Ryna Brito shares what it’s like to run a multi-million dollar business up in the skies and how she looks good doing it.
A lot of things can happen in our 20s. Whether it means climbing up the corporate ladder, studying further, building up our resume with credentials, or even starting a new business, the sky’s the limit. And in the case of Ryna Brito, a 26-year old #girlboss, she took her business to the skies… literally!
At such a young age, Ryna has a lot going on as the CEO of Sunlight Air and the Vice President of the Sunlight Hotels & Resorts Group. But even so, she found time to pursue her passion while running a multi-million dollar business. “I officially started [managing Sunlight Air and Sunlight Hotels] when I was 23 years old,” she shares. “[But] aside from the business that I manage in the conglomerate, I also own a fashion brand called Fleur.”
A vivacious go-getter and a driven woman, she sees the possibilities as a vast, blue sky—ever-changing and endless. Here’s her story.
To be running a multi-million dollar business at such a young age, from whom or how did you get the know-how on running such an empire?
I really learned everything business-related from my dad. He is a first-generation businessman who started everything on his own. He came to the Philippines from China with nothing so he really is my biggest mentor when it comes to management.
When I entered the family business after working a year in a legal tech company in Sydney, Australia (where I learned corporate structure and discipline) I knew that there was no better source to learn from—but from the man himself who started everything.
Although he has been teaching me business for as long as I can remember—through my summer visits to the office, 3-month stints at the department store as a cashier and saleslady, and conversations over dinner or any meal for that matter—I still continue to learn a lot from him today.
Being exposed to hard work, resilience, and dedication from both my parents at such a young age really guided me today as I ran such volatile businesses that are fully dependent on tourism—which we all know is one of the heavily affected industries by the pandemic. [And] if I had not been mentored the way I was from such a young age, I don’t think I will be able to manage these 3 businesses with as much grace and resilience.
A big part of my business acumen comes from my upbringing, but I have to credit my exposure to global markets as well during my college years. Through those 4 years, I was able to gather several business ideas that are now [being] implemented into the businesses that I run. [Plus, I even] developed my personality and character fit to manage [these] businesses.
How did Fleur start and where do you see it going or moving forward?
Fleur started during the pandemic (it’s a COVID baby, haha). I was feeling very anxious at that time. All passenger flights were halted and we didn’t have our cargo flights yet then, so I was worried about my employees. How was I going to pay all 350 people and how was I going to keep the businesses afloat?
[I was] wracking my brains for other revenue streams. Plus, being physically distant from my mom and siblings for almost 3 years now and the virus mutating and whatnot was making me feel hopeless. So when I founded Fleur, I really needed a creative outlet.
Fleur just happened so naturally. Imagine—the design, production, branding, [and] marketing all happened within 3 months! It was just something that I could turn to when I could no longer handle the stress of my full-time job. Moving forward, I see Fleur as that. I don’t want to take it too seriously. I just want to create designs and make clothes that will make people feel good too and free them of the stressors even for just a while.
How did the pandemic affect your life, private and business-wise?
I think, like everybody, the pandemic affected my life dramatically—both private and business-wise. As I’ve said before, I have not seen my mom and siblings for almost 3 years now and my relationship with my dad is 95% business.
On the business side, since I manage businesses that have been heavily affected by the pandemic, it feels like a literal roller coaster. And the financials say it too! Sometimes, [it’s] okay and it feels like the businesses are picking up. And then cases increase—there’s a mutation, and then surprise, back to square one again.
So, I would be lying if I said that my mental health has been completely stable the past year and a half because it hasn’t been at all. But I think the pandemic has really taught me to be strong and resilient. Yes, I will have days where I feel depressed—[where I] will just be in bed, not wanting to do anything at all. But the next day, I know I’d have to get myself back up because I have 350 employees depending on me.
And because of that, I have learned to take better care of myself.
How do you see yourself 10 years from now?
10 years from now, I still see myself managing the same businesses. Hopefully, by then, Sunlight Air would have grown exponentially and will be among the top 3 domestic airlines in the Philippines. Perhaps, Sunlight Air would have started flying regionally as well.
By then, I envision Sunlight Hotels and Resorts Group to be known in the Philippines as a hospitality developer and management company for its services and properties all over the country. In my personal life, I would like to think that I’d be a mom by then.
If you weren’t in this business, what do you see yourself doing?
If I weren’t in the airline and hospitality business, I’d probably be doing something creative. In college, I had a lot of internships in the field of writing. I would say I’m quite techy and innovative as well, so maybe I’ll develop something in the field of tech. Maybe an e-commerce platform or an app.
Who do you get your inspiration in fashion from?
Probably from myself—I wear whatever makes me feel comfortable and confident, especially for work! When I have important meetings, I like to wear something that elevates my confidence, mood, and the like. So far, in nearly 27 years of listening to my own fashion sense, it has been all right.
What is your must have in your closet? What is your must have in terms of owning jewelry?
Must-haves in my closet —probably the basics. I must have a white t-shirt, a pair of perfectly fitted straight-leg jeans, black trousers, a blazer, a white shirt, neutral-colored ballet flats, and sandals.
I’d probably be okay [with] rotating those items on a daily basis. In terms of jewelry, I definitely need my watch (a real watch, I can never get myself to look at an Apple watch haha), either gold or diamond-studded hooped earrings, and some rings.
Photos by Ed Simon
Establishing A Family Office: Is It For Your Family?
Eat, Pray, Love: The Art Of Cake Design, as Told by Mannix Peña
Why The Voice of The Youth Matters Now More Than Ever, And Why We Need To Listen