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

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 iseasy; 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.

How to do beauty when you are lazy

Let me start by saying that I am not a beauty expert or a beauty blogger. I am in fact, a makeup dweeb and probably the laziest person ever to apply moisturizer, make-up, or skin care products on a regular basis. 

So this article is not about specific make-up tricks or how-tos. I’ll only write about those when a) I already know what I’m talking about or b) halloween is near and I want to share tips on how to look like a socially awkward raccoon (true story, this is how I do make up on myself) for your next halloween party 

This article is about the super simple beauty stuff (uh, I can’t think of the general term) one can do when he/she is always on-the-go, in a hurry, lazy, or as unskilled as I am when it comes to make-up or skin care.

Disclaimer: while the rituals and products worked for me (and I have sensitive skin), they may not work for everyone. And I could not personally guarantee that the products are preggy-safe or breastfeeding-safe (if you are pregnant/breastfeeding of course) either, you still have to ask your doctor.:)

Presenting: Beauty rituals & products you can apply in 5 minutes or less


By the way, this is not a paid or sponsored post! Full disclosure though, I got some of the items as gifts but without any promises of reviews or posts on my end (Happy Skin, Burt’s Bees, Banila Co, Mustela). I do get a lot of beauty product samples that I have tried but some of them did not work for me.

1) Moisturise in the morning

My favorite product: Human Nature Day Moisturiser. I swear by Human Nature products not just because it is a social enterprise, but because their products are really really good. I have never been used to moisturisers and a lot of the commercial ones are too strong for me (I develop light rashes or get allergic to the strong smell), but from the first time I tried the Human Nature Day Moisturiser, I never looked back and always started the day with it! 

Minutes: less than 1 minute!

2) Moisturise! Yes, again. But this one is applicable to preggies or mommies who just gave birth. 

My favorite product/s:

Mustela – When I got pregnant, all I thought about was food. I would google every single meal to make sure it’s safe for baby (I don’t recommend doing that! You can ask your doctor or get one of those apps or books to guide you on what’s safe). Because I was so preoccupied with thinking about food, I did not really think about stretch marks. It’s a good thing my friends thought of them for me! haha so I got a LOT of Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention lotions as gifts! Thank you friends for thinking about my beach-ready bikini body (haha… maybe in 2 years). I am not 100% sure if Mustela is super effective but I don’t have stretch marks (yey!)!

Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter – I got this on my 30th week and LOVED the really light and delicious scent. I loved how it felt on my skin. The only down side is that I get a little hungry every time I smell it! haha

So after my morning shower, I apply Mustela, and before I go to sleep, Mama Bee Belly Butter

Minutes: less than 1 minute. Seriously. But maybe that depends on how long you want to apply them, it could get addicting!

3) Quick “I woke up like this” make-up while on my way to work 

My favorite product/s: Happy Skin everything!

Zit Zapper Second Skin Cream – I have sensitive skin so I’m very careful with what I apply. While I rarely break out, my face gets itchy when I use products that are too strong. I have been using the Happy Skin Zit Zapper for a little less than a year now and really happy with the results! Every time I apply it, I feel light, even, and nourished! When I was younger, I thought make-up is bad for the skin so I never really learned how to apply any (hah! Excuses). Thank goodness Happy Skin makes you pretty not just for the short-term but for the long-term too.

Shut Up and Kiss Me, Honeymoon Glow (Moisturizing Lippie) – I love this colour! It matches my skin tone (yellow-ish. haha) and it feels really good on the lips too. It is easy to apply and lasts really long.

Shut Up and Kiss Me, The Morning After (Lip & Cheek Mousse) – funny back story about this. I met the Happy Skin founders Jacqe Yuengtian-Gutierrez and Rissa Mananquil Trillo during a trip to Silicon Valley earlier this year (you can read about it here). Being the make-up dweeb that I was (still am), I was using matt lipstick that made my lips really dry and chapped (but I kept on using it anyway). When my lips finally hurt because of all the skin falling off from it (sorry, gross), Jacqe and Rissa gave me Shut Up and Kiss Me Lip & Cheek Mousse from their stash! The pigment (nuks, that’s what you call it right?) is great and the consistency is creamy and pleasant on the lips and cheeks! It is also so easy to apply! Someone like me could not go wrong with this product, so someone who is slightly better, will look like a gazillion bucks!

