Exploring A Creative Outlet With Kaila Ocampo
Entrepreneur Brings Kawaii Journaling To The World
Many people dream of turning a hobby or side hustle into a full-time job or successful business, but Kaila Ocampo made it a reality.
Savvy Tokyo sat down with Kaila Ocampo, the Filipina entrepreneur, to find out the story behind Rainbowholic, her Saitama-based kawaii stationery and lifestyle products business.
What brought you to Japan?
It was my dream to come to Japan. I grew up watching anime, and my brother brought me souvenirs when he was an exchange student here. When I graduated from college, he helped me get into a language school in Tokyo in 2011. After completing my course at the school, I worked with my brother in his e-commerce company and then got a job as an English teacher at a school.
What got you interested in Japanese stationery and why is it so special?
Growing up, kids in my school exchanged letter writing sets. My family didn’t have much money so I would make my own sets, but I never really used them; I just collected and exchanged them. One time, a Japanese exchange student gave me a cute stationery pouch from Japan. I was so amazed by it. Now I laugh because it was from the 100-yen shop Daiso. Back then, the Philippines imported mostly Korean or Chinese stationery, so Japanese stationery blew me away.
When I came here, I thought it was like another world for stationery. Japanese stationery combines three important elements: high quality, cute aesthetics, and functionality. There is even stationery specially made for seasons and events like Children’s Day. Having stationery for every occasion is particularly charming. For any stationery lover, I think Japan is a paradise.
Japanese stationery combines three important elements: high quality, cute aesthetics, and functionality.[…]For any stationery lover, I think Japan is a paradise
How did you get into journaling?
Journaling started for me at school when I was asked to keep a reading journal to improve my English. I liked sticking things in it and being creative. While at college, I was rejected twice for a visa to visit my brother in Japan. Both times, I turned to journaling to express my dream of setting foot in Japan.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
It was accidental. I had a blog called Rainbowholic (now inactive) and was looking for another channel for my work, so I began YouTubing about journaling. The viewers started asking where they could buy the products I featured, and I realized I could fill the gap with a small stationery shop.
I relaunched Rainbowholic as a shop in 2016. It was meant to be a side hustle, but my family was in financial trouble, so I decided to make it a full-time business—I wanted it to benefit us all. I quit my job and my boyfriend quit his job in securities and became my business partner. For good luck, we registered the business on the first business day of the new Reiwa era, which was May 7, 2019. At first, people were surprised that kawaii stationery could be a business but, more than a year later, we’re still here.
My degree in advertising management and background in e-commerce, customer service, packing and logistics has really helped build the business. It has made me resourceful and given me the solution-orientated mindset to build my business dream here with my partner.
What kind of services and products do you offer and why?
We get about 80% of our business from Patreon—people pledge each month and I mail them rewards in the form of stationery. When I started I had only five patrons, now we have around 400 patrons.
We also have the Rainbowholic shop, which sells cutely packaged tea. When people journal, they want to relax so we are trying to promote an entire kawaii lifestyle and kawaii journaling experience.
What do you like most about kawaii journaling?
It doesn’t have any rules, anyone can do it and it is interpreted differently by every person. Someone might make a journal spread that I think is a little bit dark. For them, it’s kawaii; I think that’s cool. Kawaii journaling is about freedom and self-expression. The spreads are like art. Sometimes when you are not contented with the pages you create, you want to rip them out. I want to show that you can instead find a creative way to cover up your mistake or make something out of it.
What challenges have you faced in the business and how have you overcome them?
Building the capital for the business was hard but Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge. We rely on Japan Post but, because of the pandemic, they suspended international mail to some countries, including the United States and Australia, which make up about 50% of our clients. Thankfully, our clients have supported us and kept pledging, trusting us even though we couldn’t ship to them. It showed me that even in this pandemic, we cannot give up because there are people rooting for us.
There have been reports on the mental health benefits of journaling. What can it offer people?
A few years ago, I found out I had PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). It’s like extreme PMS. It means I cannot control my thoughts before my period, so I release my stress by using stationery. Even if I have a bad day, I journal—and I’m going to make it cute!
People contact us and say they have got to know themselves better because of journaling. It’s a creative outlet that helps to release built-up stress. I recommend it because it is very therapeutic. People do journaling as a form of self-care and to connect with others via our kawaii journaling community on Facebook.
even if I have a bad day, I journal—and I’m going to make it cute!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Because of the pandemic, I’m mostly playing Animal Crossing, watching Korean dramas, and trying to journal just for myself. But when your hobby becomes your job, you have to find another hobby, so I’m trying to do many new things, too.
Don’t hesitate to follow Kaila Ocampo on her Instagram account to indulge yourself in the most kawaii journaling and Japanese stationery collection ever!
Savvy Spotlight is a monthly feature introducing foreign and Japanese women at the frontline of what’s successful, contributing, cool, unique and interesting in the city. If you have anyone in mind you would like us to interview, leave us a comment below with your recommendations!