My Home Helpers Manual – mommy hacks part 1

Okay, before anything else, I am HARDLY an expert. I am a mom of an almost two year old boy and still find myself stumbling, regretting, celebrating, regretting, and celebrating again. I don’t have a lot of answers, but because I have been incredibly supported by moms especially when I was going through my post-partum blues, I promised myself that I will share what I can and do what I can for moms who reach out for anything.

So theeeere! Fair warning, I am a nerd. So a lot of the materials here are super detailed and… nerdy. haha

Background: I have worked with artisans for all my career life so I thought of approaching our Helper recruitment and retention in the same way I approach everything in life, including work: with clarity, compassion, consistency, google sheets, and power points!

The Purpose of this Manual: Sure, our home helpers are employed by us. But more than being their employers, we are also their families away from their own families. We share our home and life with them and entrust the safety and wellbeing of our children to them.

I thought of creating an orientation manual for our helpers and yayas so that they can be best informed about their rights, our expectations, health and safety basics, and our family dynamics. As we onboard helpers, I take about an hour during their first week to present this manual, complete with handouts in clear books. It is not a one-sided manual too as I make it a point to ask them about their families, hopes and dreams, goals, and how we can support them.

This orientation manual eventually evolved into learning module that I update as needed.

What is in it – A 60+ slide module (at least that’s the template now, but my personal one is already 90+ slides long) in Tagalog that includes the following: 

  • Information / Bio – I give out pieces of paper that they can fill up with the information we need for filing 
  • Terms of service and information about the work – this includes information and policies on cash advances, salary disbursements, and details on government-mandated benefits such as SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig. I make it a point to explain all these to them so that they can also appreciate what they could do with the benefits. 
  • Values Sharing – this part is where I discuss the values in our family that are important to us. I also ask them about the values that are important to them. 
  • Important reminders on the following:
    • Social Media Safety and Fake News identification
    • Safety & security in the home
    • Common modus of criminals who target homes and children
    • What to do in case of emergency – fire, earthquake, typhoon, blackouts, etc.
    • Important numbers to call in case of emergency
    • Ending our service agreement / employment – this is where I set expectations on leaves, causes and grounds for termination, lead time to inform us when they are leaving for good / resigning. We also establish that there is an incentive if they stay for at least a year and if they inform us that they are leaving at least 30 days before their last day.
  • Some Perks and Benefits of being part of our family – this is where I explain that when we go out with friends or for work, they will always be introduced by name to people we know. We will also always respect their privacy and give ample time to connect with their families.
  • Specific information on how to take care of Miguel – when Miguel was much younger, the instructions include breastmilk thawing, food choices for Miguel, bathing instructions, rules on taking photos and posting on social media, rules on kissing Miguel, etc. But now that he is bigger, the instructions include rules on screen time, age-appropriate discipline, learning plan, among others.

How to use this manual – I suggest you download it and make it your own! We all have different ways of parenting and different situations. I am a working-business-mom but with very flexible hours so my manual is very specific for my schedule, process, and lifestyle! The template that I’m sharing is bare bones though, so you could definitely customise it according to what works for you.

One of the things I also do to reinforce the contents of the manual is to hold weekly meetings with our household staff. haha I know, just like a company! I say it is the most important company though! Every Monday morning, I gather our staff and discuss food plan, lesson plan (for Miguel), and some reminders – especially if there are things in the manual that are being forgotten or neglected. The weekly meeting is a great venue to make reminders and even gentle reprimands more professional rather than emotional.

The Results so far – I’m quite happy with the results of this whole process so far! 🙂 Our home team is part of our family and we could do what we do because of them. The few hours that I have invested in creating and sharing this module to our home staff made our lives so much easier! We are definitely a team. =)

And of course, here is the link to the Module!

Photo by: Owee Yulo  

On Mental Health and Kindness

It took me a while to process everything and to decide to open up. As much as I may seem vulnerable on social media, I am actually very private. I only share the things I have already processed and the emotions I have learned to manage.

This is one of the very few times I’ll open up about something that still makes me feel deeply uncomfortable and unsettled.

I have been reading up about all the people who have suffered pains that are hidden from the world, and some of them decided to end these by ending their lives. These brought back memories of struggles with mental health issues in my family. I grew up in a home where life was extremely volatile and depression was the usual cloud above our heads. And then I would go to my high school where I had to face intense (like crazy intense) bullying. There was no place I called sanctuary. Back then, it seemed like there was no way out. But there was. Because my sanctuary was not a place, my sanctuary was people. There were a few friends who chose to have lunch with me even at the risk of getting bullied too, they took me to prom, brought me to their homes, and believed in me when I could not even see myself. So I had a few minutes, a few hours every day that I actually felt alive.

And I lived. And even after high school, the struggles continued, the problems persisted, and the moments of hopelessness popped up once in a while. But there were a few people who also continued, persisted, and stayed.

From the outside, you probably won’t guess that I have been through all these. And there are many out there who are suffering in silence for a lot of reasons. They may be shutting you out, isolating themselves, or even showing everyone that they are okay. We will never know, really. But what can we do? We can reach out, be kind, and be inclusive. We may never know the suffering that others go through, but we can be part of those few minutes, few hours that make the world a little bit better and kinder for them. And we can actually try to make the world kinder in general, starting with ourselves and our daily decisions.

