Our campaign is about helping women and girl change agents from around the world with BIG ideas for transforming their communities raise the funds they need to grow and scale their social change projects.
Through this crowdfunding platform, it will allow us to gain donors for the social impact we want to achieve, specifically for our partner communities!
Visit the site now to see how you can INVEST in our women partners!
This is exactly what the innovative brand Jacinto & Lirio achieved in creating their plant-based leather goods (bags and journals) from water hyacinth and lily, some of the Philippines’ most invasive aquatic plant pests, which hasten many devastating floods, especially in the surrounding towns of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines.
For this interview, we chat with the super nice and friendly Noreen Bautista, one of the co-founders of Jacinto & Lirio. Yes, we know the words nice and friendly are painfully generic terms, but if there’s someone who is truly a shining epitome of niceness, it’s got to be Noreen. Read on and see for yourself!
Muni: What inspired you to create Jacinto & Lirio?
Noreen: We thought of using Philippine indigenous materials, because our country has so much abundant natural resources, but the potential hasn’t been fully tapped yet. That idea led us to Laguna, where we met communities working on the water hyacinth plant. Because of its over-proliferation, the government and private sector came up with programs to control the growth, and some of those programs involved livelihood projects that turned the water hyacinth stalks into woven products.
But what really caught our eye was a community-based innovation that made the stalks of the plant look like leather. We were not the ones who invented the water hyacinth leather material but it was local artists who thought of a way to use the plant’s stalks. We instantly fell in love with the concept and saw the potential for it in the fashion market because of its sleek and shiny look, its versatility for color, and the genuine innovativeness that it had.
Muni: What keeps you motivated to work on Jacinto & Lirio?
Noreen Marian Bautista
Anne Krystle Mariposa
Noreen: The vision of using this as a vehicle to channel our God-given talents and work on our passion to make a difference in society. Currently, Jacinto & Lirio is run by co-founders Anne Krystle Mariposa and Noreen Marian Bautista. Anne is passionate about fashion having grown up in the industry, and has a distinct sense of style. While Noreen is an advocate of social enterprise or the ability of business to create positive social impact.
Muni: Why are you where you are now?
Noreen: We could have ended Jacinto & Lirio right when we got the diploma after college and marched off to the real world. But we didn’t. I think it is this persistence that made us reap opportunities we never thought we would get and made Jacinto & Lirio alive as it is now.
Muni: What drives you to get up in the morning?
Noreen: I ask what story can we create today? What work does God want us to do? if anything, it is another opportunity to live the gift of life that was given to you — that fuels us to live the day fully.
Muni: What change do you want to see in the world?
Noreen: The rise of competitiveness of Philippine indigenous materials in the fashion and design industry. The surge of global Filipino brands delighting the world with their creativity and quality. A world where businesses are responsible stewards of society’s resources and are instruments of positive social change.
Muni: What do you wish people were more conscious/aware about?
Noreen: The talent and creativity of Philippine communities, and the potential of our indigenous materials to wow the global style world!
What started as a college thesis for the 5 co-founders sharing an entrepreneurship class, turned into a business that many of today’s aspiring social entrepreneurs can turn to as a model business for their use of unwanted materials and contribution to community development. Jacinto & Lirio is out to set a new standard for how business should be done in our country, and we’re confident that they’ll continue finding more and more ways to make their products more environmentally sustainable while further assisting in the progress of the communities they support.
Last Thursday, April 19, we reconnected again with our community partners in Pampanga. They are some of the amazing women expertly working on the water hyacinth material showcased in each Kwaderno by Jacinto & Lirio journal cover.
Their careful attention to the water hyacinth craft has given them so much fulfillment in work and in life
Who would have thought a pest plant was the source of the inspiration behind this?
We conducted a visioning session for the group to map out our strategic direction together.
The session started with a meaningful sharing of the successes we are most proud of ever since we embarked on this journey. It’s interesting for us to do that, because in sessions before, we would usually start talking about problems and challenges, and our next steps to address them.
Because the reality is, we have A LOT of CHALLENGES.
This social enterprise endeavor is no joke. Linking design markets and community livelihoods is like building the longest bridge in the world!
But our facilitator that day reminded us that challenges are actually consequences of previous triumphs. Facing difficulty in any endeavor is an indicator that one has surpassed a challenge before. Think about it. We are where we are now, because we hurdled many hurdles in the past.
That insight gave A LOT OF MEANING. Right then and there, our community partners, and myself as part of Jacinto&Lirio, agreed that we all came so far and we should be proud. One thing we are most proud of is how strong our relationships have become. We no longer look at each other as simply business partners. But it’s more of a common respect and friendship being exchanged.
This is what gives life meaning. The relationships built with people. The solidarity created with whom you work with as you all do great work.