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even Powder Foundation – this is my quick fix for impromptu photo shoots in our office (and we have a lot because we model for our own bags all the time)! And now that I’m frequently sleepless, it is also my secret weapon to cover my most expensive bags; my eye bags.

Minutes: Less than 3 minutes in total!

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4) Water!!! – I’m not a water person. I ALWAYS forget to drink water. I don’t get thirsty easily and hardly sweat (which is perfect for photoshoots but bad for my health). I know that water is good for the health, but more importantly, it is good for the skin. I know, priorities right? So now, even if I hardly get thirsty, I try to drink as much and as often as I could, especially now that I’m breastfeeding too. 

My favorite product: An app that can help you track how much water you took for the day! The name of the app is Plant Nanny. The idea is to keep your “plant” alive so you have to water it (and get reminded to drink water too!). The plants are cute too!

Minutes: Okay, this kind of breaks the less-than-5-minutes rule for me because it takes me forever to drink one glass of water. Geez. But I’m sure this could be less than 5 minutes (per glass) for others!

5) Insect repellent

My favorite product: Zenutrients Eucalyptus & Lemongrass spray – I love this because it is not greasy/oily but still effective! It is DEET-free too so I was not worried about applying it when I was pregnant and now that I’m breastfeeding. Though I had to apply more often, I enjoyed every refreshing spray 

Minutes: Less than 1 minute

6.) Sanitiser for everything (my hands, the room, etc.) 

My favorite product (not in photo because I ran out already): Messy Bessy The Little Warrior (Chamomile) – I am no germaphobe but I love this so much that I may seem like one when you see me spraying away! I love the scent, all-purpose-ness, effectiveness of the product, uncomplicated ingredients, and the cause behind the company! Read about them here.

Minutes: Less than 1 minute

7) End of day: remove make up

My favorite product: Banila Co Clean It Zero Make Up Remover – it feels like luxurious paraffin wax and looks like sorbet, but melts so well as you apply it on your face! It effectively removes make-up too, even those really stubborn liquid eyeliners. I mean, I know, I just apply light make-up on most days, but during those days when we have full on shoots for magazines/TV that require heavier-than-usual-make-up, Banila Co Clean It Zero does the job pretty well. And I’m obsessive when it comes to removing make-up at the end of the day! 

Minutes: 2-5 minutes, depending on how much make-up you have on.

8) End of day: wash face

My favorite product: Human Nature Nourishing Facial Wash – I love this one! It does not leave the skin dry but you’ll still feel clean even without feeling squeaky. Oh, and I don’t mean to sound defensive (which makes me sound defensive), but I also wash my face in the morning, in case you are wondering/judging. haha 

Minutes: 2-4 minutes – only because I like to lather up a bit longer

9) End of day: night moisturizer

My favorite product: Human Nature Night Moisturizer – I brought this with me on a trip to the US (Philadelphia for the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit) late last year. The weather was quite cold and windy, which could freeze your face and make your skin super dry. I used this for both day and night and loved it! My face did not hurt, and my skin felt soft, supple, and moisturised the whole time. That felt extra good because I kind of know how it feels to have a frozen and dry face. 

Minutes: 1 minute! It does not take a lot of product to cover my face. A little bit goes a long way too!

So there! I hope that I was able to somehow save some of you some shopping and decision-making time. I was able to get to this stage of having an actual list of products I love because of the help of so many amazing friends (who recommended products they were using or gave me some because they pitied me) and entrepreneurs (who worked so hard to bring quality products to us).

Um… You probably won’t be reading a lot of beauty product reviews in my blog, so this could be it. haha I’m all tapped out. Unless of course, I stumble upon the next awesome product that fits my less-than-5-minutes-to-apply criteria. I did not call this entry “How to do beauty when you are lazy” for nothing.

