Philippine News

Brand & Business: Carlo Ople unboxes a passion project in the heart of Greenhills

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The Promenade Hall in Greenhills is abuzz on this Saturday. Before the pandemic, this venue hosted several events including the Abrickadabra event for the Philippine LEGO Users Group, as well as Star Wars-related festivities connected to the films. Starting this past June, however, and for at least the next three years, this venue will host Unbox Greenhills and the man behind it is a veteran in the digital marketing field.

Carlo Ople currently serves as Head of Marketing Communications for a leading telco and has had a long marketing career in the Philippines. At his core though is someone who is a self-admitted geek whose passion for collectibles is perhaps matched only by his drive to hustle. 

“I wanted to make a space for people who feel the same way that I do and give them the opportunity and the platform to do so at a very affordable price point,” he says about the concept behind Unbox Greenhills. “Kasi for you to have a shop, a physical space in the mall, you’re looking at 15,000, 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 pesos per month? So, we thought about it, and we felt, ‘Let’s just make cabinets!’ People can just rent the cabinets, we can provide sales support, operational support, marketing support. I can leverage the platform that I built through the years, which wouldn’t be possible din naman without the same people who are here.”


With Metro Manila being so big, Ople chose to set up his physical shop in Greenhills and there’s nothing random about his selection. Aside from living in the area, he also bares having some strong memories about the shopping center in San Juan City growing up. “In a way it’s also me helping the city, helping San Juan, helping the area that I love,” he notes. “When I was young, I would always go here with my dad. Greenhills has always had a special place in my heart. Every time malungkot ako, dinadala ako ng dad ko noon sa (popular dimsum restaurant) Le Ching. Comfort food, diba? Spareribs rice! I have so many fond memories.”

“Every geek has a Greenhills fave,” Ople adds. “It’s such a small, connected collectible community so you just reach a point that you have the opportunity to do business. You want to do it in a place where you’re comfortable, where you want to give back.”

He once again echoes why he chose to set up Unbox here: “in a way, it’s giving back to those people who gave me the platform that I have today. So that’s why the prices are ridiculously low. I mean, we sell the rent for the cabinets for as low as P3,000 a month. For P3,000 a month, you get a physical space in a high-traffic area, despite the pandemic. And we provide sales and marketing support.”

Part of that marketing support is by Ople personally promoting the cabinets on his YouTube channel. With 761,000 subscribers and growing, Ople’s main YouTube channel often finds him sharing new purchases of new and rare sneakers, gadgets, or toys that he gets to tinker with, often with his four cats roaming in the background. In recent months, he’s also added segments like “Carlo Cooks” which sees him attempting to prepare dishes although he is quick to note that he is far from being a professional.

The YouTube channel opens with an animated logo for Ople’s own “Project 7 to 1” brand. “It’s called Project 7 to 1 because I’ve always maintained the value of finding something that you love and making money out of it,” he explains. “You only have one life. It would totally suck if you throw your entire life away doing something that doesn’t give you genuine fulfillment. Why would you waste that one precious life given to you by God? I make it a point to always preach, or at least advocate, that if you can find something that you like, try to make a business out of it, try to make a career out of it. But not everybody is blessed right away to do that.”

“Project 7 to 1, it’s very simple,” Ople expounds. “8 am to 5 pm, you build your career, whatever your job is, hopefully, you like your job. But if not, yun yung maganda. 7pm to 1am, that’s where you build your dreams. That’s where you learn new skills, a side business, writing a book. Whatever it is, kaya mong gawin yon as long as you’re consistent.”

“The common misconception ng tao when I say 7 to 1, ‘ay, kailangan yung buong oras, 7pm to 1am, magtatrabaho?!’ The point is, consistently do something every day, kahit 30 minutes lang yan, one hour lang yan na gusto mo, and it will all build up to one big thing. This business, the businesses that we have, the book that I’m launching, all of that came out by just being consistent. Yung book, siguro I write that mga 15 minutes a day. Pero eventually all those 15 minutes a day add up to, nagulat na lang ako, ’Oh! It’s a book!’ So it’s the same thing with the projects that I have. It might not be as fast as what other people do, but because you’re consistent, and it makes you happy, nagagawa mo.”

