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‘Woven’ social enterprise empowers artisan communities high-quality handicrafts made by Filipino craftswomen

Inspired by the beautiful weaving tradition of Samar, the founders of Woven are driven to bring the exceptional craftsmanship of Filipinos to the rest of the world. Woven Co-Founder and CEO, Trish Lim, shares the company’s journey in helping Filipina artisans thrive.

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In this fast-moving digital age, consumers around the world still desire the timeless aesthetic of handcrafted pieces. Recognizing this demand, Woven, a social enterprise that empowers artisan communities to build a livelihood from weaving and embroidery, curates a wide array of high-quality handicrafts made by Filipino craftswomen.

Inspired by the beautiful weaving tradition of Samar, the founders of Woven are driven to bring the exceptional craftsmanship of Filipinos to the rest of the world. Woven Co-Founder and CEO, Trish Lim, shares the company’s journey in helping Filipina artisans thrive.

Weaving the story of Woven

Woven was launched in 2017. The idea took shape when Lim and her husband were conducting a development study for a foundation after typhoon Haiyan struck Leyte and Samar in 2013. The couple realized the hardships of the marginalized communities in these provinces and decided to help them rise from the tragedy by starting an enterprise.

In the course of the interviews, they discovered the banig or mat weavers of Samar, and the idea of partnering with the community’s weavers was born. Lim started sending design suggestions to her husband who was helping the communities form associations so they could earn more from their craft. 

Initially, the enterprise was named “Basey” after the town but later changed to “Woven” in order to connect with different weaving groups in the country. “We design our products together with the artisans. Our idea was to link them to a greater market, and provide more opportunities for their livelihood,” said Lim.

Crafting Opportunities

Woven’s products are carefully handcrafted by women weavers of Samar aged 50 to 55 years old. As the majority of the weavers are female, Lim shared that Woven aims to uplift the lives of female weavers and artisans. Through empathy, compassion, and persistence, Lim guides the weavers and encourages them to be open to growth so they can thrive in this industry or in any industry of their choice.

As the couple worked with the weavers, Lim discovered that they have discouraged their children to continue the craft due to its low income with the average artisan only earning as much as P600-650 per month (US$ 11-12). In order to help them, Lim decided to expand Woven’s reach and include other communities outside Samar.

“We learned that a lot of artisans were in the same situation so we connected with them and included their products as well. Now, not only does Woven have banig products from Samar but we also offer handwoven textiles from Benguet, placemats from Basilan, and blankets by hablon weavers from Iloilo,” shared Lim.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

As an advocate, Lim knows the importance of raising awareness of the centuries-old tradition of weaving among the youth. So, they launched “Kabataan Krafts” in 2019 that focused on fostering creativity, collaboration, and leadership among the children of the artisans.

To promote and raise awareness of the weaving industry to youth in other areas, they also launched “Woven on the Move” bringing the weavers from their home province to Manila to conduct a series of workshops for senior high school students in various schools.

Woven From the Home to the World

During the lockdown, Woven was impacted by the sharp decline in tourism and mobility restrictions which affected the procurement of supplies. Bulk orders from companies, a major source of their income, were also significantly reduced. To keep the enterprise going, Lim continued selling their products online through their website and social media accounts. They also expanded Woven’s market base and tapped other countries to promote their products.

Woven’s products also evolved to keep up with the trends of modern fashion, especially among the youth. New products were introduced such as laptop sleeves, bags, and work-from-home essentials to cater to a younger age group and support their modern, mobile lifestyle.

With FedEx as her logistics provider, Lim was also able to easily reach markets in South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and Europe. In 2021, Lim ran a global marketing campaign where they collaborated with different artists to come up with their own woven creations. Through FedEx, her team was able to efficiently send Banig weaving kits to her customers in New York and Canada.

“We realized that going global entails strong logistics support to ensure that our products will be shipped on time and in good condition. And being able to tell our clients that we can ship products through FedEx is liberating. We’ve had a good experience with FedEx so far as we’ve gotten a lot of support from the team and experienced a boost in our sales,” continued Lim.

Weaving Woven’s Purpose

Woven continues to launch various initiatives aimed at fostering creativity, collaboration, and leadership among the next generation of Banig weavers and embroiderers in the community. New products have been created and introduced to reach diverse segments of the market. Through their products, Woven hopes to increase awareness and appreciation of the centuries-old tradition of weaving in the Philippines and encourage them to become advocates of these artisan communities.

By continuously tapping the international market for these products, Woven empowers Filipina artisans and handicraft communities to continue their colorful weaving tradition while ensuring sustainable livelihood.

Find out more about Woven Philippines’ products at woven.ph. To know more about inspiring small business stories, visit FedEx Business Insights.