2016, what is it with you?

Before I gave birth, I lined up about 5 blog entries that I wanted to publish every other week until I could find the time to write again. But for the past few weeks, none of those entries seemed appropriate for the time. In between breastfeeding and taking care of Miguel, I would re-read every article, thinking about which ones to post, but none of them felt right or relevant for the events of the past few weeks. So I wrote a new entry that really reflects how I feel these days. Actually, no, how I feel for/about 2016.

Because I’m mostly with my son these days, I decided to write this as a letter to Miguel. =)

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Hi my little Miguel! Here I am again, writing to you even if right now, you are just happily eating, pooping, and sleeping (repeat 100000x). Because one day soon, you’ll be a curious little boy who will be asking us a lot of questions! And this crazy 2016 just gave us more reasons to explain things better, teach you better values, and be better examples.

It has been a tough year so far with a few shining moments (these shining moments are mostly about you! – being pregnant with you and the day of your birth up to now). But the truth is, 2016 made us fearful, desperate, confused, frustrated, and still hopeful somehow. I am still hopeful because our country deserves it, you deserve it. We (the relatively older generation) still have you and the younger generation to love and inspire. It is not yet too late. It is never too late. =)

So here are the 5 things that I want to share with you in light of the events during your birth year, 2016. These are some of the lessons and insights your dad and I will share with you as you grow up.

1.) NEVER FORGET: Marcos is NOT a Hero (well, I knew this ever since I was young but I just never thought I would have to explicitly say it or remind others)

By the time you read this, past President (Dictator) Marcos may already be long buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. I hope by then they have changed the name or I hope somehow, this was reversed or did not happen at all. But in case Marcos is indeed buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (LNMB), I want you to know that he is not a hero.

Yesterday, we failed our country and we failed you when the Supreme Court agreed that Marcos could be buried in the LNMB. But it is not too late to still fight for the truth, and we’ll definitely continue the fight.

Past President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was a dictator, thief, and human rights violator. He is no hero. The real heroes are the ones who fought for freedom from his dictatorship. One day, I’ll tell you more about them and their stories.

Remember these people as the real heroes. Remember Marcos, but only as a dictator, thief, and human rights violator. Never Forget.

2.) Say what you mean and mean what you say

When you read the news from 2016, you’ll probably be very confused. It may seem like people, leaders most especially, say things with reckless abandon. Then they (and the people around them) attempt to take back their words and make really strange excuses. My son, this is not the norm and not how things should be.

Your mom and dad will not say things with reckless abandon to you or to anyone. We will try our hardest to follow through with our promises, mean what we say and say what we mean, and not confuse and frustrate you. We will try our hardest to not let our emotions get the better of us and make us blurt out words that we don’t really mean or we haven’t thought about. Because good and compassionate people are considerate. Considerate people consider the consequences of their words and actions.

3.) Always choose kindness and compassion

You will be growing up in a very strange world. Or at least, it is strange for your mom and dad. See, there was a time when we thought we knew the world and what being “good” really means. But today, we are realising that there are lots of other people around our country and the world who have different views and priorities. They may be great fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and friends, but somehow, their beliefs and values are very different from ours. It may be tempting to impose our beliefs on them or treat them differently, but I hope that you could always start with an effort to understand where they are coming from.

Maybe one day, we can all understand each other better and because of this we’ll be more compassionate towards one another. Or maybe not. But at least we can contribute to the better possibility, right?

No matter how hard it is, always choose the higher ground.

4.) Respect is underrated these days, but always choose to respect

Respect people, especially women, not because of who they are (or what they are wearing – please!) but because of who you are. We will try our very best to raise you to be self-aware, respectful, decent, kind, and compassionate. We will do our best to impart good values and be good examples, but we also know that you will be growing up in a world where there are leaders who are not setting good examples for you. So while this will be extra challenging for us, we are definitely not giving up.