Honestly, I still don’t know how to talk about this. I have been re-writing this short entry for the past few weeks and still uneasy about sharing. See, there are still many things I don’t understand and I am not able to process yet. I have not even shared everything about this part of my life and yet, I feel vulnerable. I could only imagine how it feels like for others, especially those who need help but would not reach out for one reason or another.

I hope that in some way, I’m able to add to the glimmers of hope for someone who needs it, and that my story encourages someone to be brave enough to be kind.

To those who are in emotional crisis and in need of immediate assistance, please contact

the 24/7 HOPELINE at:

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)

0917 558 HOPE (4673)

2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers)

And if you know of any other number that others can call for professional help or support, please do comment! 🙂

 

Photo: Pinterest

Hello Robots!

NOTE: I wrote this last July of 2016! WOAH. I did not publish it then and was not able to find the right time to publish it because so many other urgent things were happening in the country and the world. But as I am re-reading all these now, I realised that this is more relevant now than before. 

—-

I always listen to cool podcasts while stuck in traffic and one of my favorites is Planet Money! If you have some time right now, like, if you are stuck in traffic too, you might want to listen to this. It talks about The Sewing Robot. But it is not just about one robot that could sew uniforms, this is about robots (in general) that will take over jobs in the future.

This is one of the big things that scare me about the future: the rise of incredibly smart and productive machines. Actually, scared is not the right word. I don’t know what the right word is so here are a few words: a-little-scared-challenged-and-thinking-of-ways-to-make-jobs-relevant-for-people.

See, we are in the business of providing high-value livelihood to artisans. And there are reasons why we have always been precious about building a brand that recognises & partners with artisans.

Reason number 1: Our theory is, if we always recognise our artisans and connect them to advocates, they get to be part of what makes R2R a brand that people can emotionally connect with and love. People do not just buy for price, necessity, quality, or novelty, they also buy for meaning and purpose. We want to continuously inform our advocates that our products have meaning, purpose, and amazing people behind them.

Reason number 2: Good brands live longer. We are not in R2R for short-term gains. We built R2R to be a sustainable business partner for artisans. Because of this, we realised that we can’t operate like a project or build just any manufacturing business. A project has an end date and manufacturing is a highly competitive industry that won’t necessarily let us play to our strengths. The lives, livelihood, and future of our artisans deserve long-term solutions.

The reality is, technology is super fast. Within the past few years (not even decades!), we have seen 3D printers, fast machines, smart machines, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and a lot of really cool and exciting things. They will be part of the new norm before we realise it. I’m personally excited for all of them! But at the same time, as these machines become smarter and more efficient, they will be replacing people. I could only imagine the millions of jobs that will no longer exist in a few years because machines will take over. Yes, yes, of course, new jobs will also emerge! But let’s also be honest here. Not a lot of us are preparing ourselves or our communities for these new jobs. I know, it sounds like a Sci-fi movie, but lots of seemingly far-out Sci-fi movies in the past don’t seem too crazy anymore today. The bar for what we think is impossible has gotten a lot higher than ever before.

knockerup2

Did you know that we used to have knocker-uppers? Yes, their job was to wake people up early in the morning. Guess what machine made these jobs disappear?

I think about it all the time. If a software can design, say, a bag, and a 3D printer can manufacture it in minutes, how can an artisan compete in terms of go-to-market speed and cost?

So instead of stressing over the inevitable, I thought of just thinking of solutions that could help, not just our artisans, but people in general, to hone the right skills and talents to not just survive, but also thrive in the age of the Robots. Oh, and let’s change that name to: Age of highly skilled, adaptable, and creative human beings.

1.) Build brands – As I have mentioned in Reason number 2, Brands live longer! People identify with brands in an emotional way that goes deeper than just convenience or need. So, what if we can create brands that stand for real human connections and meaning? These brands can be inclusive in a sustainable way. Machines may be able to do the jobs of people better and faster, but they will find it incredibly challenging to replace the emotional connection that a brand creates. This means that really effective and inclusive brands have the potential to promote and protect the arts, crafts, and skills of actual people.

2.) Create art, not just products – Functional products are great! BUT. Purely functional products with no other value proposition other than being functional, will find it hard to stand out from a sea of other functional products. Products with purpose and meaning on the other hand, may stand a chance (or several chances).

For example, instead of just training artisans to make eco-bags (great start, but there are hundreds of thousands of eco-bag suppliers in the world), train artisans to share their stories through the products. They can make art pieces out of the ordinary through putting in their unique touches and stories. Maybe instead of just sewing the bags, they can also hand paint them with images of their community, family, hopes, and dreams.

There is a reason why art pieces have survived throughout history. They resonate with people, they represent ideas and artists, and they connect us to worlds and places in time that fascinate us and make us think, feel, and imagine.

3.) Train, not just for skills, but for the following: problem-solving, creativity, people management, systems thinking, empathy (the World Economic Forum came up with this really cool list of 10 skills you need thrive in the fourth industrial revolution), and other not-so-obvious but really important skills for the future!

4.) Create Great products with Inspiring stories (inspiring, not sad and destitute) – Inspiring stories behind products should come with great products. The inspiring stories and people behind them deserve nothing less. And when you get to create a great product (with a great brand, ideally), tell its story in an empowering way.

Major Emphasis on: Inspiring & Empowering

It is true that pity sells. It is easy to tug on the heartstrings of well-meaning people and compel them to buy something they won’t necessarily buy otherwise just because it’s for (pick one or more) charity, a good cause, livelihood, employment, education, water sanitation, and others. And don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for a cause too! But when the sole unique selling proposition of a product is its good cause, it won’t be selling long enough to create more positive impact.

