Rachel Carrasco is a rising woman entrepreneur, the founder of luxury lifestyle marketing platform RACHE, and co-founder of bacon snack brand BAKEN. We catch up with Rachel on her experiences founding these businesses, the impact she is making, and how she is advocating for women’s empowerment.
From starting her career at an early age in the Philippines to moving to Singapore and establishing herself in the corporate world of luxury living working at industry leaders Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) and TWG, Rachel Carrasco expanded her already impressive portfolio and founded her first business, RACHE, in 2017. After building her brand from the ground up she successfully grew two more, bacon snack line BAKEN and canned cocktail phenomenon RIO, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, Rachel speaks to Hive Life about her journey moving from her corporate career to founding her own companies, building her global brands, what it means to be a woman entrepreneur, and how she is working to lift other women up at RACHE.
Can you introduce us to your entrepreneurial journey?
I started working at a very early age and it’s actually how I got myself into branding, when I was about 12. Being able to immerse myself in photoshoots, commercials, and TV I fell in love with the whole idea of working behind the scenes. From there, I started to work for an events company when I was only 18.
I went to Singapore in 2012 and I started a job in a bank that gave me the foundations of what I needed to work in an international company. After two years, I started working for LVMH and did all their prestige champions brands. And then after that I did Kimberly Clark and Kotex.
The same year, I got an offer from an old colleague of mine at LVMH- they were looking for somebody to fill a role for marketing, and said, why don’t you start a company and come in- and I’ve always wanted to start a company. There was a lot of setting up to be done, but I did it anyway, started [RACHE] from there, and then it kind of just grew.
How did you come to founding BAKEN and RIO?
Some crazy idea hit me when I was travelling to Cape Town in 2017- I obviously love bacon- and I walked into this restaurant filled with everything bacon. And that was a great idea to take to Asia. So in 2018 we started discussions for BAKEN and it was obviously taking some time because we were going at it from scratch, and then Covid happened.
When Covid happened, there was a lot of thinking on where do I really want to be and where do I see myself in the future? So I’ve restructured RACHE and what I really want to do is turn it into a house of brands. And it just so happened that my business partner for BAKEN was putting up RIO as well in the Philippines and asked me if I wanted to come on board with them as their marketing.
As the pandemic continues to establish its presence globally, how are you growing your brands despite this challenge?
It was very real. We wanted to just launch, but in the Philippines they had a very different type of restriction for liquor so every time we’d set a launch date for it, it would just get moved because of the liquor laws that would be imposed and every time we would try to schedule it, cases would surge. But that was actually fine because it bought us time to refine what we thought was ready.
We had to take extra steps to put it all together. Because our HQ is here, but manufacturing was back [in the Philippines], we had been doing a lot of back and forth between countries and between our teams. So at a time, DHL was our best friend.
I think it was very challenging but at the same time it also gave us enough time to polish out what we needed to.
It also worked in our favour because given that people are unable to travel, they’re very much tuned in digitally. So that gives you a very good way to get them online and given that we are still an e-commerce business, the only thing that really got sacrificed was physical space experiences, which hopefully we will be able to merge down the road later on this year.
Everything is very digitally or word of mouth driven. We try to get the word of mouth endorsements. and then from there, inject digital marketing so that it trickles down as it reinforces that word of mouth down the road. The idea for us is to just really get the brand out there to as many people as possible.
Are there any major takeaways from your corporate career that affect how you run your businesses now?
Those years in my corporate career, I’d only realised now that that they were a culmination of what I want to do for myself for the future.
As a brand manager, you do pretty much everything yourself which at the time was difficult for me. And it is only now that I realise that everything that I’ve ever worked for in the past is coming together because I’m actually using all of it. When I was there, they taught me how to be not just creatively savvy, but commercially, as well to be able to look at ROI. Now I am able to look at something and know what to do.
Even earlier when I was working for the bank, that taught me every thing I could know on being an organised leader. They really teach you to be very pragmatic about the decisions that you make.
One of your hallmarks is not just selling a product, but creating an experience. Why is this a powerful marketing tool?
I feel like experiences are very important because [customers] get to experience it firsthand and it’s nothing like any other. A phrase that we always use is “crafting money can buy experiences and the uniqueness of being able to deliver something that anybody else can ever get.”
It’s the consumer getting connected and experiences are a great way to connect and gain that trust.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs looking to release their own product or service during these uncertain times?
You just have to do it if you really want to do it.
It’s really a matter of how you use that opportunity. There were a lot of things that were going on pre-pandemic time and for me, the pandemic worked very well because it made me stay put and focus. I used those two years to prepare myself for the day that everything will be running again, so for me, I think it doesn’t really matter what time or moment you’re in, it’s just really a matter of organising yourself.
How we can lift other women up in a business environment?
I think women should be able to say something if they want something, especially in the workplace. I always say this to my girls- you will never get unless you ask; whether the answer is going to be yes or no, you’re always going to have to ask. There is no harm in taking the risk of asking.
It’s very important that they learn how to do this because it will help progress their career further. There’s nothing wrong in asking if you think you put the work in.
How do you lead by example at the workplace?
I am still learning every day. What I tell myself is to try to be the leader you have always wanted for yourself.
I try to be very fair and I let [my team] do what they need to do. When I was younger, I recognised the fact that I micromanage and as I got older, I just let go and learnt how to delegate. Making mistakes is the most important thing, otherwise, how are you going to teach them? I never liked being micromanaged so I always think of that when I am trying to deal with the rest of my team.
How can businesses ensure they are empowering their women employees?
One- fair pay. It’s a big thing because I do advocacy work for an organisation called AWARE, and these are certain things that they tackle. Pay quality is very important, it doesn’t matter whether male or female, it really has to be measured against the capability and the character of the person.
Being able to give women the flexibility to have a life and a career at the same time is also important. Given the fact that the pandemic has changed quite a number of working arrangements, I see a lot of things changing on this.
Also part of the reason why I’m running my own businesses or why I’ve left the corporate world is to be able to have the ability to have a family and at the same time, do what I love.
Women shouldn’t feel that they can’t have both just as men are able to have both. It’s normally the cases where women are unable to progress with their careers because they have to stay home and take care of their family. If you have equal pay and you do have the flexibility or ability, live both those lives.
How are you celebrating International Women’s Day this year?
I will be giving a talk to the Licencing Executives Society of Singapore. They talk a lot about IP issues, and they want to hear about how I work through being able to brand from a creative standpoint, and my entrepreneurial journey.
What’s next for you, are there any new ideas in the pipeline?
Loads actually! So as soon as I am finished with BAKEN, my ultimate goal for RACHE is to structure it as a group of companies and then bring that forward.
So I’m also looking for up and coming brands that are in line with luxury lifestyle or fine food, wines, and spirits. I will be semi-returning to the workforce doing Diageo Prestige this year as well.
For this year, we’ll be [searching for] an up and coming business that I can scale and be able to bring into international waters.
What really calls out to me is being able to help other women in the workplace and this is my way of being able to do that. Apart from the mini charities that I do, this is something that I want to do for myself.
So you can expect that [at RACHE], most of [the brands] are going to be women business owners that have a dream of being able to scale. That’s how I want to pay it forward to other people.