Some leaders, through their words and actions, may make it seem okay to ogle at a woman’s legs just because her skirt is shorter than usual or make rape jokes because they are just jokes. These are never okay, son. Ever. These days, it may seem like respect is “open to interpretation”, but really, it is quite simple. Respecting others means that you recognize the dignity of each person and acknowledge this through your words and actions.

5.) Do not give up on our country

I don’t know if this advice is more for you or for me. Maybe it is for me. Okay, it is definitely for me too.

I used to find it easy to love our country. There was just so much to love, you know. We have awesome beaches, warm people, nation builders (and they are our friends too!) and a lot to hope for. These days, we still have those beaches, warm people, and nation builders who are tired but still persevering. And yes, we still have a lot to hope for.

But these days, we also have more killings, vengefulness, corruption, rape jokes, disrespect towards women and minorities, hatred, trolls, fear, condescension, a dictator who will be buried in the LNMB, and the dictator’s family continuing their power and plunder (and still getting support from a lot of Filipinos).  Maybe these were always present in our society, but these days, they are more pronounced, accepted, and even celebrated.

It is no longer that easy to love our country. And perhaps that means that we should love it even more. If love is only present when it is easy, it is just mere fondness and not love. So I hope you strengthen your love for country especially when it is hard to and when it needs it the most.

Haaay, we can do this anak.

 

Dear Miguel

(1)8rPF+DF Fernandez-Ruiz, Reese_4424

Dear Miguel,

I am so excited to meet you in a few weeks! I sometimes still could not believe that by Christmas, we’ll already have you with us and we can carry you around, play with you, and introduce you to our family and friends!

There are so many things I want to tell you and stories I want to share with you, so expect a lot of letters, emails, and messages from me that will keep you reading for a long time. And if these are not enough, we’ll also talk for hours!

For now, I want to share with you some things about you, me, your daddy, your Titos and Titas who already love you so much, and some bits and pieces about how life with us is going to be like.

1.) First of all, I want to let you know that we’ll be trying our best to be the best parents for you. We’ll fail once in a while (or a lot) and there may be days when we won’t be our best selves for ourselves or for you. But no matter what happens, we won’t give up on trying and we won’t give up on you. In this family, no one gets left behind or forgotten (you’ll get that reference soon enough)

2.) You have a really cool (and sometimes weird) family – your grandmas, grandpas, Titos, Titas, cousins, and more! You also have Titos and Titas who are friends and colleagues of your mommy and daddy. They are all very excited to meet you!

3.) I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for maybe about 3 months straight. Those were our first 3 months together (with you in my tummy). So if you can rap Guns and Ships easily, you can thank me later. But no pressure son. haha

4.) You will grow up with friends from all walks of life and backgrounds. Sure, we will attend those big and fancy birthday parties too, but we’ll also go to different communities and celebrate with them in simple and meaningful ways! We’ll do the things we love with the people we love the most.

5.) We will speak to you in English, Tagalog, and Bisaya (and we wanted to add more languages except… we don’t know them, so) from the very beginning! You won’t be an English-speaking kid who can’t understand or speak Tagalog in your own country. It is really not hard to learn 3 languages at the same time. You can do it my love!

6.) We will teach you how to pay bills, ride public transportation (not in an “immersion” kind of way, but actually learn how to go places – but your mommy and daddy are clingy, so we’ll go with you), open your own bank account, cook your own food (shoot, that means I have to learn this too, but we can do it Anak), get your own water, wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean your room, clean some areas of the house, and all the possible life skills that you need to learn to survive! These things are fun too!

7.) We’ll definitely do our very best to teach you the right values from the very beginning, but we won’t do this in a vacuum. See, you are part of a bigger world! This world is a big one. We are all figuring things out in this world and your mommy and daddy are blessed to have good people in this journey. We will all hang out together! This community will teach you empathy, compassion, kindness, and openness (which means you’ll get to know people with very different beliefs and backgrounds too). They will also help you realise that discourse, disagreements, and differences are not causes for divisiveness.

8.) We will not make your assignments, projects, talk to your teachers to boost your grades, or badger everyone we know to “like” your projects on Facebook. You’ll do all these (and more) yourself, with our loving guidance and support. We will trust you to fight your own battles, hustle your way through life, go through your own disappointments, and rise up again and again from falling or failing.