The world is changing in an exciting and big way! So instead of resisting all these changes (and honestly, we can resist all we want but they are going to happen anyway), we have to learn to understand them, adapt to them, and more importantly, shape them.

 

Grit is my fave four letter word

Quick note: I unearthed this just now. As in April 1, 2018! But I wrote this when my son Miguel was still 7 months old. That’s about 8 months ago! I totally forgot that I wrote this and I was probably in a different place when I did so re-reading it was a little surprising and quite enlightening. I am not sure why I did not hit publish 8 months ago, I must have been overthinking it. In any case, here it is. Re-reading my blog drafts (and I have a lot) is part of my reflection process. Hope it helps someone somewhere too!

—-

Ever since I was young, I have always felt like I was fighting for my life in one way or another. I won’t (yet) go into the details of that super cryptic sentence because that would open up a can of delightful multi-coloured worms. haha Yup, can of worms. But they are delightful and multi-coloured. Get it? I do! And I think like this because looking back, there have been LOTS of blessings in disguise in my life. Like deep, deep, undercover disguise. But blessings nonetheless. So yes I now consider them delightful and oh so colourful.

So for now let’s leave it at that even if I am already a paragraph in and you are probably super curious. Because this entry is not about my telenovela life – though it definitely played a HUGE role in the way I am today. It is about the general principles of grit that I have learned throughout the years of building and running a social enterprise.

Background: Our social enterprise is Rags2Riches, Inc., it is a fashion & design house empowering community artisans. It is nearly 10 years old and have been through 498 near-death experiences (I’m guessing, but it is probably more. haha – that’s painful laughter by the way). We started about 10 years ago with this seemingly straightforward ambition of being a life and livelihood partner for community artisans around the Philippines. Life and Livelihood are BIG words. And in our minds, we knew what those words meant to the business we were building. But what was in our minds were still worlds apart from actually learning with our entire being. We did not just have skin in the game, we had (and still have) internal organs in the game. I’m not even trying to be funny with that last line.

So yes, 10 years and 498 near-death experiences later, here we are today still living. And we will probably go through a few more near-death experiences because that’s how it is when you declare and own an ambition to be a Life and Livelihood partner to artisans while being design-centric, while being sustainable, while maintaining a culture of compassion, AND while trying to be excellent, professional, and profitable. All. At. The. Same. Time.

Businesses are supposed to be quite straightforward. Profit is usually THE measure. And that in itself could be challenging. But NOOOO. It was not challenging enough for us apparently so we thought of adding positive impact too. haha But oh well, we thought it was worth it so we put in the work of what it is worth. And this dream, this whole ambition of creating a fashion & design house empowering community artisans, is worth a lot not just to us but to our artisans from around the Philippines – and maybe even around the world if we do things right and more people could learn from our best practices and cautionary tales.

So grit is not just a nice-to-have. It is essential, crucial even.

If you are my Facebook friend or you follow me on Instagram, you would know (if you are not already overloaded with his pictures) that I have a baby boy. As of this writing he is 7 months old and super active, curious, and growing up really fast. So most of what I write now is for him (Hi Miguel!) and for the challenges he will face in the future which I am super nervous about and have to deal with (my feelings about his challenges, not his challenges necessarily). So these days, I write more about the challenges than the successes because the truth is, the challenges led to the successes and we learn more from the difficult things rather than the easy ones. Grit after all, is born out of fire, not rainbows and butterflies.

So Miguel, and whoever is reading this (especially you, future Reese), here are some of the things I learned about grit and how to be gritty.

1. Choose your battles

This admittedly, I did not get in the beginning. I thought there was such a thing as “having it all”. One of my biggest revelations in life is that there really is no such thing as having it all. Those who say that “you can have it all” either changed their perspective of what “all” means or are just incredibly blessed with all the luck and resources in the world. Good for them!

The truth is, for most of us, there will be sacrifices and compromises. And it is okay to not always get it all together. It is okay to not know, to be confused, and to admit that you are still figuring it out. There is a time and season for every aspect of life. I learned that I have to choose what’s important and fight for it. If it is trivial or just capricious, I have to learn to let it go. And this is really easier said than done and harder to identify than expected. Some things may seem REALLY important but they are actually trivial, capricious, or just one symptom or result of a bigger thing.

I have learned to look for that bigger thing, identify its importance in my life and values (and my why!), and hustle hard for it. I don’t have an actual formula, I really wish I do, but being intentional with where you put your energies to and always asking “why” may eventually lead you to your answer.

2. Work hard not for perfection but for progress

I have heard so many (many many many) times that “you only get one shot, make it perfect/good/awesome”. But I have learned the opposite. You don’t actually get just one shot. You get several shots. Lots and lots of them as long as you seek them out. Even if we make grave, damaging, highly publicised mistakes, do-overs are possible. Hard for sure, but possible. Having grit means that you are able to claw your way out of a seemingly abysmal pit, over and over again until you really make it out. This reminds me of Bruce Wayne’s multiple, painful attempts to get out of the ancient prison pit in the movie The Dark Knight Rises. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole scene, rooting for him as he grasped on to the cracks on the wall, ropes, and bits and pieces of protruding concrete. There are so many things in life that are just like that ancient prison pit. Not as deadly (though sometimes they are), but just as challenging and seemingly insurmountable. And you know what? All those “failed” attempts were not useless at all. One day, you’ll look back at your “failures” and realise that they have built you, your character, and your narrative. 

