Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Niña Opida, Co-Founder & COO at Humble Sustainability

Niña Opida is the Co-Founder & COO at Humble Sustainability, a circular economy startup, helping businesses with the products they’re struggling to sell.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am Nina Mirabueno Opida from Manila, Philippines. I am the co-founder and COO of Humble Sustainability – we make returns and excess inventory the hero.

Humble is a circular economy startup, helping businesses with the products they’re struggling to sell. We do this sustainably, with excellent service and high-value recovery. 

We extract high revenue from the items because of our unique channels. We sell the high value items on Thrift by Humble, our own circular living e-commerce store, while everything else goes to our network of B2B recyclers, resellers and upcyclers. We then share this revenue with our clients!

My career background seems very random but I must say these experiences led me to finally realise after my last few stints that I want to start my own business. 

I have been working for 11 years, my career began in sales and eventually all-around management for startups, from real estate to furniture design. 

My career in sales was purely focused on high-end real estate developments in Manila, Philippines Immediately after graduation I was itching to find a job because I was very eager to learn and be an adult and because of this experience, this is where I learned how to not be afraid to talk to potential leads and partners and build a network (Of course, the first time my boss forced me to approach a client at a high-end hotel, it was not too great! It was very awkward and weird but I love challenging myself so I did it anyway). 

Then I moved on immediately to startups where I got exposed to wearing many different hats and I enjoyed that for myself, I worked directly with the Founder of the startup where I got to pick his brain about things and learn from him on how to be relentless and to find solutions in literally seconds – not kidding, this is not puffery!

You can’t say no to him so I was trained to always be creative in finding solutions and get things done immediately! I must say this was the most memorable experience in my career! It’s also because of this workplace where I met my Co-founder, Josef! (To my previous boss, I hope you get to read this because I wanted to, so thank you!) 

The last job I had was with a seed startup furniture design company – this was entirely something new to me! I love design, I am a creative introvert and also a frustrated artist and with this last job, I told myself It’s time to take a risk and be bold!

Embrace the uncertainty of life by joining an industry that’s entirely new to me because I want to grow and expand my horizon so I did what a normal person would do – Googled and researched furniture design startups in Manila, found the founders, added them on Facebook and dropped them a pretty straight forward message and alas!

One out of a million companies I reached out to get back to me – I can still remember that moment when I got a response from them! With this last role, it made me realise I was ready to start and chase my dream, since this was a very hands-on and small team this is where I learned to do things end to end! 

I must say though that all of those helped shape who I am now and I would not have it any other way – everything has been a learning experience and a tool for me, for my future. I still have a lot to learn because learning never stops!

Fast forward to now, Humble, I have been 100% full-time for Humble since day 1! 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I am a very hands-on founder and I lead on the ground. Humble is all about good service and making our customers feel like they are heard so I am very heavily involved with our Thrifters (this is anyone buying items from us either on our B2B or B2C channel).

I still respond to them when they inquire about the product when there are issues and still listen to their feedback on how we can better improve our service even more! My role is to maintain a close relationship with our customers so they get a better experience with the brand and advocacy. 

I am also very active in visiting our sorting warehouse where I get to interact with our Quality checking team to understand the products that come to our warehouse and teach the team how to spot the quality of items and how to do product shots so at least we have actual original photos of our items on our thrift platform.

You will always often hear me pitch about Thrift to people I just met because of pure passion – I am a thrifter myself and because I see what these products are and what we sell this gives me a unique perspective on how I can share what I believe in.

I remember the days when thrift started in a marketplace, it was very hard because you have to convince them and be patient but now we have grown our customer base and we’re growing month on month in visitorship and repeat buyers – slowly, Here in Manila, thrift is getting attention!

As for the Humans of Humble, at the start of the week, we usually have an hour-and-a-half meeting with the whole team to kick off the priorities for the week across all departments. On Monday, that’s also when we do our senior Management meeting to update, align and strategize key things for the week of the business. 

After those key meetings, in between the week, there will be one-on-one per department I handle which is the Growth, Marketing, Operations, and Merchandising team. 

Every Wednesday Morning until noon, we have recently implemented a mental health day for the team members to be able to breathe and focus on deep work if they wish to so that we can all be productive. 

I also love the hybrid set-up we have. I usually go to the office every Wednesday afternoon and Friday to meet our amazing warehouse staff – shout out to Erwin and Juffrey and our wonderful team! Sometimes, on a Friday we bring our dogs too as they are part of the team! 

At the end of the week, every Friday that’s the time we do our performance review for each department where we discuss results vs targets, what went well and what did not do well, and their focus for the following week!