9.) We are big believers in “I love yous”. Your daddy and I say I love you to each other all the time. We say it before ending a conversation, before going to sleep, upon waking up, and any and every chance we get. And we mean it every single time. Welcome to the I Love You Club, buddy!

10) We love you for who you are and we accept your journey. You won’t be an extension of ourselves or our dreams for ourselves. You are not here in this world to take care of us when we get older. You are here because of love and out of love. You are here in this world to love, make your own path, make your own difference, and search for your own meaning. We’ll challenge you and encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone, but we’ll be patient with your process and support you in that delicate balance of hustling and being patient with yourself too.

(1)8rPF+DF Fernandez-Ruiz, Reese_4416

 

Entrepreneurship 101: A Disorganised List of Lessons Learned in Entrepreneurship Part 1

I’m starting a new series here called “My Disorganised List of Lessons Learned in Entrepreneurship”. Because I have actual work to do and a baby to deliver soon, I don’t have a lot of time to write coherent articles. What I do have though are lots and lots of little lessons that I wrote down for myself for the past few years. These are the lessons I wish I knew before learning them the hard way. But oh well, the lessons learned with pain tend to stick. I’m sharing these with the hope that some of you may not need to go through them to learn from them and if you still go through them, you won’t feel alone.

So here they are in bullet points! Not all of them are applicable to all businesses though so you would have to decide which ones are applicable to you.

1.) Start somewhere! Don’t overthink the whole “starting” thing

I know it is easier said than done, but small steps could go a long way. The first step in starting a business is creating a product/service and validating it in the market. It does not matter if the product is imperfect, it is a good idea to test it out anyway but be very honest that it is a sample/prototype. I have heard people say “make your product good enough first because if you fail, you’ll never get another chance”, but I found that that is not necessarily true for everyone. We started R2R with a less than perfect website (oh, don’t get me started here) and products that needed a lot of development (like a lot), but we started anyway, learned from feedback, stuck to the vision, and improved one step at a time.

You can try something out, and if it makes you less nervous, try it out with family and trusted friends. You’ll learn a lot more from trying than thinking on your own.

2.) Money is not always a blessing.

Really. Having too much money or resources can make you do stupid things. When you have a problem in the company, don’t just throw money at it or solve the problem with money. For example, if you have a problem with getting your brand name more known, don’t just spend a lot of resources on ads or big events. Think about your target market, where they are, who they are, and what they could possibly want/need from you. For all you know, you’ll be able to already reach them through cost-effective ways like targeted Facebook ads or newsletter marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, money is important and it can definitely make things easier. But if you are a start-up with limited resources (even if they don’t seem limited in the beginning – trust me, money drains up fast), be diligent enough to think of ways outside of money to solve problems. At the very least, you’ll be able to stretch the resources that you have and spend on the things that matter for your business.

3.) Hustle for as long as you can – don’t act or spend like a big company when you are a start-up

When we were starting in R2R, there was a time when we got a lot of resources and one of the first things we did was “hire professionals”. This meant that overhead increased faster than our growth. In retrospect, we should have stayed lean and agile for a longer time. We should have used the resources to build our market and test products rather than hiring a lot of people right away. There are lots of businesses today that are thriving with only a few people (awesome, hardworking, and really smart people) behind them, and I think there is great value in maintaining a lean team. Hustling is not just about working with a leaner team though, it is also about a lot of other aspects of the business!

Hustling and keeping your business lean and agile means that you don’t immediately hire away your problems or build departments, layers, levels or red tape/bureaucracy that would (probably) fit a bigger company.