As much as side hustles like Project 7 to 1 and Unbox Greenhills occupy his time, Ople’s main job remains important to him. “Our company is an essential service now, so everybody needs fast broadband,” he says. “If anything, we’re all working so much harder now than ever. Walang face-to-face. It’s a lot of calls, a lot of video conferences. We really have to step up because the people need the service more than ever. And I know that more than anybody else, because a lot of my businesses use the internet. So I feel for our customers when their internet is slow, when their internet is down, when it can’t be repaired.”

He then shares an interesting anecdote about his grandfather, the late senator and labor minister Blas F. Ople, which has shaped his personal philosophy: “Siinasabi niya sa akin palagi, if there’s something that you passionately are concerned about but are having problems with, baka your role is not to shout at it, baka your role is to help find a solution by going into the system. So, when there was an opportunity to join the company, that’s what I thought, baka I can contribute in whatever little way to make things better. At least I’m trying to do my own part.”

As with other Filipinos affected by the pandemic, Ople and his wife Michelle have been forced to work from home since last year. “Nakapag-adjust naman kami ni misis really fast to work from home, in fact, we enjoy it a lot kasi we both live very busy lives.,” he bares. “She’s a managing partner of one of the biggest PR firms in the country, DDB. Ako naman, I have a corporate job and all the businesses, so I thoroughly enjoy spending more time with her and being physically and mentally present with her during this pandemic and with our cats. I think we’re one of the privileged who were able to quickly adapt to working from home. Not everybody can say that.”

Yun din yung reason why this place is so important for me,” Ople says of Unbox Greenhills. “This is also my way of using whatever I have, and I was blessed, to try to share it with as many people as possible. We could have easily increased the rent. We could have used the money somewhere else. To be honest, if I wanted to make money, I’ll just put it all in the stock market since it’s all low right now. But we decided to do this kasi I felt that you’re blessed with so many things, there has to be a reason.”

Ang sabi ko na lang, parang I’ll just find people wo feel the same way as me, who want to hustle, they want to make a living doing what they do, and I’ll try to empower them in whatever way that I can. By providing the space, providing the community, offering the sales support, the marketing support. That’s why this all came about. They’re all interconnected,” he continues.

To date, all 150 of the cabinets for rent at Unbox Greenhills have been purchased. Celebrity exhibitors include cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao and singer Jed Madela. One can enter the Promenade Hall and find all kinds of deals pertaining to sneakers (not limited to Jordans), toys (including Funko Pops and those designed by Quiccs Maiquez), basketball cards, watches, and other pop culture collectibles. A look at Project 7 to 1’s own “Steal Cabinet” will show deals for limited-edition sneakers for ridiculously low prices. All part of Carlo Ople’s passion project.

If Unbox Greenhills proves to be successful, Ople would like to open other across the Philippines. “I really see a vision of empowering the next generation of young people who want to hustle, who want to flip stuff, who want to pursue their joy of collecting cards or collecting toys or watches or whatever but making it sustainable by turning it into a hustle or a business. I’m so into that. I’d like to start here in Greenhills, I’d love to take a look at other locations down the road. 

“I’d like to take a look at Cebu, take a look at Davao, Iloilo. You have so many big dreams, but it depends on how well we execute here first. So we’ll try our best to make it work dito, tapos if we can take it around the country, then we will. And I think ang ganda ng timing eh kasi in a time when a lot of shops are closing and it looks so bleak for businesses, and to think I’m the digital guy, to put up a brick-and-mortar business, diba? But at the same time, ganon din sinabi ng wife ko eh. Sabi niya sa akin, I should keep doing what we’re doing kasi this whole time, dapat ba gawin namin ito? No, you should do it kasi one, it’s bigger than yourself. And two, it’s a nice ray of hope lalo na with the current situation.”

As Unbox Greenhills opens its doors despite the pandemic, Ople’s optimism permeates from the cabinets and boxes present. It’s only fitting, perhaps, that he closes each YouTube video with these simple words that make up his mantra: “peace, God bless, what’s up, boom.”

Partner with adobo Magazine

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