We still have so much to do. But we are smiling, because what we are doing is of greater purpose, and we have surpassed previous challenges that came in our way.
Special thanks to our training and development friends who helped facilitate the visioning session:
Darby Bognot of DTI Pampanga, Noreen from Jacinto&Lirio and
volunteer facilitators -Rina Sarmiento and JQ Quesada
Get your very own Kwaderno by Jacinto & Lirio
and support our efforts of creating more meaning in the lives of our communities!
Today was my most real taste of community work to date. I didn’t have much of an idea exactly what Noreen from Jacinto & Lirio wanted me to do when she invited me to go just last night, after CSI (Center for Social Innovation) night.
When I went there, I was in a meeting for price negotiations. There was a problem with the price “requested” by the community. Into the first 15 minutes of the meeting with Department of Trade industry representatives and the community Nanays (Filipino word for “mothers”), my initial hypothesis was that the costing might be flawed in terms of assumptions, estimations and even computations. Yes, some of it was, but not significantly.
What I found out was, despite what seemed like already a high price per sheet for Jacinto & Lirio (J&L), the price the community was requesting was a mile far from what will give them a minimum wage. I speculated that the problem might be that the community input costs were too high, because they were buying it at retail prices, in small quantities in nearby stores, at which I recommended that it might make more sense for J&L to provide the inputs first, since they have higher access to cheaper supplies here in Manila and can work on the possibility of sourcing these from manufacturers in bulk instead from retailers; at least until the community can do it on their own.
My next hypothesis, which I think needs to be put more attention to, is that the Nanays are simply not productive enough. And no, I’m not saying this is their fault, the cause can be derived from two key things: the process of leatherization is not optimal yet, with so much “necessary” idle time in the system and within the key processes, labor optimizing should be made available to the Nanays, because manual labor is prone to error and the water hyacinth is too delicate that speed in handling it compromises its quality. I cannot disclose how much they earn per day based on their current productivity, but I tell you that it is not enough even at subsistence levels. Labor optimizing machines should be provided not so that J&L can employ less or pay less, but so that the yield per Nanay will be enough to sustain their daily living.
My Management Engineering education might not be a waste, after all.
From this experience, I saw just how difficult it is to be a social entrepreneur.
Based on the previous paragraph, you might think J&L is evil and unjust, but speaking more from the management aspect, J&L is paying very close to the maximum it could. I already studied their costing and pricing scheme and their margins are down to the minimum it is to survive in the entrepreneurial and the competitive fashion industry.
The processing of water hyacinth is simply still too expensive, proving difficult in just how to create a viable, sustainable business around it.
From the way I experienced it, this is not simply a problem of greed or something which can be easily solved by compromise. This is just one example of the complex problems our society faces today, a micro representation of our nation’s macroeconomic issues. One might say that J&L should just compromise, further cut its margin and pay the Nanays a price that will be equivalent to their time based on minimum wage laws.
I know Noreen personally and I believe that she will if only she can, but apart from compromising J&L’s business and financial health, this “compromise” will also not be beneficial for the community in the long run. With price premiums as a form of protectionism wherein the Nanays will still be patronized despite the fact that the price paid is not even slightly equivalent to its potential returns or its market fair price, the community will not have enough incentive or drive to become more productive or efficient and without evolving into a stronger and more stable entity, they will never emerge as a supplier competitive enough to survive in the long run. Sooner or later, a competitor supplier more open to challenges will appear and take its claim of the industry. And the Philippine economy, and more still the Philippine water hyacinth market, is far too small to allow the flourishing of many players. The pie’s too small and if they don’t claim it now, it can be someone else’s in the (near) future. In this example, compromise as a solution based on a superficial analysis to a deeper problem will simply kill both parties, not benefiting even one in the end.
Businesses not backed up by an already existing power (family business, corporation, loads and loads of capital, etc.), starting up either as producers or suppliers are expected to face difficult times at the beginning, as this is a period of continuous struggle for stable cash flows, for immediate returns for steady capital accumulation and for robust strategies to deflect defensive (which sometimes end up being offensive) actions of already existing entities in that industry, who are also fighting to maintain their position.
The free market is a competitive world where the phrase “survival of the fittest” hold true, but this “screening process” wherein the unworthy are weeded out is necessary, because without being subjected to unregulated and liberal market forces, one cannot sustainably survive.
The above is just an exercise of neoclassical perspective. I love how my learnings from Management Engineering, Economics and Development Studies enables me to see the world in new fusions of light. Development studies tells me there are other ways, lens by which to see this phenomenon,
But more than a reminder on perspectives, the complexity of this problem reminds me that there isn’t always a correct answer, that development is difficult and change takes time.