When your business is starting up and you are figuring out a lot of things (like your product, market, and business model), having some set-in-stone systems and a huge team to support may do more harm than good. Choose the systems and people you really need. Don’t overcomplicate your already complicated life. 🙂

4.) Listen to mentors and advisors BUT, don’t immediately implement every single suggestion

Mentors come from different experiences and chances are, they will give you inputs that come from their own experiences. Their experiences may or may not be applicable to you. And also, some of these inputs will be consistent, others will be in conflict with each other. So when everything is said and done, you’ll still decide on which way to go. Communicate with your mentors on why you are taking or not taking their advice. While it is important to listen to advice, it is also as important to stand up for what you believe in and own up to it.

5.) Prioritise! When you have really limited resources, don’t spend your last few thousands on mid-term needs or nice-to-haves

Leverage the little that you have to generate more cash/revenue so that you can reach the mid-term in the first place.

For example, if you only have, let’s say, 30,000 pesos left (and no immediate cash coming in), what would you prioritise among these 3 things that are important to you and your company? a.) Go out on a team outing because the team has been working so hard lately, b.) Purchase a new AC because summer is coming soon and the office needs to be a conducive place to work in, or c.) Join an upcoming well-reviewed bazaar.

While each of the options is quite important, remember that you only have 30K left. If you spend it on either a.) or b.), you won’t have enough cash to live long enough to enjoy them. If you choose c.), you might be able to double your 30K and generate more revenue. Eventually, you will be able to afford both a.) and b.), but you have to decide on leveraging what you have left. It is important to explain these decisions to your team and those who will be affected by the decisions. Being transparent is not easy, but if done right, the team will understand and together, you’ll survive! And yes, these times will happen when you are running a growing business.

6.) Don’t compare your entrepreneurship journey to others

Yeah, so I used to do this a LOT. I would look around and feel bad/sad about how our progress as a business was considerably harder and slower than others. I know it may not look that way from the outside, but the inside is a lot more complicated and unglamorous.

I would compare the number of years it took us to launch great products to the number of years it took someone else to. I would compare revenues, profitability, marketing strategy, leadership capabilities, and almost everything and anything I could think of. It was not healthy or helpful.

During these moments, I forgot that our journey is very different. We chose to be a social enterprise and start with building communities with our community artisans. We knew the short cuts but we chose the longer path with the conviction that it is the more sustainable one. Unlike others, we did not have celebrity power, huge capital, deep pockets, and connections. I mean, sure, we had a lot of celebrity support, but that is different from being celebrities ourselves. We had investors, but that is different from having our own money that we could draw from anytime and every time we need it. We were dealt a completely different set of cards from others and we chose a different path, so of course, our journey would look very different!

It is great to look at successful entrepreneurship stories, but if you get into the trap of comparing apples to oranges, you’ll just be disappointed. Spending energy on comparing your journey with others is not only disappointing, it is unproductive. Instead of comparing, draw inspiration from others. Look for the lessons you can learn from them and apply them to your situation.

For example, if you have been working on building your personal care brand for years and find yourself comparing your journey with Jessica Alba’s relatively quick rise to success (although she did work for years to get to her current celebrity status too), think instead about what connects her customers to her. Think about what connects you to your customers. Your currency may not be “celebrity power”, but you have your own unique currency that you can work on. Your personal care brand may not scale as fast as Jessica Alba’s, but your journey is unique and it is yours.

The Productivity Tool that has worked for me for the past 4 years

I juggle so many things, departments, thoughts, and personal errands. And because I wanted to organise my life and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, I have tried EVERYTHING: apps (lots of apps!), notebooks, journaling techniques, and perhaps every to-do list technique out there. Name it, I have probably tried it. But none of them stuck or worked for me. Don’t get me wrong though, I think we all have different productivity tools that work for our learning and working styles. The other tools might be working for you right now and of course, stick to what works! But if you are still searching for your productivity tool, this article may help.

I’m sharing my Productivity Tool but it does not mean that this is THE ultimate productivity tool that could work for you too. No big promises here, just a simple sharing of the tool that worked for me! Here is the link to the Google Sheet template. Feel free to download and play!

So how would you know if this is for you?