3. Get to know yourself and what holds you back

Competition is not always bad. It could push us to be better, to self-examine, and to see what we missed. But I have an inordinate amount of competitiveness ever since I was young. I’m not necessarily a bad loser externally, but I am internally. How does that look like? Well, it will look like I don’t care about winning anyway or that “I’m happy for you”. But deep inside, I’m already ice-picking away my self-worth, thinking about strategies to win, or making excuses about why I did not win (luck, income disparity, levels of attractiveness, family background, etc. – I’m serious!). This level of intense competitiveness is definitely tamer now. But I had to intentionally tame it especially because it had led me to so many bad decisions. I made some decisions guided by 20% logic and 80% building-my-self-worth-through-winning motivation. Now, I don’t have a guide book for taming this exactly but writing things down and reflecting often about my most disturbing feelings, definitely helped. Some people pray, do counseling, or create art. I see these as versions of reflecting and processing our vulnerabilities.

If we are more aware of the tendencies that make us insecure, less compassionate, and more destructive, that awareness could be a great jump off point to a more intentional life. When we are aware and intentional, we are able to build the conditions within us that enable us to be more gritty and not give up easily.

Grit is not just about blindly charging ahead, it is also about examining ourselves and our shortcomings and moving towards the direction of our dreams and being a better person along the way. 

 

 

3 questions I had before Davos (and the answers after)

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Last week, I went to Davos for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. It was my first time and I did not know what to expect. I did have a LOT of questions though. Some of my questions were quite trivial like “is it going to be crazy cold?”, “will there be rice somewhere?”, “will I cry every time I miss my baby?” and “do I have the right shoes for the event + snow + walking + dancing?”. Let’s get those out of the way. The answers were: no, yes, almost always, and yes!

Of course, I also had more substantial questions that have the potential to guide my decisions and actions for my life, work, and advocacy. Throughout the week, I was able to gather some answers and learn a lot.

Question 1: Will I be able to represent our artisans, advocacies, and country?

Answer 1:

YES! I was given the opportunity to speak in two sessions. The first session was about enabling E-commerce for small enterprises to become global players. I was part of a panel together with Jack Ma (Alibaba), Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz (Peru), and Director-General Roberto Azevedo (WTO), moderated by Richard Samans (WEF). And the second session was a dinner panel called “You Are What You Wear” where I was a discussion leader together with Stella McCartney, Ellen MacArthur, Stefan Doboczky, Valter Sanches, and Vincent Biruta, moderated by Hadley Gamble.

These sessions were planned (so well) ahead of time and though I prepared, I was still really wondering if a voice as small as mine representing artisans and communities will be heard in a stage as big as the World Economic Forum in Davos. Big businesses and policy makers meet in this place, discuss ideas on how to improve the state of the world, and for a few, even actually create collaborations that bring about systemic change. It was easy to feel small indeed! And let’s be honest here, we are small (and I don’t just mean my height). But this is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a great thing!

See, our being small allow us to see things from the ground and the grassroots where most of the people are. And when we talk about improving the state of the world, we cannot possibly forget the majority of the world.

For both the sessions I contributed in, I was probably the one closest to the grassroots. And I took that as a huge responsibility to magnify the needs from the ground and really represent the voices that need to be heard by the decision makers that affect their lives. This role was a bit daunting (fine, VERY daunting), but it was exciting and inspiring. A few days after the Annual Meeting, I was already in touch with industry leaders and luminaries who are interested to get our insights for policies and business decisions, as well as collaborate with us (more on that soon!)!

Question 2: What sessions / people will surprise me and make an impact on me?

Answer 2: 

There were a few sessions that I really enjoyed and learned from, but the most memorable ones were also the most painful.

I have been exposed to poverty almost all my life so it was easy for me to say that I have seen it all. It was devastating to be reminded that pain and suffering is still happening every single day in extreme situations that I could only imagine.

The first session that made an impact on me was the one where Cate Blanchett talked about her experiences and advocacy as a Goodwill Ambassador of the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency). I was not expecting to hear the things I heard from the session. But maybe that was also because I did not set many expectations. Like many who signed up for the session, I was there in-part as an admirer of her work as an actress, and perhaps mildly interested in what she had to say about the plight of refugees around the world. I left the room incredibly touched by the stories she shared and challenged by how big the problems are. I realised something that I knew all along but forget sometimes: that we are all human beings, figuring things out together and trying our best to make sense of what we are capable of (both good and evil) and how we can be better or make things better for others.

That session foreshadowed another event that made an impact on me: A Day in the Life of a Refugee. Mark and I attended this during our last day (it was running for the whole duration of the annual meeting) and it put a lot of the things we learned, into perspective.

The program started with a simulation where the participants (us!) were assigned random “identities” that we will own while inside the 20-minute simulation. My identity was Suad Yehia, a 15-year old unmarried factory worker who is malnourished and have no assets to even buy food or medicine. During the 20 minutes, the participants experienced a morsel of what it is like to live as a refugee in camps around the world. After the simulation, we heard harrowing yet hopeful stories from past refugees themselves or aid workers working with refugees.

The Day in the Life of a Refugee experience was definitely memorable and eye-opening. I am strangely comforted that my experience working in poverty alleviation has not made me callous to the needs of others, no matter how disturbing or painful they may be.

