Rob Travilla was going through the 8-to-5 daily work grind when he took the plunge in 2015 to make his dream a reality, leaving behind his federal job to create his own business. That gave birth to Tribe Marianas, which he now co-owns with T.J. DLC Manglona and where he is the creative director.
“I remember my dad telling us that if you really want something, you have to work on it. …That’s why I am used to the hustle. …Little did I know that this would be the fuel to having my own business someday,” he said.
“Being able to wake up to do what you love doing every single day is a blessing.I don’t take it for granted at all because I used to work in a job for 10 years where I clocked in and out every single day and was living from one paycheck to another,” he added.
It now seems like fate had a hand in the collaboration between Travilla and Manglona. “I was running a clothing company called ‘Salbahe’ and .T.J., who was based in California at that time, said he was going to open up a retail store there called ‘Tribe Marianas’ that would carry local brands from Saipan and Guam.”
“Then it hit me like a hammer on the head when I was designing the whole layout for T.J., that it could be bigger than just a retail store. …We can create something that people will think is unique only to the CNMI and the collaboration happened.”
In opening Tribe Marianas, they had to overcome many hurdles. “One of the obstacles we had to work on was money as we got denied by every bank on Saipan. Then one day, we stumbled upon the Commonwealth Development Authority’s small business program. That gave us a chance.”
Travilla said he would never forget the name of Oscar Camacho of CDA “because he was one of the believers. Until the day I die, I will always mention his name because, without him I wouldn’t be talking about Tribe Marianas right now.”
Then Typhoon Soudelor happened in 2015.
“When Saipan had power back on by the end of October, we had one month to finish the store and finally, we opened the doors on Dec. 12, 2015,” he added.
Today, Tribe Marianas provide quality clothing, from T-shirts to accessories. They have stores on Middle Road, DFS Galleria, and DFS at the Saipan airport. They sell online and deliver to all the states in the U.S. mainland.
Tribe Marianas is easily identifiable by its logo: crisscrossing adzes.
“We wanted to carry a symbol that, wherever you are in the world, if you see our logo, people will immediately think you’re from the islands. We chose the ‘adze’ as these were the tools that our ancestors used to carve boats and we have two that symbolize building and protection,” he said.
“Every design is well thought of. We try to use personal experiences when we get together to finalize a design for a particular product and we are also blessed to work with great manufacturers. …Our followers since Day 1 know we pride ourselves in quality over quantity so we try to stick to our principles in ensuring that we provide nothing but the best products that are built to last and withstand the elements of the islands,” he added
According to Travilla, Tribe Marianas is aware that they need the community. “Without them we wouldn’t be here… that’s why we also made it a mission to give back.”
Tribe Marianas is a supporter of Million Dollar Scholars, Marianas Young Professional, and the Marianas March Against Cancer.
Travilla said his team’s passion and faith have propelled Tribe Marianas to go this far. “ We never doubted our products and we always knew that you can take our product and put it beside a product from a company in California and you wouldn’t spot the difference. We pride ourselves with quality over quantity, common vision, dedication, passion commitment and we are so blessed that we have those values instilled in every person in the team.”
“That’s what a tribe is. …Wherever our products go, it’s a little piece of the Marianas…A person who see our products for the first time is going to Google ‘Saipan’ and he will say, ‘I never knew this place existed!’ So the ripple effect…will basically point us back to our mission and that is to spread the Marianas worldwide,” he added.