In the co. of young women By Michelle Solano The Philippine Star Updated March 25, 2011 12:00 AM

From Payatas to Powerplant: Trese shirts are made by Payatas youth.

In the co. of young women
By Michelle Solano The Philippine Star Updated March 25, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Bubbly Felice Caringal (“Fel” to her friends) is only 23 years old. Anyone who sees her wearing her sleeveless top, shorts, flip-flops and carefree smile would automatically mistake her for a college freshman or even a laid back surfer chick. She is neither. Felice is in fact the president of TRESE, a fast-growing shirt-printing and sewing business that has been providing jobs to out-of-school youth and residents of Payatas 13. Fel and her co-founders are social entrepreneurs, and their youth and dynamism is one factor that makes a successful

There was a time when the word “business” evoked only big-city high-rises, drab offices, men in suits and ties slaving their hours away in front of Excel files and spreadsheets. That was then. Now the high rises are replaced by communities and farms. Instead of coffee in the boardroom, Fel shares soft drinks with her community partners, the residents of Payatas, in their houses; suits and ties are replaced by jeans and sneakers; instead of Excel files, they rely on notebooks and each other.

Individuals like Fel are growing in number, as more and more graduates and young entrepreneurs choose to be their own bosses and take the bigger risk of building their own companies, with their own rules, rather than clocking in at big power companies from nine to five.

People, Planet and Profit

When Noreen Bautista began the company Jacinto & Lirio in 2009, she and her co-founders were able to focus on things they were passionate about. “I was into social involvement, my other friend was into fashion while our teammate was very much a business person,” said Noreen. Putting all three aspects — social involvement, fashion and business — together created the uniqueness of their brand, Jacinto & Lirio, which is Spanish for “hyacinth and lily.” It stood for their line of eco-fashion, high-end bags made from the indigenous water hyacinths and water lilies of San Fernando, Laguna. These water lilies, once considered a pesky weed among the fishermen of the town, is now a source of income to the communities of San Fernando. Jacinto & Lirio’s partnership with the community is one example of the shifting trend in local businesses in the Philippines.

Reese Fernandez, president and founding partner of Rags2Riches, is another empowered Filipina who has met with success in the world of business through this strategy: partnering with poor communities in creating a socially-conscious high-end brand. Rags2Riches began with a group of mothers in Payatas who made extra income for their families by finding scraps of cloth amidst the dumpsite and weaving foot rugs and rags out of these materials. Rug weaving became a cottage industry among these women, but they only made one peso per rug due to unfair trade with middlemen who supplied their cloth and bought their products in bulk.

Reese was among a group of youth who saw the injustice in this system and sought to solve the problem by connecting the rug-weaving mothers directly to their buyers. Their faith in the mothers’ skills inspired the weavers to train and improve the quality and style of their rugs. Soon, the Rags2Riches team approached designer Rajo Laurel, who was able to transform the material into a high-end fashion accessory. Now, Rags2Riches by Rajo Laurel continues to be sold out in bazaars and boutiques around the metro.

At the end of the day, Felice, Noreen and Reese all share the same feeling of accomplishment in their chosen profession. They all believe that what they are doing is more than just a business. “Whenever we (the board members of Jacinto & Lirio) meet we always consider three things — people, planet and profitability. (How much) profit we make is only justified if it helps the community and is still eco-friendly,” says Noreen.

Fel admits that she never took a business class or even an accounting class back in college, and is now surprised to be leading their company, “I used to think business was just about numbers, but now I know it is also about heart. It’s about creating impact in the communities and the lives of other people.”

Inspire, Inform and Influence

These three young women continue to inspire not only their peers but the communities they partner with as well. The residents of Payatas 13 proudly attend events, wearing their own shirt designs. They are now more confident of themselves and their skills. Their canvas bag creations are being sold in schools like Ateneo and even 30,000 feet above the ground — TRESE counts Cebu Pacific among one of its corporate clients.

Promoting their company comes second to passing on the stories they captured in their partner communities. They see it as their duty to inform the public of these stories of hope and influence other businesses to catch on this growing trend of social awareness and environmental consciousness among companies today. Noreen said it best when she explained, “We have to push through, because we have a bigger mission.”…


About rictandag @rictandag @LVHelpGro Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Tandag, Surigao del Sur, Republic of the Philippines 1979-1980; Financial Management training Program [FMP], G.E., Appliance Park, Louisville, Kentucky 1981-1982 Champion [two days] Jeopardy 1986 Attorney, Los Angeles, CA 1989-1995 Disabiility Rights Attorney,, Las Vegas 1998-1999 Immigration Asylum Attorney, throughout the State of Kansas 1999-2001 Supply Logistics Specialist, UPS Las Vegas, 2006- present [business] advocate for: [Gawad Kalinga, tagalog for "to give care"]
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