It is easy to think that I am already doing my part and doing enough but the truth is, there is still so much to be done. And it is also easy to think that the problems of the world are too big and there is nothing we can do, when in fact, every single thing we actually do, matters.

To learn more about the program and how you can help, visit http://www.refugee-run.org/. And of course, closer to home, you can explore how you can contribute to different organizations that are creating solutions to various social problems such as hunger, homelessness, lack of quality education, and poverty, among many others.

Question 3: Who will be changing the world? And how can we create bigger impact together?

Answer 3:

Many people I have met in Davos are already changing the world and I know that more people will. For one, a of lot partnerships between social entrepreneurs (the community I am part of!) and key decision-makers are already in discussion, and I’m excited for the future because of these collaborations. When powerful decision-makers come together, big things can happen. But when powerful decision-makers come together with leaders who represent the powerless, good things can begin.

But this is just a small part of the big change that has to happen.

World-changing is not exclusive to the big decision-makers because if you really think about it, we are all decision-makers. The small or big decisions we make may seem inconsequential, but when we think through consequence number 100+ of our decisions, we’ll realise that they go a long way. World-changing is everyone’s business because… well, everyone lives in the world and we are all stewards of this only home we have so far.

It may sound like the biggest cliche ever, but it is still true that making the world a better place starts and continues with each one of us. And if we consolidate and coordinate our efforts even in small communities, the impact we can create will be far more than what we can do alone.

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Schwab Social Entrepreneurs!

And speaking of creating bigger impact together…  

As always, we are working triple time to build R2R as a global brand that artisans can rely on as a viable and sustainable partner to help improve their lives. We have been doing this for 10 years and through all the challenges and little wins, you, our advocates, have been with us. You cheered us on, supported us, gave us valuable feedback, granted us second chances (and more), and created positive impact with us all these years. And we know that like us, you are in this for the long-haul.

Because we are in this together, we are sharing with you some of the things we are working on to create more positive impact. And if you have any ideas or partnership possibilities you could direct our way, we would be most joyful and grateful!

Here are a few of the partnerships and possibilities we are searching for:

  • International distribution through retailers (could be boutiques, chains of boutiques, etc.) in key countries around the world – while we probably won’t be able to supply all immediately, it would be great to get connected to markets for our current as well as future capacity and communities!
  • Partnerships with corporations that can include us and our artisans in their supply chains! We have done one-off partnerships with brands we love (like corporate gifts, etc.), but if ever there are chances to partner with companies for the long-term too, that would be awesome!
  • Partnerships with global brands and designers who can collaborate with us to create amazing products and put a spotlight on what our artisans can do
  • Partnerships with social enterprises and artisan-supportive brands from all over the Philippines and Asia to join our platform www.thingsthatmatter.ph, which is a joyful marketplace that creates positive impact and inspires an intentional lifestyle.

Ideas? Connections? Exciting possibilities? We are so excited to hear from you! Send me a note: reese.fernandez@rags2riches.ph.

 

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

Schwab Social Entrepreneur 2013

Young Global Leader 2012

World Economic Forum

14 Days with baby, with only a carry-on luggage

For those who have been following my Instagram and Instagram Stories, I hinted on writing about this trip and how I managed it with only a carry-on luggage (I know!!! haha). I LOVE packing and packing with intention – yes everything must be intentional – because it is a little systems challenge that has immediate results. But aside from that nerdy reason, I love packing this way because I get more peace of mind for my trip, I am more mobile, and I have less risk of losing my luggage (since no need to check in)! So many wins!

We just arrived a few weeks ago from a 14 day New Zealand trip for the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s YBLI (Young Business Leaders Initiative) program. But I also brought baby Miguel with me and of course, my husband Mark so he can take care of baby while I work and then we can go on to a mini vacation / road trip to Queenstown! I was so excited for this trip but I was also quite nervous because it was baby’s first plane ride (more than 10 hours of flying one way!) and Mark will be taking care of the baby alone most of the time.

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and in all fairness, Mark did an amazing job taking care of Miguel!!! Consider me SHOOKT and impressed!

So to calm my nerves, I decided to be a bit more obsessive about packing. haha I have awesome coping skills and I’m sharing my weirdness with all of you! Here are my 9 tips on packing light for a relatively more relaxed and a bit less backbreaking (literally) trip!

  1. Luggage and bags – I brought one carry-on luggage (that could be placed on the overhead compartment) with all my stuff, one R2R Maricel baby bag that fits under the seat in front of us for all of my pump stuff, Miguel’s food, change of clothes, vitamins, and bottles, and one small (but super roomy) R2R bag (more on that for number 5) for all my phones, chargers, make-up, and others.

    Bags!

    The little orange luggage is a carry-on, the black bag is the R2R Maricel Mommy bag, the Pack-it cooler folds and can fit inside the front pocket of the Mommy bag, and the bag to the right is my purse for the entire trip!

  2. Clothes! – Determine how many outfits you would actually need (considering the occassions, events, weather, etc.) for your trip and then divide the days by 2-4 (depending on the total number of days) to get the number of tops you would need and divide the days by 2-6 to get the number of bottoms. Okay, it is not as mathematical as that actually, but if you want to pack light, be very intentional and quite ruthless with cutting down on the “maybe I’ll need this” or “this is too cute to leave” piles. Since I have 14 full days and 7 of which are more business casual, I decided to bring 7 tops that can be dressed up or down as needed, and 3 pairs of pants (jeans + wide-legged trousers that can be dressed up or down too).
  3. Combinations of Clothes – Make sure that all your tops look great with all your bottoms. I LOVE this part because I really try out all the combinations!