  • You work with a computer/laptop everyday or frequent enough
  • You love organising every single aspect of your life but don’t know how (yet)
  • You have several projects going on at once
  • You want to see everything in one place and have the flexibility to move schedules without getting too confused or overwhelmed
  • Your to-do list keeps on piling up and some of the tasks are important but not (yet) urgent (but will one day be!)
  • You are comfortable with excel

Ready? Here it is!

Reese_ToDoExcelFile_Excel

It maaaay look overwhelming at first, but give it a go. It’s just an excel file and it’s free!

Okay, let’s break it down (cue the music)!

STEP 1: Identify your column names. This is a super important step as the columns organise your individual to-dos and give them meaning (really!) and details. The screenshot (above) of my excel to-do list shows the columns that I chose and why I use them.

STEP 2: Create new excel file, start populating your columns! For each column, determine if you want to  have a drop down menu or you want to freely input data. Also determine your lists (the list that will appear in your drop down menu).

Having a drop down menu is helpful when you eventually sort your tasks according to priority, category, etc. (if you are not super familiar with excel, there is a step-by-step tutorial here and here on how to create drop-down lists in excel. If you get a copy of my template, I already fixed this for you)

For my own To-do list, I have several drop down menus. The one below shows the “Priority” column and the list I can choose from, when I log my to-dos. This way, I can sort the Urgent-Important, Important, Not Critical/Nice to Have, Not Important, and Urgent. In case you are wondering why I have a “Not Important” option, I use this for random things I think of that I’m not too precious about (like: watch Stranger Things again) anyway. Your list really depends on you!

DropDown_Menu

STEP 3: Start populating your To-do list! You can start with a few to-dos to practice. And trust me, if and when you get the hang of this, your to-do list will grow but won’t feel too overwhelming (hopefully!).

STEP 4: Use your To-do list! I organise my To-Do excel through sorting the “Target Date” column in ascending order (A to Z). This way, I can see all the tasks that are for the same day and could also see the other upcoming tasks.

STEP 5: Save your To-do excel using the tool that you are most comfortable with! If you love google sheets, use that. If you use Dropbox, use that. I personally use Dropbox to store my To-do excel. I also back-up frequently. Yup, do that too!

Sort

On an unrelated note, find the penguin!

How to use and maintain:

  • How to populate regularly: when I have access to my computer, I populate the excel file directly and I back up and save the file frequently. If I’m outside the house/office or in traffic, I email myself with the details of the task and when I get access to my computer, I log the task in the excel file. After I do, I could (temporarily) forget about it until I need to get back to it again.
  • How it could work with a notebook: so this excel file is my master list! I used to just use a notebook for my to-dos but found it hard to track because some tasks are due in a few weeks or months or the to-do list piles up until it becomes unmanageable. But somehow, using paper is still so so satisfying. So this is what I do: I still log everything in my excel file but I write down the tasks that are due for the day on my notebook. I close the excel file and just monitor my progress through ticking off the boxes for the day’s tasks I wrote on my notebook (so satisfying!). By the end of the day, I open the file and update what was done and I reschedule the other tasks that were not done. I could then take my mind off the tasks, and call it a day!

Some tips and hacks:

  • Don’t feel bad if you don’t get the hang of it the first time. It happened to me too. I designed it for myself and yet I was inconsistently using it for several months before finally deciding to stick to it!
  • You can also use this tool to monitor emails that you need to send, emails you need to reply to, emails you sent that you have to follow up on. When I log the emails here, I mark the emails as “read” and I could get back to them on the date I scheduled for them. I have maintained a zero unread messages every end of the week because of this system! I need closure in a lot of aspects in my life, so “zero unread messages” by the end of the week makes me happy!
  • You can design your own based on what you need and what you feel is important!

So there you go! Do let me know if you have any questions or builds! I’m interested to know about the productivity tool that works for you too. And if ever this works for you, please do share stories of how you are able to build it and stick to it! Even if I’m already using this for about 4 years now, I’m still tweaking it and thinking of new ways to make it better. I have been talking to myself about it for years, so new thoughts and ideas from other people are certainly welcome!

