Rissa Mananquil Trillo, who built the brand from scratch, leaves Happy Skin

Published October 18, 2021, 8:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The model, beauty writer, and Ernst & Young’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, having finished this beautiful chapter, is eager to write a new one

Happy Skin co-founder Rissa Mananquil Trillo

In October 2013, exactly eight years ago, homegrown brand Happy Skin was born. When it came into the Philippine market, there was nothing else like it—a local brand with world-class quality and vision, and one that was a dual citizen of both makeup and skincare.

Rissa Mananquil Trillo, who co-founded Happy Skin, still recalls how everything began for her. What follows is the statement she made on the day she announced leaving the brand she so lovingly developed and nurtured.

I remember how my husband Paolo and I put in our joint savings after we got married. I also had a gold Happy Skin pendant made and even gifted replicas to my partners. From then on, I’ve worn it almost every day close to my heart as a reminder of all the hard work, purpose, and passion.

Today is also the day I’m announcing my exit from Happy Skin. This is a decision I thought long and hard about. It takes a lot of strength to leave something I poured so much of my life into. 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.

HAPPINESS IS LETTING GO Rissa’s post today, Oct. 18, announcing her exit

It was honestly a difficult decision. The final step I took was to seek the advice of some of the country’s respected business leaders. Turning to them proved to me that no matter what generation you are from, right is right and wrong is wrong. When I look back at my goals when Happy Skin started, I’ve ticked off everything on my list—to provide a solution to a problem Filipinas had been facing and empower them with skin-caring makeup, to fill the gap in the cosmetics industry with a local makeup brand that offered premium quality products at affordable prices, and to create a homegrown brand that Filipinos can be proud of.

I understand during a time like this, I’m in a privileged position to walk away from something that no longer aligns with my values. But it’s time we all made better choices. Success to me is being able to check all the boxes in my list, but also knowing when to walk away.

‘I’m in a privileged position to walk away from something that no longer aligns with my values. But it’s time we all made better choices.’

Rissa’s journey as an entrepreneur began in the industries she’s spent most of her life in. With 15 years of experience as a model and beauty columnist, she had every imaginable makeup brand on her face and back then, she couldn’t find a single brand that wouldn’t aggravate her skin. This personal pain point of hers—needing makeup to cover up her worsening skin condition from, ironically, makeup usage—led her to create Happy Skin’s unique brand identity and proposition of “makeup that cares for the skin.”

In starting the business, Rissa was driven by the desire to solve a concern that wasn’t just her own. Through her beauty column, she knew that countless of other women were looking to meet their unmet need of skin-caring makeup. Banking on the in-depth knowledge she amassed in more than a decade spent in beauty and fashion, a reputation of being professional and detail-oriented to the point of perfection, and the trust of relationships cultivated in different industries through the years, Rissa took a chance in creating makeup that cares for the skin through Happy Skin.

The investment wasn’t made only with her and her husband Paolo Trillo’s joint savings, but with her own credibility on the line. It paid off. By entering the right retail channels—their first beauty boudoirs were established at Rustan’s and Beauty Bar, then later at SM and Watsons—Happy Skin became the first masstige cosmetic brand that attempted to break into a local market dominated by 90 percent foreign brands.

Eight years ago, it was unheard of to be a local cosmetic player that aspired to be a global Filipino brand. Eight years since, Happy Skin helped pioneer a change in mindset among Filipino beauty consumers from prizing what’s imported to genuinely loving what’s local. It also opened doors and inspired other entrepreneurs and homegrown beauty businesses to enter the market. Since its creation, and with Rissa’s leadership as chief brand officer, Happy Skin has won over 40 beauty awards. It also trail-blazed collaborations with global brands like Disney, Sanrio, and Havaianas, as well as Filipino personalities Kris Aquino, Liz Uy, KC Concepcion, Heart Evangelista, and Kathryn Bernardo.

Rissa’s work with Happy Skin paved the way for her to win awards as Ernst & Young’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and GoNegosyo’s Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneur in 2018. In 2019, Rissa wrote her first book, Read My Lips: What It Takes to Build a World-Class Homegrown Brand, published by Summit Books. It was the publishing house’s first business book written by a female author.

After graduating with her Executive MBA degree from the Asian Institute of Management in 2018, Rissa saw the potential of business to go beyond business. From her beginnings as an entrepreneur, she has felt strongly about the responsibility of business leaders to change the lives of people for the better. “I just finished one beautiful chapter. Now I’m excited to write a new one,” says Rissa. “From happy skin—to now happy heart and happy mind.”