kim is a firm believer in not putting all your eggs in one basket. So much so that when Multiply collapsed in 2013, It was a big yet good shift. “A lot of industry buddies helped me develop my website, then I moved to Facebook,” Lato added. Throughout the shift, she called her customer database. One by one, I texted them I told them we moved to Facebook.”
By 2015, consumers outside Metro Manila were asking how to acquire Lato items. A COD (cash on delivery) service, which has revolutionized the e-commerce industry, helped her satisfy demand.
She made good customer service one of her staff’s core values. Lato credits her success to providing highly individualized experiences for her clientele.
Then, in 2020, during the height of the epidemic, Lato made another breakthrough after 15 years in business. More folks who couldn’t leave their houses due to the lockout looked to Kimstore for delivery.
Kim Lato: A woman in the tech space
She is now determined to become one of the Philippines’ most successful electronics companies. As one of the few women who could succeed in the male-dominated computer industry, her achievement garnered her plaudits.
Initially, Lato had to alter the expectations of a few clients. “When people see the name ‘Kimstore,’ they assume it is owned by a Korean,” she explains. if the owner is male. ‘Oh, it’s a lady,’ people think when they see me.
Lato values her progress as a woman and a company owner. She cherishes all personal communications and the individuals she inspires. When asked why she succeeds, she starts with her enthusiasm. “I was able to fight my self-limiting notions — the fear of failure, I was able to overcome those negative connotations,” Lato adds.
Career breakthroughs and industry learnings
At the height of the financial crisis, Kim had the confidence to pursue Kimstore full-time in 2008. Scaling the firm was the way to go. “The goal to become the Amazon of the Philippines,” she says.
Her achievements have been acknowledged by top commercial organizations like Go Negosyo and PLDT, and she has built a leadership position in the on-demand internet gadgetry field.
Despite her successes, she is still eager for more. She recognizes how post-pandemic consumer behavior shapes demand and market direction. Lato advises new e-commerce entrepreneurs to “grow and be aggressive on other platforms like Shopee and Lazada”. A digital firm requires investments in digital technologies like CRM, accounting software, analytics, online infrastructure, and a reliable logistics partner.
Lato’s next move is to give back after becoming an industry leader. With her love for e-commerce and women’s empowerment, —-
aims to build a stronger network for her professional peers and siblings in the e-commerce market by organizing masterclasses and other engagements for women startup owners and novice company executives. “I truly want to use this chance to aid the e-commerce community and empower women,” says Lato.