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Filipino aircraft model creator to expand operations to seize opportunities in e-commerce boom 

Lyndon Uson is a Filipino craftsman and entrepreneur whose innate passion for airplanes and experience moved him to venture into the business of handcrafting high quality military and civilian aircraft models.

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In the Philippines, creating aircraft models is a rare business with only 10 known local companies working in this industry. Lyndon Uson, founder of AircraftCity – the home of quality model aircrafts and plaques – continues to make his mark in this booming yet competitive creative field by captivating both the local and global markets with his artistic skills and a reliable service delivery.

Lyndon Uson is a Filipino craftsman and entrepreneur whose innate passion for airplanes and experience moved him to venture into the business of handcrafting high quality military and civilian aircraft models. With the support from his family and industry peers, he soon opened his own company, AircraftCity, which grew and expanded its operations attracting customers from all around the world.

AircraftCity’s models undergo a meticulous process to maintain a high-level of workmanship. Each of its produced handicrafts are designed from scratch and are hand-carved in solid Kiln Dried Philippine Mahogany wood. All the parts are then assembled and hand painted by talented craftsmen. With Lyndon’s hands-on production methods and tight quality control procedures, the accuracy of the product is guaranteed from start to finish increasing its quality. “We are very particular about details. Since our models are handmade, characteristics such as the size of the propeller and the internal cockpit are taken into design consideration. My forte is developing models that my competitors aren’t making or aren’t able to develop,” shared Lyndon.

As his work became internationally recognized, Lyndon soon formed a partnership with Aviator Gear, a US-based e-commerce platform for custom military aviation gear. This partnership brought in resources that enabled AircraftCity to export their creations and connect with global customers. With a wider network, Lyndon is able to focus on design, production, and shipment of orders to customers from the US, Europe and other parts of the world.

AircraftCity is thankful throughout the pandemic, the company has seen a consistent and increasing demand for their products. Lyndon connects this continued growth with a strong e-commerce presence.  As such, Lyndon looks to build another factory to further scale his operations as he mentioned that “even our American partner is pushing us to expand as he foresees the production and orders of scaled aircrafts models to double by 2022.”

For Lyndon, forming strategic partnerships and networks are pivotal for small and medium enterprises like AircraftCity to leverage opportunities in the current e-commerce boom. When it comes to cross-border sales, safe and timely delivery is as important as the quality and integrity of the product. Ensuring that both aspects of the business are essential not only to ensure satisfaction but also trust among online customers.

In shipping its products, AircraftCity has relied on the valuable services of FedEx. The company has been a FedEx customer since 2013.  “We make it a point that our logistics provider understands that our products are delicate and with FedEx, they offer different shipping tools and solutions that enables me to optimize costs and delivery efficiency,” Lyndon says.

With FedEx as his logistics provider, Lyndon is able to connect to every U.S. address and to more than 220 countries and territories, allowing his business to grow exponentially and to reach a wider range of customers.

FedEx is a strong advocate for the growth of small and medium enterprises across the Asia Pacific region with its seamless courier services, helping many local businesses grow and launch to foreign markets.

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WeClean Philippines continues expansion, eyes 500 laundry branches by 2025

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After securing additional funds from both local and foreign investors in 2021, fully integrated laundry service provider WeClean is ready to take on the challenge of expanding its laundromat business across the Philippines and nearby Southeast Asian countries.

“The funding we secured last year has really fueled us to aggressively expand our operations to open and manage 500 laundromats not just in nearby provinces but across the whole of the Philippines in the next three years. It is a massive goal for us to be able to stay true to our plans and move forward with our plans for the year,” shares Ignacio Phelan, Chief Operating Officer, WeClean.

On Overcoming the Effects of the Pandemic

The team behind WeClean claims that the COVID-19 pandemic, though a challenge, actually also presented them with opportunities. “Sales were greatly affected but we were also able to buy competitors at very low costs. At the beginning of the pandemic, we closed some branches that were losing money and reallocated the machines to better performing ones. However, last year showed us great promise as the demand for laundry businesses grew as it was an essential service most Filipinos need,” adds Phelan.

In its mission to expand, WeClean identified strategically located existing brick and mortar businesses whose owners were looking for a change. “The way we secure and close deals to purchase small players in the laundromat industry is by talking to strategically located businesses who want to change their core business or retire from running their operations,” says Alfonso Bigeriego Patiño, Chief Executive Officer, WeClean.

WeClean also prides itself in being efficient and decisive. “At WeClean, we make decisions quickly as making them an offer within 24 hours of receiving their financial reports. This shows them that we mean serious business,” adds Patiño.

On Expanding Across the Country and Region

The company manages and operates 63 branches to date and plans to expand outside of Metro Manila with branches in nearby provinces such as Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and even as far as Palawan. “We look at residential areas with a lot of traffic such as those within distance from high-rise condominiums or barangays where people cannot afford to have washing machines at home. These nearby provinces are key to our business growth plan. And in a few months after successfully opening in Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Palawan, we are eyeing to open our first branches in other SEA countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia,” Patiño adds.