 

One of the Forgotten Things About Starting a Start-Up

When R2R was starting, it was kind of a side hustle for me and for our other co-founders. Jumping into entrepreneurship is exciting and nowadays, romantic. People will tell you to just go for it, just do it, jump and make the parachute on the way down. And to some extent, those are true. 

But there is another truth that is not as emphasised (or known) by our well-meaning cheering squad. 

One of the most common questions I get asked when I give talks in provinces or schools is “how can I be an entrepreneur and support my family?”. Most of the young people who ask this are breadwinners of their families. They would love to jump into building an enterprise they are passionate about, but don’t have the bandwidth, capital, or even free time, to do so. Most of them have to get jobs with regular income straight out of college to help support their families and younger siblings. Our responsibilities may be different, but the concerns are somewhere along those lines too. How can I start an enterprise while making a living/supporting my family/paying for rent/paying for the bills/saving for the future/etc.?

Yes, jumping all-in into entrepreneurship is not as easy when you are “adulting” in life.

So here is one of the things that don’t get talked about or emphasised as often when people talk about entrepreneurship: If you want to eventually start your own, one of the best jump off points will be organizations (that you believe in of course!) with bosses that support side hustles and entrepreneurship. You can work part time or full time, learn on the job, and contribute, while still having some time and flexibility to start something you are passionate about. 

I was super fortunate because my bosses during my first job (Program Assistant for the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program of Ateneo School of Government) were so supportive when we were starting R2R at the same time. 

I still showed up for work every single day and even during the weekends when needed. I commuted like crazy rain or shine, and showed up in the office (mostly) on time (those were the days when traffic was not yet as bad as it is now, but it was still stressful). But even if I kept full-time hours, I did not feel censored or stuck. 

My bosses talked to me about career options, social entrepreneurship, R2R, and they even indulged my once-a-quarter (or maybe even more frequent than that) soul-searching consultations. I worked on R2R stuff right after work, during the night, and some weekends. I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging. When I decided to leave after about a year to go full time in R2R, they were not just happy for me, they became our advocates too.:) 

I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging

Without their support and guidance, it would have been extra challenging for me to work full-time on R2R with our co-founders. I would have also starved in the process – or lived exclusively on cup noodles (well, not the entire time because some of my friends adopted me – that’s another story for another day!). 

But of course, while my bosses were super kind and supportive, I also had to do my share. Here are some of the lessons I have learned when keeping a full-time job + starting a side hustle that you eventually want to transition to a full-time thing: 

1) Don’t shortchange the company/organization that supports you and provides you with the flexibility to do your side hustle/passion project. While there may be times when your mind will be filled with possibilities for your side hustle, always be present (physically and mentally), responsive, and give your 100%. A good work ethic does not just apply to your side hustle/passion project.

2) Maintain good relationships with the people you have worked with. 

3) Inform your bosses and the people you work with, about your side hustle especially if you expect it to take more time to do. Supportive bosses will help you figure out a good schedule that works for both of you. Stick to this schedule! 

4) When it’s time to leave your job, be decisive so that the company you are working for could immediately move forward, and do a proper turn-over

5) If there are things that your previous job would need from you weeks, even months after your resignation, be generous with your time and talent. Generosity goes a long way and will definitely be remembered and appreciated! 

6) Before you start your own company, figure out how you can build a great culture and a supportive environment that enables others to pursue their passions too! It will not be the easiest thing, especially when you have critical priorities and your company needs focus. But it could be done in baby steps, starting with flexible hours, creativity days, one-on-one sessions with your team members, and other small initiatives that could enrich your company and encourage your team. 

Starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle.

I have read hundreds of pages of books and blogs about being an entrepreneur. There are tips about hustling, being gritty, not giving up, focusing on the mission, and other really sound advice. But starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle. New things, including start ups, are nourished by an enabling environment with nurturing mentors and leaders. It is important to identify them, seek them out, and engage with them.

I would not be here without them. 

So here is a shoutout, a long-overdue thank you, to the mentors and leaders who made it possible for us to get this far.:) Thank you Fr Ben Nebres, Dean Tony La Vina, Arnel Casanova, and Harvey Keh!