Starting the business while in senior high school, John Nierva proudly sells LGBTQ+ merchandise through the Vaklang Store on Lazada
Growing up, John Nierva was inspired by his parents, who ran a small merchandising business and printing shop in Divisoria to support their family. Even at a young age, he knew he would one day become a businessman, following in the footsteps of his parents, but in a way that was more personal and proudly reflected who he is.
“The day my heart found its other half, I realized that I wanted to sell LGBTQ+ couple shirts so that LGBTQ+ couples can be recognized and, through these shirts, can let others know that #LoveWins,” John shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.
The couple shirts were the first pieces of merchandise John sold on the Vaklang Store, an e-shop he set up on Lazada through the company’s cooperative for small entrepreneurs. He now plans to expand the business with merchandise such as flags, bracelets, and other accessories.
“I always say this phrase to myself, something my teachers and classmates tell me: Always do things more than they expect,” says John. “Sipag at tyaga, magagawa natin yan! Mawalan man ng pagasa ngayon, may bukas pa! (It is just hardwork and patience! Even if we lose hope now, there is always tomorrow.)”
Just a senior high student when he first started, John brought the idea to his parents, who helped him set up the business by using their printing and merchandising resources to create the colorful and striking couple shirts for sale. Just a couple of years later and John proudly shares that the business has allowed him to not only treat his family out but to pay his own school fees and tuition at STI College Caloocan where he is a second-year information technology student.
The 20-year-old jokes that he always knew he would do well, his mother telling him at a young age that he would support her when he became a successful businessman. But even he was surprised that it all happened so soon. It is in part due to the infrastructure of online selling through Lazada that has provided such ease for him as a small entrepreneur. It is also his conviction and belief in the merchandise he offers, things he would proudly wear and use himself.
“I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community,” says John. “As a part of the community, I want everyone to know that we exist and we are proud to be ourselves. We love, we want to be loved, and we want to have our voices heard.”
“For my co-LGBTQ+ members, be proud,” he adds. “Sumainyo ang kagandahan (May beauty be yours)! Don’t let others judge you. Hindi tayo basta bakla lang, bituin tayo na nagnining sa kalangitan! ‘Wag matakot, ipagmalaki ang pusong bahaghari! (We are not just bakla, we are the stars that shine in the sky! Don’t be scared, show off your rainbow heart!)”
The Vaklang Store has also allowed John to support causes he believes in, particularly causes that go toward the LGBTQ+ community. During this health crisis, he has also been able to donate to people in need, giving out groceries. As an information technology student, John is now working on an app that will help Filipinos manage their time.