This Girl Boss Turned Her Passion Project Into a Thriving Business at 21 Years Old
The founder of BalBo shares her journey that started from a surfing passion project and—believe it or not—her college thesis.
The province of La Union is one of the most popular tourist destinations with 308,309 tourist arrivals in the first half of the year. Thousands of surfers, newbies and pros alike, flock to La Union to ride the waves of its waters. This is where BalBo founder, France Abesamis, began the business in 2015 when she was only 21 years old. Now based in La Union herself, France transformed a surfing passion project to form the foundation of BalBo.
In an exclusive interview with The Business Manual, the BalBo founder shares her entrepreneurial journey. She also reveals how she grew her patented balance board brand into a business that earns seven figures annually.
Reconnecting with Her Inner Surfer
Having known nothing but her province her whole life, France admits feeling lost when she was uprooted from her hometown to study in an exclusive all-girls school in Metro Manila in 2007. However, in college, she had an opportunity to return to something she’s always loved, surfing.
“My passion for surfing changed when I lived in La Union before I started my thesis,” she shares.
Frances says that she “fell in love with nature, the kind locals, the ocean and basically the respect for the ocean” and the feeling of “being free when you ride its waves.”
“It was all just purely inspiring for me,” the BalBo founder explains. “It was freedom.”
The Road Less Traveled
The beginnings of BalBo can be found in France’s thesis, titled “No Grit, No Glory: A Close Look on Individuals who Left for College to Pursue Their Passion.” It became an inspiration for her to pursue her own passions in life.
“My perspective on the possibility of becoming a better version of yourself widened as it deepened,” she says of her experience on working on her thesis.
However, she soon found herself at acrossroads after graduating from De La Salle University with a degree in Psychology. While she received a job offer from Shell Corporation, she found herself wondering if it was better to pursue her passion in surfing.
She ultimately chose the latter.
“I started as an entrepreneur right after college,” France shares. “I have to admit that it was one of the moments that I had the ‘I’ve never been so afraid of my life’ kind of feeling.”
Only 21 years old at that time, she acknowledges that she opted for the choice that many would not pick.
“I chose the road less traveled,” the girl boss says of her decision. “This meant unsure income, basically. But I just simply believed.”
Filling a Gap in the Market with BalBo
Having made her choice to start a business, France chose to center it around her passion for surfing. Wanting to provide fellow Filipinos better access to quality balance boards and workout equipment, she started Balbo as a passion project, using her savings as well as financial help from her parents.
Keeping in mind that there were other businesses offering balance boards in the market, France made sure BalBo’s products stood out.
“Our patented, versatile, sustainable Power Center Trainers x Fluidity x Equilibrium balance boards stand out because of their sustainable materials,” she shares. Aside from this, she and her business partner, Robins Magno, made sure to patent their materials and designs.
“This means that rollers that are made of wood are protected intellectually by its owner,” France explains. “The deck’s features as well.”
The Pros and Cons of Starting a Business Rooted in a Passion Project
Having a business rooted in her passion for surfing is something France describes as “fun, joyful, and a full expression of your art.”
“I do consider myself an artist who is an advocate for fitness and wellness,” the girl boss elaborates. “Surfing has played a huge role in my life, giving me the opportunity to be free. Financially, emotionally, and spiritually.”
However, France acknowledges that doing so was no walk in the park. She admits that the whole experience was initially difficult.
The BalBo founder admits, “I think the thing that I struggled with the most is listening to the excess noise. People will always, always talk when they see something they don’t quite understand, you know.”
She adds that “when you have yet to establish a name, climbing up sometimes can be painful.”
France is also running her business while raising her six-year-old child. She shares that, despite the struggles, she remains fortunate to be a full-time mom to her child while expressing her art through BalBo.
“You have to be the one clapping for yourself,” France points out. “You’ve got to be your own number one fan.”
The Turning Point
Despite the difficulties of choosing the road less traveled, her passion project, France attained success with BalBo. The company now makes seven figures annually. However, what made her realize BalBo was making a name for itself was when she started receiving invitations for magazine and TV show interviews.
“That was really a turning point,” France admits.
The exposure allowed for BalBo to become more known to the public. In turn, this generated opportunities for France and her business. In fact, she shares that a family who owns two of the country’s biggest malls had their personal assistants contact them to rent a space at their malls.
“We’re truly honored, humbled, and grateful to all these people who believe in us,” she says.
BalBo may have experienced much success since its establishment in 2015, but for France, there is still much to achieve. In fact, she shares that they plan on going international.
“We’re working on our international shipping,” she shares. “We’d like to share our product with the world.”
This, however, is not the only way France wants to share BalBo’s products with the world. If things go as planned, BalBo products will be available not just in the Philippines, but in Singapore and Bali as well.
Lessons Learned from Taking the Road Less Traveled
It has been eight years since France made the choice to take the road less traveled by starting BalBo. While starting a business rooted in a surfing passion project may not have been easy, she recommends aspiring entrepreneurs to take that leap of faith.
She points out, “Think about this: at some point every business owner that is full-time with their businesses started somewhere, right?”
France, however, makes it a point to remind aspiring entrepreneurs to be “realistic with where you’re at” when it comes to choosing between a full-time career as an employee or starting a business.
“I’m not saying do what I did and completely not go for a corporate job,” she explains. “Follow your passion with all your heart but please use your brain too.”
Sharing Something Beautiful with the World
For those who end up choosing to start their own business, France says that while “the process can sometimes be painful and scary, you’ll have to keep going.”
“Never be afraid to put something out there that’s beautiful,” the BalBo founder encourages. “Focus on getting more beautiful things out in the world. Share your light and art, and keep inspiring yourself to inspire others.”
In the midst of it all, France reminds aspiring entrepreneurs about the importance of taking care of yourself.
“The most important relationship you can have is with yourself,” she reminds. “We live in our heads 24/7 so make sure it’s a healthy place to live in.”