Belle de Jour: How failure became a brief stop on the way to success

Monique Tolentino

Dar Ty-Nilo graduated from business administration and accountancy in UP Diliman with several honors, headed the school's first-ever winning team for the National Marketing Competition, and started a National Debating Championship. Dar was also the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Guilder.

Dar, 38, was always strategic and successful when it came to what she wanted and how to achieve her goals. After her college graduation, she received job offers left and right. Friends and family encouraged her to take the Accountancy board exams and she accepted a high-paying offer at a multinational company.

“I was on top of the world and I took it on. I accepted it all,” Dar said.

Living by default, not by design

In the next six months, she found herself working a total of  14 hours a day in the corporate world: Dar spent 10 hours in the office and 4 hours on the road, going to and from work. On weekends, she needed to study for the board exams and had zero time to rest. She began experiencing corporate burnout, felt exhausted, and knew she couldn’t go on with her job.

Dar’s score in the board exams came back as conditional passing,  which meant she had only missed more or less one number in order to pass.

“It was a wake-up call for me. Facing failure straight in the face from being on top of the world: I had all my options, I had one of the highest salary offers after graduation, but I crashed and failed all in less than a year.  I asked myself, ‘Is this really what I wanted?’ It seemed like it was all taken away so harshly and I had to wake up,” Dar said.

She let herself feel bad for one day.

“I processed what went wrong. I looked back and realized that taking the board exam wasn’t something that I really wanted. I kept making decisions that weren’t true to myself. I was following what people advised me to do because I was lucky to have those opportunities. It didn’t matter to me, but maybe it mattered to the world, so I did it.”

She added: “Clarity is power. If you are not clear with your goals, you won't achieve them. You will just go through life unconsciously like a zombie - which is how I felt during that first year after graduation. I was living by default, not by design.”

She wrote down her goals and what she wanted to happen in the next 1 to 5 years. She tried to assess what made her successful in college versus what made her unsuccessful in the “real world”: It came down to juggling too much and poor time management.

Dar realized that when she started working in the corporate world, she had a notebook and everything else was on her Outlook Calendar. She began thinking that if she probably had better tools to help her manage her time, such as a planner, then she would have achieved so much more.

“I blamed myself for not being able to manage my time well. But the truth was, I was physically, mentally, and psychologically exhausted. Still, I looked for a planner that matched the time management principles that I wanted to implement. I couldn’t find any in the market so I created my own.”

In 2006, Dar created the Belle de Jour Power Planner prototype using her EIC experience, trusty Deskjet printer, and bookbinding services found in the UP Diliman Shopping Center. She created the planner she needed to get her life back on track.

The passion project

Then Dar was offered an opportunity to work in Summit Media for two positions. She had her pick on the magazine that she wanted to work in, but their salary offer didn’t match what she was making in the corporate world.

“You’re just as good as your last paycheck,” Dar said. She decided to work as the publisher of Entrepreneur Magazine. Being the strategic person that she was, she accepted the job with the secondary motive to become an entrepreneur herself. “That was one way that I could justify to myself that I’m not cutting down on my value.”

Dar launched her company, Viviamo, Inc., and their product, the Belle de Jour Planners. In three weeks after the launch, the planners were sold out.

“When I created the first BDJ for myself, I realized that my failure happened because I wasn’t honest with what I wanted. So each planner that we create really has a goal-setting page, a dream board, and a checklist. Part of BDJ’s mission is to encourage people to live life to the fullest- and you cannot live your life to the fullest if you don’t know what you want," Dar said.

“I started a business with Php 4,000. I used it as a downpayment for the artist. I borrowed that money because the savings I had from the corporate world, I used to buy a laptop to use in the office,”  she added.

A year later, she had enough money to buy a car. The business was highly profitable and demand was growing fast.

“It was a passion project that I did on the side because I wanted to make up for the salary cut of this company that I enjoyed being part of,” Dar said.

From Power Planner to a community of empowered women

Fifteen years down the line, several events, and countless products later, the Belle de Jour Power Planner is helping Filipinos achieve their goals and make their dreams a reality.

Viviamo focused on passionate women as their target market.

“I told myself that if I’m going to put my heart and soul in this product, I want it to be appreciated,” Dar recalled.

Because of Dar's business intuition and choice to primarily target women, she made sure that each planner included specific features just for women such as a menstrual tracker. Fashion, beauty, career, financial management tips, full-color pages filled with inspiration, spaces to jot on, and coupons from different brands were all included in the planner.

Within a year of their launch, Viviamo conquered online marketing before it was a norm for other local companies. They created a Facebook group, a Multiply page, and invested in a website. They created an online community of women and elevated customer experience for all their clients by hosting events that taught women how to take charge of their lives, they created a mentorship program that mentors women from the BDJ community, or “Bellas”, and helps them find the balance between their roles at home and achieving their goals without compromising.

“I needed to be in touch with the community that we had,” Dar said. Her mission was clear: help empower people to create lives full of love and joy.

Formula for success

Dar believes that her journey, as much as it was a story of drive, passion, and knowing your worth, was also a journey internally of love and self-discovery. This was magnified over the past year from having to make big adjustments for the business when the pandemic hit.

“Intentionality had a lot to do with our journey in the past year with the pandemic. We solidified a culture of trust and camaraderie,” Dar said.

She added: “We were all jolted. The world suddenly changed so are we going to accept it or fight it? We get what we fight for so if we fight for the past, we will just get the past. But if we fight for the future, then we get the future. If you fight for the opportunity, then you get the opportunity. So what do you fight for? What do you want to keep?”

With everyone going digital and calendars becoming more accessible and convenient by simply glancing at your phone, BDJ holds an advantage by being a source of inspiration and a tool that helps calm the mind where you can let your ideas and inspiration flow. Viviamo inc. has also created a platform for Filipino Creatives to design and market their products through The platform supports Filipino artists by turning their art into print-on-demand merchandise. They sell a wide range of products from stationery and stickers to notebooks, prompt cards that help you begin your journaling habit, and other beautiful and creative planning and productivity tools to encourage journaling.

In addition, Experience Kits for the 2022 BDJ Power Planner, NAVI, Everything is Possible and Focus Journals are now available for pre-order on their website

"We designed things differently this year. We have Experience Kits to help elevate your planner experience: virtual reality goggles, work-from-home sets, even limited edition shirts & accessories. Curating everything was an experience in itself, a coming together of local businesses who commit to supporting each other at this challenging time," said Em Somera, BDJ Business Development Lead.

Dar and her very lean team of 20 people continue to prove that failure is just part of the journey to success. Today, Belle de Jour has evolved into more than just a planner that helps organize your schedule.

“We are strong believers that thoughts become things. When you write it down, when you are mindful of your thoughts, it will happen and it’s the best formula for success,” Dar said.

Published date:
July 23, 2021
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