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    Top from Pink Manila and bottom from Uniqlo

  4. Shoes – shoes are the most bulky and most delicate items to pack so I’m very particular about what shoes to bring and to only bring those that I will absolutely need and use. For this trip, since we have a baby on board (that’s another packing story for next time), I was extra ruthless with cutting down on my own things so I decided to choose only one pair of shoes for the entire trip, for all occassions. This part was HARD because the pair must be: comfy, casual, business-appropriate, weather resistant, pretty, and must match all the combinations of my clothes. Fortunately, a few days before our trip, we visited Dr. Kong in the 30th to get our feet assessed (my assessment was really dismal) and get some pairs of comfy shoes for the family. I honestly did not expect that the pair I saw and got would check all my boxes but it did! I expected Dr. Kong shoes to be comfy but not stylish because comfy and stylish don’t usually go together. But looook!!! Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
  5. Bags – another potentially bulky item unless you just want to go around in canvass bags. For this trip, I decided to bring just ONE bag that fits the shoes and fits all the combinations of clothes I brought. And this one bag (which is part of our Artefino collection called the Flora crossbody bag) is like a gift from Mary Poppins, it fits a LOT of stuff. Like here in this photo, this bag had a small notebook, pens, money, credit cards, keys, 2 lipsticks (Happy Skin of course!), hand sanitiser (Messy Bessy), 2 phone chargers, 2 phones, 1 power bank, sunglasses, and an extra t-shirt I got from the event. IMG_20170930_165059_592
  6. Toiletries – Transfer your toiletries to clear little 100ml bottles and put them all inside a zip bag. That’s pretty standard especially if you want to have no checked in bags (I don’t like checking in bags)
  7. Gifts – Choose gifts (to people you are visiting / people back home) that are flat, compact, or easy to shoot into the little cracks and slips between your clothes
  8. Another clothing tip – Choose clothes with fabrics that are easy to wash, dry, and wear, and won’t need to be ironed. This saved me a lot of time!
  9. Laundry – no judgement if you don’t plan to do laundry at all, but in case you want your clothes to be fresh again, plan for a laundry stop in the middle of your trip. Depending on the country you are visiting, chances are you can find laundry shops with washers and dryers you can use.

So there!!! I really had fun in this trip and the time I took to plan my packing was so worth it. I got to spend more time learning in the conferences and was able to spend time with family more!

What are your hacks and tips for packing light?

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WE’RE LAUNCHING THINGSTHATMATTER.PH ON NOVEMBER 2017

Hello!

About 10 years ago, we started R2R with Php 10,000, a group of hopeful social entrepreneurs, a small community of women artisans, and a huge dream. We wanted to create a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines. We knew it was not going to be easy but it was going to be worth it. Fast forward to today, we now have 10 years of experience in building, failing, bouncing back, and building again.

While we are so joyful that a lot more are now creating inclusive supply chains and community-centered enterprises, we know that there’s still so much to be done. Bridging artisans to markets is easy; keeping the market interested is harder. Connecting designers to artisans is easy; creating a culture of design in the artisan communities is much harder.

But the hardest thing to do is to build something that lasts. So we thought, why not share all the wins and mistakes we have learned along the way to more social enterprises, brands for a cause, community artisans, and small-scale producers? And the best time to do this is on our 10th anniversary this November 2017!

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Our team is so excited because, for the past few months, we have been building Things That Matter, a joyful marketplace that creates positive impact and inspires an intentional lifestyle. But it is more than just a one-stop shop for all beautiful and meaningful products. It is also a community of advocates who are creating a better world, one intentional decision at a time.

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We are overjoyed and excited to invite YOU to be one of the first advocates of Things That Matter! We are launching this November and when you sign up for our Things That Matter newsletter, we’ll give you Php 250 off your first purchase. Yes! Php 250 off for shopping for things that are beautiful, useful, and meaningful. Sign up here now.

Lastly, follow Things That Matter on Instagram and Facebook to know more about which social enterprises, brands, and communities we have on board and other exciting updates in the coming days!

In Good Company Podcast

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Oh hi!

So, after years of public speaking, I did not think I will still be quite shy about my voice (literally and figuratively) but I still am! haha There is a very compelling reason for me to finally come out and speak up. See, for the past few months, I have been searching, struggling, and scrambling desperately for inspiration and good news. Thankfully, I am quite fortunate to experience bits and pieces of hope and inspiration around me that I thought others should know about too! So I got over myself and decided to somehow share these stories through a medium that I am using to learn as well: podcasting!

A few months ago, Tom Graham and I met up, brainstormed, and shortly after, we started recording a podcast together called In Good Company. This podcast will explore the lives, careers, and advocacies of people who want to create positive impact in the world. Big words, I know. haha The journey of making this podcast has been already so inspiring and definitely quenched a little bit of my thirst for inspiration, so I hope more people can find inspiration through this as well!

We are launching this VERY SOON and we’ll announce the date in our Facebook Page: In Good Company Podcast. Don’t forget to like and follow for more details!

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I thought it would be easy

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Or at least easier than this.

But nothing worth it ever come easy, I should have known. For one reason or another, I thought that there will be some free passes and shortcuts because we were “doing something good”. And to be honest, there were times when we did. But when the hype declined and the real daily grind happened, the concessions we enjoyed because we were new, trendy, and “doing good”, also declined.