While plans have not been set on stone yet, WeClean is optimistic that their growth plan will take them to places where the laundry business is in demand. The team is also simultaneously working on the launch of the WeClean Mobile App.

Enhancing Customer Experience

On April 1, WeClean will be officially making available its mobile application aiming to make customer experience better, more convenient, and accessible to more Filipinos in Metro Manila. The app is equipped with features such as the ability to book a pickup and delivery service as well as pre-book a laundry branch drop-off with certain customer specifications such as the type of clothing, type of fold, type of wash/dry, how much soap or fabric conditioner to be used, etc.

“This platform will up the notch when it comes to listening to and providing our customers what they really need – time-saving accessible laundry services at the tip of their fingers. We want to offer direct communication at a time when laundry has really become part and parcel of everyday life,” muses Phelan.

Available on the AppStore and Google Play, the WeClean App will surely help more consumers find laundry services convenient even during their busiest days. “With our aim to bring our laundry shops closer to Filipinos, we are hoping that we will be able to help our customers realize the true benefit of trusting a reliable laundromat like ours. And as we launch our mobile app, we are eyeing to be able to have between 25,000 to 30,000 downloads in Metro Manila alone by year-end,” closes Phelan.

To learn more about WeClean Philippines, visit weclean.ph or their Facebook page for updates and announcements.

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FFTG as a must-visit cafe… and safe space in Quezon City

Introducing FFTG (Food For The Gays), a new safe space for LGBTQIA people located in Quezon City.

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FFTG – or Food For The Gays, a play at dessert “food for the gods” – wants to be seen as more than just a community café, Instead, said FFTG co-owners (and partners in life) Chippy Abando and Nariese Giangan, this is a place where you – LGBTQIA people, and even those who are not – can be who you are without fearing to be judged. In a gist: a safe space.

“This isn’t common,” said Chippy. What we usually have as spaces for LGBTQIA people are bars, so “maiba naman yung meeting place (here’s a different meeting place).” This is particularly since “not everyone (goes out to) drink, or go dancing.” There are some who prefer to be in a place more conducive for meetings, for that first date, etc so that “malaking bagay na nagkaroon tayo ng community safe space (in FFTG).”

Nariese used to sell pastries online, around April 2020. Then this February, just as Chippy celebrated her birthday, they opened the physical venue.

With FFTG – and even if the name denotes members of the LGBTQIA community – “there’s no specific market targeted,” said Nariese, stressing that everyone is welcome here.

But Nariese said two things are worth highlighting here.

On one hand, they believe that creating a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA community pays off because “we believe in the pink peso.” This point’s worth stressing because when the pandemic happened, many venues closed, including LGBTQIA venues; and “for sure, particularly after the pandemic, there’d be yearning to be in another safe space.”

On the other hand, “we believe in our products.” Meaning, what they offer do not just look good in the menu; they’re actually tasty. Meaning, too, what they have “are something (we’re excited) to share.”

BIZ COUPLE

Opening a business with a partner – or even with others – can be challenging, admitted Nariese. But what makes it easier is they are at a point where “we both already know what we want.”

Nariese and Chippy

Besides, for Chippy, it helps that this has become a real partnership – i.e. they complement each other. Nariese, for instance, oversees food-related concerns; while Chippy focuses on the beverages. That they can help each other out as needed in their areas of focus is just a plus.

MUST-TRY CHOWS

The menu – albeit short – contains various offerings.

For the food, consider:
-Pasta a la Carbonara (P150)
-Spaghetti alla Chitarra (P160)
-Pesto Pasts with Grilled Cajun Chicken (P180)
-Margherita pizza (P160)
-Meat Lover’s (P190)
-FFTG Special (P220)
-Banh Mi (lemongrass beef, chicken satay, char siu pork, P115-P150)

For the drinks, consider:
-Thai iced tea (P80)
-Iced drinks (mocha latte, coffee shakerato, cafe au lait, coffee creamery, from P80-P110)
-Hot chocolate (P70-P90)

If you’re in the mood to try something… rainbow-inspired, try the Rainbow Grilled Sandwich, which is, basically, grilled bread with rainbow-colored cheese fillings. That it doesn’t taste “fake cheese” is definitely a plus.

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCE

All in all, “it’s about the experience,” said Nariese. There are many places where you can eat pasta, pizza, etc but “it feels different if you eat them here. That’s a big part of it.”

Because here, added Chippy, no one will swear at you, you won’t feel ostracized, there’s no prejudice, and it’s safe. Meaning, “you’d enjoy your food while enjoying people’s company,” she said. – WITH MICHAEL DAVID dela Cruz TAN

FFTG is located at 58 13th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City, 1109 Metro Manila. For more information, head to their Facebook account or Instagram page.

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