Two summers ago, when a team of women Jhoie Tionloc of Smart Telecommunications, Inc., Mercy Rosetes of the Philippine Business for Social Progress and Regi Argamosagaza of Business Fair Trade Consulting with Angel Alisen, Jane Tuares and the women of GK Sooc Arevalo came to ask me to be their social design partner, I did not have a word of doubt and said yes. Other women from GKonomics and Gawad Kalinga joined us for the journey.
Firstly, I was looking for a community to help with when I moved from Manila to Iloilo City, my hometown. I already had my eyes set on social design so I can differentiate my being a designer from the rest of the caravan. I thought as a designer whose work were in the bushes world-wide anyway, I would re-invent myself with a sense of purpose to work with the grassroots from my land of birth other than with the glamorous exhibitions' spotlights and runway cocktails of some strange faraway land.
Secondly, I was looking for an already organized group so my entry will be fairly easy as I believed an organized group will fast track my mission to help the poor communities through livelihood. Today, I was proven correct. And the women were instrumental to achieve such.
The ideas of the women were great right in the beginning. They had the vision. But they did not have a designer. So revolutionary as it was, we introduced branding on the bags they were doing and re-invent the design of the bags to something more universal and timeless. We introduced technical drawings to the women to create things aligned with good industrial design practices.
The women were making bags based on the colors or prints they saw on used tarpaulins which were enormously stored in the nearby “nipa” hut waiting for re-purposing with modern excitement. We reversed the tarps and used the white side so production was easy and material selections were quick. Voilà!, The sewing machines did not stop humming from then on.
We introduced our classic signature look of nautical stripes---which are now our fast moving and best selling styles. "When you see one, you know it is ours" so to say. No complaint from us even if they were flooded like dogs and cats out there in the streets as worn by young and adult fashionistas alike. We did not stop producing. We were selling like hotcakes and sales was brisk. They gave us the business that in 11 months, the women went crazy running to the bank. The internet line was a buzz on our little discoveries with the tarp bags.
We knew it was to be a very tedious process. I was ready and so the women were. If we needed to break a record, it was not too far-fetched because we joined hands together. No honey, there was no ego. Yes, honey, most of the time, there was no money.
There was ample of perspiration (or were they tears?) running down our cheeks. While we started in a small sardine-packed room, growth was evident because the women and their sewing machines can no longer fit comfortably as production swelled. Even our French student volunteers all the way from France had to displace our women in that small room as their living quarters while they helped our women. But today, they have a livelihood center they can have all the elbow room. And they can produce more and efficiently.
Who would think that our high fashion bags were made in a land so poor that each bag had the imprint of hope to save their community from becoming poorer? Who would think that women with less of education would rise above themselves by helping their own community? Who would ever think that our women can wake-up every morning with work ahead of them the whole day? Who would reckon that those who were merely scavenging from garbage near the dumpsite were given equal opportunity for work?
While we celebrate profits in social entrepreneurship, we also celebrate responsibility and sustainability. The sanctity of our service to the community is a call by our own sense of nation building.
Our idea with Project Zero is about zero resources, zero waste, zero carbon footprint, zero harm and zero poverty. While our consumers look for quest for meaning with their purchases, many brands today are desperately out of the right track for their genuine authenticity to share their profits to those who are in need. We must say Project Zero has indeed zeroed into the core of community development through empowerment.
While others are groping in the dark, Project Zero is planning ahead of others.
And that is what we call an amazing growth.
Project Zero bags are available at all GKonomics Showrooms, Landmark Department Stores, GK Sooc Livelihood Center in Sooc Arevalo, Nautilus PJ Aranador shop in D'Mall Station 2 Boracay Island, Wawa PJ Aranador in Jaro, Iloilo City and Nautiluspa PJ Aranador in Jaro, Iloilo City and many local trade fairs and bazaars. For orders, message us at facebook account https://www.facebook.com/SoocSocialVentures?fref=ts.