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, this simply means it’s crucial to make sure you have time to breathe and grow as a person! Yes, Humble, my start-up is part of my life and I love everything about it even when times are tough but one thing I have learned too is as a leader for me to give back and help my team, I also need to make sure I nourish myself by taking breaks and being mindful about things so I have something to share with the team. 

For me, for one to be able to balance life there must be balance within you, within us or else with this fast paced world we live in, with so much noise, it’s easy to get lost. You need to be able to spend time with yourself to get to know yourself, your beliefs, and your vision to build your foundation so that when times get tough you can always draw and get balance within you – as for me, I have learned this because of my relationship with God. You also need to find people who will help you find your way when times are tough because we can’t do it alone! As the adage goes – no man is an island! 

Sometimes I stumble twice or thrice in a day and I am far from achieving my set goals but one thing’s for sure, don’t give up! Just do your best

And to you my dear reader – maybe now you’re still trying to figure things out on your own and perhaps you have not found the balance you need yet, but that’s okay! Sometimes for you to achieve it you need to be stress-test, just like how diamonds are formed – through intense heat and pressure!

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Okay, honest talk – recently my routine got disrupted and that’s okay! No one is perfect and in those moments where no routine and balance are sometimes where we grow and learn! 

The routine that I want to bring back and worked for me was as soon as I wake up at 6 am, I don’t check any work-related updates, no messages, no social media at all, and I immediately ready my daily devotional with topics and bible verse to strengthen my journey and my day – this is for me is a form of meditation. Sometimes I would just like to sit up and pray and thank Him for another wonderful day and then I tidy up my bed. 

After that, I hit Spotify and play my soulful music to put me in an extra good mood while I prepare to hit the gym. 

I work out 3-4 times a week – I am into fitness and I guess this is the time for me to ease into the day physically and mentally!

After working out then I check notifications and messages from the team (Of course If they need me asap they can still message me any time)

In the evening – before I sleep I make sure I continue my devotional and pray and be grateful for the day!

However, as I mentioned this routine has been disrupted but it’s okay! I know I will get back to it again very soon and once I do – it will be a better one. 

Right now, I am slowly getting back to that routine – still not very perfect but this time, with added features! Haha I am on the journey to upskill my career and myself so part of the tweak I am doing is to make sure I give time and room for the skills and passion I want to improve on. 

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love this question – I enjoy questions like these when it’s about sharing what I know or love!

For the books, I want to share this with you because this was that one book that catapulted and gave me the confidence to just do it 

  • Minding Your Business: Profits that Restore the Planet by Horst M. Rechelbacher there is knowledge and integrity in this book for social responsibility in business
  • Stillness is Key by Ryan Holiday – His book is all about how to maintain our focus and presence of mind amid the sometimes overwhelming conflicts and troubles of 21st-century life
  • Who moved my cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson – 94 pages only but packed with many learnings. This is a motivational business fable that is all about the major changes we go through in work and life and the different kinds of people aka the mouse and how each type of person reacts to the situation 
  • Together Is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration by Simon Sinek – this is a delightfully illustrated fable on leadership through showing the way rather than forcing the way. It’s a short one but this will give you lots to think about. 
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 

I can go on and on but I’m afraid I won’t have space for the other questions so If you want to talk more about this, you can reach out to me on Linkedin! 

Podcast! I listen to the podcast when I sometimes workout – I know, it’s weird haha Here are my faves

  • Jay Shetty’s channel, any episode is nice! It’s called Jay Shetty on Purpose and the one that hit me the most was his podcast with Selena Gomez! I won’t do any spoiler alerts! Just go check it out
  • Archetype by Megan Markle – was recommended to me by one of our team members and I love it! 
  • How to start a startup by Sam Atlman and the folks from Y combinator – funny yet inspiring and straightforward!

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Made for this moment by Madison Prewett. I am currently reading this and she’s a woman of God – she boldly shares her experience and how she overcame it. I can relate to what she went through – I guess everyone at some point will go through this at a different time and place. Her story is all about accepting, and embracing the ugly moments in your life. In these unseen moments, waiting moments and painful moments, you are preparing for the moments that will shape the course of your life. This is where growth happens – hidden away from the spotlight. It’s in the long days of waiting that our characters will be built. It’s in those moments where pain turns to strength and endurance.

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

With everything you do – always think about the vision you have for your life or even your business as well as your values, and never lose sight of it.

The world is so fast-paced and constantly changing – trends come and go but what should remain the same is the vision for your life because this is what will guide you when times are tough – this will serve as your compass and will keep you going. 

No one is perfect, people get tired, we get tired and some days you feel like you have won the lottery, on some days it feels like the worst and that’s okay! You can take rests, pause, and slow down but never give up because what you’re going through or what you’ve been through will serve as an inspiration to other people – you just don’t know it yet.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.