When we started R2R nine years ago (!!!), I was about a year out of college. It was a scary and exciting time because I chose a path that I did not fully understand and yet it fully occupied my thoughts and imagination. I loved the idea of becoming a social entrepreneur! It sounded new, exciting, smart, brave, and, for lack of a better term, “good”.

But 9 years has a way of untangling hubris and making things clearer. And I’m still going through a lot of untangling. A long time ago, I decided to write this whole process down and even keep some voice memos so that I’ll always remember.

So I am writing this entry more for myself than for you (whoever you are :)), so that I am always reminded of what truly matters. But if these help you too, that would be awesome!

If it is not yet obvious, I LOVE lists. haha So here is a list of the things I have learned. Because I’m writing this more for myself, it is the kind of honesty that I could take from myself: no holds barred.

I have learned that:

1) Livelihood is not just a project. If it is, it is not livelihood, it is a project. Working with community artisans is hard work and it is definitely not a feel-good endeavour. Not to say that it won’t feel good at all. It will! But if feeling good is a main motivator, you are so not going to last here.
2) Creating impact is more than just increasing income, it is about creating more opportunities constantly and consistently. Increasing the income of others is the easiest thing to do. The long-term impact that matters is not easy to do, but must be done.
3) If something is handmade and super cheap, someone else is paying for it. And it is not the customer or the business.
4) You will get lots (LOTS) of advice from well-meaning people and a lot of them will expect you to follow their advice especially when you asked for it. Sometimes, you’ll never know if the advice is good or bad until you try it. So now you know. haha #GAH
5) You’ll eventually make good decisions because you have learned from your bad ones. And even if you flip it and reverse it, the pain of these bad decisions led you to the good ones.
6) Practice curiosity. Sometimes you are an introvert but sometimes you use your introversion to be a snob. Know the difference. 🙂
7) Yes, you don’t have family money, the limbs of a supermodel, an angle-less face (in fact you only have one angle), a well-curated closet, or connections that will get you massive social media following, BUT you have your own currency. Listen to Amy Poehler:

“Decide what your currency is and let go of what you don’t have.” –

Amy Poehler, Yes Please 

8) You will feel insignificant in the face of the newest shiny things that look so bright and bold. But don’t lose sight of the long-term. Because…
9) It does not matter if you came here first and it does not matter who is the latest. What matters is endurance and grit in the face of challenges and yes, in the face of new shiny things.
10) If it is a business with purpose, it needs to continue to be a business (profitable, sustainable), for the purpose to continue. And this may sound easy, but it comes with the most painful, lose-your-sleep kinds of decisions.
11) The goal of your enterprise is not to be obsolete as a company but to make the qualifier “ethical” not necessary in the future because it is the only way to do things.
12) There is virtue in doing good quietly, but declaring a business model that is doing good has value in it too. When you declare something (good work, struggles, intentions, setbacks and all), you hold yourself accountable with the public as your witness. You will allow yourself to be visible, susceptible to criticisms yet at the same time become a source of inspiration.

I have an extra 90 minutes a day and this is how I spend them (my top 10 podcasts)

Well, not really “extra” as in I have 90 minutes more than others. I just realized, roughly 7 months ago when I started breastfeeding and pumping milk that when I was not looking at my baby’s sleeping face while breastfeeding/pumping, I was scrolling mindlessly though social media. That’s a LOT of unproductive time on social media. I don’t know about you but every time I spend waaay too much time on social media, I feel woozy and a bit empty. It is very much like the feeling I get when I eat too much junk food. So what if I could use the same amount of time to learn something new and feed my brain some healthier content? I have been a podcast geek for a few years now so I decided that I should fit useful, inspiring, and intentional content into my life.

Here is my list in case you have some time for extra learning and knowledge too – let’s be real here, traffic wastes a lot of our time so might as well use it for learning right?

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1) How I Built This

What it is about: Amazing entrepreneurs, how they started, and the backstories that we don’t get to usually read. These entrepreneurs are interviewed by Guy Raz, who is an awesome interviewer! He asks the questions I would have LOVED to ask the entrepreneurs.

Listen when: You need some inspiration – when you feel that literally everyone is waaaay ahead of you in life (hint: they are figuring things out too). This podcast helps you understand really successful and famous entrepreneurs as human beings who went through difficulties, challenges, lucky breaks (that they embraced ready or not), successes, and more challenges. Some of them started early, some started later in life, but all of them prove that we all have our own journeys and stories.

Notable episode/s: Patagonia!!! I love the founder Yvon Chouinard’s philosophy about growth. After a business crises, they decided that they will listen to their customers for their growth so that they “grow strong, not grow fat” (I’m SO tempted to tag people & companies. haha). They are also moved by their sustainable philosophies and operate, decide, and live as if they will live for 100 years.

He believes in super high quality, responsible products that you can wear and use forever! Seriously, he is like the original Marie Kondo and practitioner of the capsule wardrobe.

I could go on and on about Patagonia, but it is so much more powerful when you listen to the founder. Patagonia is amazing!! They are 50 years old (I never knew!!) and have been doing progressive and inclusive practices for a long time already. Ultimate company peg!

Also notable: Sara Blakely of Spanx, Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott

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2) Planet Money 

What it is about: Economics made fun. Seriously! Okay, I am a bit of a nerd so this may be hard to believe but just give it a chance. Listen to one of my favorites and you’ll see what I mean.

Listen when: You want to learn something new but want to do so the fun way!

Notable Episodes: I actually have a long list but if I have to choose my top 3, these would be (in no particular order)… 1.) Bagging a Birkin – about the Birkin and why it always seems to be out of stock (dun dun – that’s suspense music BTW), 2.) Setting Up An Offshore Company In A Tax Haven – it is exactly about what the title says! This episode got me more than a little sad because it is so familiar to us in the Philippines. Curious? Listen to it and tell me what you think!, 3.) How To Hide A Million Dollars In Plain Sight – also sad and familiar, 4.) Finding The Fake-News King – haha it seems like I have a theme here… sad and familiar again, 5.) Hard Work is Irrelevant – interesting concept that Netflix is practicing as a company! A bit clickbait-y but a good intellectual exercise to think about and use to debate (in a friendly way of course) with yourself or others. So that’s my top 5! Wait, did I say 3? Oops.

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3) StartUp

What it is about: The gritty, exciting, discouraging, encouraging, REAL things that happen when starting up a business – it features super interesting companies that made it or became cautionary tales.

Listen when: You feel a bit (or a lot) discouraged about your enterprise / start up and you need grounding and a little assurance that you are not alone.

Notable Episodes: Friendster! I know. Remember Friendster? I know I do. Did you know that we (as in Filipinos) contributed to why Friendster no longer exists? To be fair, there were so many reasons. But we were mentioned quite a few times so it brought me back to the time when I thought the whole Philippine population was on Friendster. So. Many. Memories.

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4) Criminal

What it is about: A true crime podcast that goes beyond just the details of crimes. It analyses the context and even psychology behind them. You know what, I can’t give justice to it, so here’s what the New York Magazine has to say:

Criminal is a true­ crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive.” -­ New York Magazine

Listen when: I’m not sure actually! I listen to it when I’m curious about the episode. haha I guess you can do the same. Unless you are in the business of crime solving (or crime – please stop, that’s bad), this podcast may not have a direct contribution to your learning. But it is intriguing and a good mental exercise especially when you are into sociology, history, and the like. Oh, and this podcast is beautifully made! The music, audio, and script are all on point.

Notable Episodes: In Plain Sight – while the podcast is called Criminal, this episode is sort of a love story. It is about two people of different races and classes falling in love with each other and surviving during a time when a love like theirs was illegal.

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5) The Purposeful Creative

What it is about: This podcast is designed to help creative individuals explore different ideas on how to build a career or business around purpose and passion – from the Purposeful Creative website

Listen when: You need inspiration and guidance for your life, side-hustle, or career. We all want to do purposeful work in some way, and while there are lots of inspiring podcasts and articles out there, the actual examples and step-by-step process to pursue this are few.

Notable Episodes: All of them! The podcast is hosted by Arriane Serafico, a good friend and inspiration, who creates thought provoking and action-inspiring episodes. She interviewed me for this podcast and it is the most fun, engaging, vulnerable, and honest out of all the interviews I have ever done. Ever.

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6) Science VS

What it is about: Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. Hosted by Wendy Zukerman – who by the way, is a highly engaging host! When you listen to her, you can almost see her talking directly to you and doing super animated hand gestures.

Listen when: You are stuck in traffic, bored, or curious, and you want to learn things the fun way. Oh, and an openness to science is important! Because science is… well, science.

Notable Episodes: The one about Ghosts (because helloooo, Ghosts are always interesting), the one about Zika, and the one about DNA and the smell of death. Actually, I love all the episodes! This is a fairly new podcast so it is still a pretty short list, but so far, I love them all!

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7) On Being with Krista Tippett 

What it is about: On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavours. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact. – from the On Being website 

Listen when: You want to reconnect with yourself and others, or you are going through something difficult or life-changing. It is always awesome and inspiring to listen to the experiences and perspectives of others.

Notable Episodes: Interview with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Resilience After Unimaginable Loss – I’m not crying, you’re crying

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8) Startalk Radio 

What it is about: The StarTalk podcast network bridges the intersection between science, pop culture and comedy with clarity, humor and passion. Oh, and it is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson! Hearing his voice already makes me feel smart. haha

Listen when: You love science, you are a geek, you are dating a geek (there are so many episodes that explores the science behind sci-fi movies), or you are just curious about the really cool topics they talk about.

Notable Episodes: Is Our Universe a Simulation? – see?? super cool!

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9) Reply All

What it is about: Reply All is a show about the internet and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more. It’s hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who launched the show in 2014. –  from Reply All’s website 

Listen when: you are bored or looking for some new knowledge, interesting information, and additional things to talk about when networking with people

Notable Episodes: Speaking of trained rats, listen to Zardulu

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10) Freakonomics Radio 

What it is about: Yes that book! But a lot lot more. It is economics made fun too!!! Yeah, I love economics.

Listen when: You like learning but you hate boring

Notable Episodes: Is Income Inequality Inevitable?, How Safe Is Your Job?, Get Grit In Life! 

Others! (most of the blurbs copied from their websites)

HBR Idea Cast – A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review.

99 % Invisible – 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

Strangers – Each episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were. 

Hidden Brain – The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

Stuff You Missed in History Class – precisely stuff you missed in history class! So history retold with context and other details

The Pitch – Like Shark Tank, but in a podcast

Lore – History behind the folklores! Super super interesting!