Makers with a purpose
Do what you love. It’s often the advice given by highly successful people (think the late Steve Jobs and billionaire Warren Buffett), your college guidance counselor, and even us (giving you tips on how to pursue your passion like a pro). But beyond being lucky enough to do what you love, you also have to remember that it’s also about chasing your purpose that gives you resilience and success.
Finding your purpose—when what you care deeply about intersects with your values—makes you more persevering when faced with obstacles. (As a Harvard research found, when people “follow their passion” there’s an expectation that work will be mostly full of joy and ease. But we know that work, even if it’s something we love, can still be difficult and exhausting.) When you’re doing something far bigger than yourself, you also get to hold on to a bigger why, instead of quitting when things get tough.
We’re lucky enough to work with makers who create or run their small businesses to help marginalized voices be heard or help uplift communities. Get to know more of them and how we can support their social mission.
Cut the Scrap
Making sustainable wooden products from discarded wood, Cut the Scrap has been working with PWD (persons with disabilities) woodshops since it was established. In our previous Meet the Maker interview with the couple behind this social enterprise, Kai Docot-Tolentino and Mond Tolentino share how it has always been about empowering the PWD community. It was an advocacy started by Kai’s father, Jess H. Docot, who was also a PWD and one of the pioneers of Tahanang Walang Hagdan.
“The woodshop was created by and for PWDs and that is the soul of our brand and we want to continue that legacy,” says Kai. But it hasn’t been easy. “Even when it’s difficult to continue or when there were lots of cuts we needed to do, or when there are challenges…what keeps us going is because of that legacy.”
When the pandemic happened, Cut the Scrap had to scale down the woodshop. But they remained anchored to their mission of empowering the PWD community. They shifted to giving business to bigger PWD woodshops. Currently, they work with woodshops organized by PWDs in Quezon, Taytay, and Cainta.
Find Cut the Scrap products in our webshop, here.
Founded by Rico Sta. Ana, a fourth-generation shoemaker from Marikina, and his daughter Unyx, a techpreneur, Zapateria is the country’s first creative hub for footwear design and development. As a creative hub, its executive director Glice Batulan states that it aims to foster the next generation of shoe designer entrepreneurs and makers.
Marikina has always been considered as the shoe capital of the country, with shoemaking flourishing as far back as the late 1880s. Yet, Batulan acknowledges that there’s still a connotation that Philippine-made shoes are poorly made. “It’s a challenging industry…it really tests your patience.”
That’s why for Batulan it’s important to have a very strong purpose. “You always go back to your why…If you have a very strong why, it goes above and beyond the challenge. You can have those feelings of anxiety, pressure… but if you have something you want to fight for, you keep at it, even if it’s hard.”
The beautiful colorful banig, laptop sleeves, passport holder, and card holders are just some of the products featuring the handwoven work of weaving communities in the country. Woven is a crafts company working with Filipino artisans. It traces its roots after one of its founders, John Francia, went to Basey, Samar to find ways to help the local community recover economically from the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.
In our Meet the Maker interview with John and co-founder Trish Lim-Francia, the two recall learning how little the local weavers would earn from making one banig mat (just P150!), which would take two weeks to finish. “From there, we really saw that there’s something wrong with this industry. We decided to help change that,” says John.
On top of pricing problems, they saw that many weavers in the country also didn’t have market access and were not properly organized as groups. They set up Woven as a social enterprise, which for Trish meant having a social mission. “That’s the thing with social enterprise, you want people to rise up with you. It’s hard, balancing profit and social mission. But this is our drive to go into Woven in the first place, to be able to help the artisans.”
Mako Micro-press and Chinny Basinang
Art as activism. Protest art. If we look at the works of artists like Chinny Basinang or Ian and Ara from Mako Micro-Press, we can see how they use their creativity to highlight issues affecting our country and different communities.
Chinny, who works in advertising during the day and pursues her passion for illustration in her free time, has seen her art evolve as she got older. “Mas may malay ka na, alam mo na kung ano yung mga problems ng bansa and the different communities na kailangan ng voice.” Through her illustrations, Chinny tackles topics on women empowerment, the pride community, and politics.
Mako Micro-Press is also not one to shy away from tackling politics, human rights issues and taking a stand. For them it’s important to go beyond “just being a simple artist and to see themselves as fellow countrymen…to be responsible in art because we know there’s a lot of negative things going on so we must awaken our creativity.”
When you visit the Common Room branches or our webshop, amidst all the pins and magnets and little trinkets you will find cross-stitch magnets with distinctly Filipino designs. They’re made by cross-stitch makers from Payatas, a town where the dumpsite used to be.
What started as a livelihood program by a Japanese NGO, Likha provides an alternative means of earning for some of the mothers living in Payatas who mostly scavenge as a way to make ends meet. With Likha, they acquire skills that enable them to create handcrafted products like the cross-stitch magnets.
Jodinand Aguillon of Glorious Dias once said in our Meet the Maker interview, “If you want to start your own initiative or your own business, or get into something that you’re not [yet] into, support those who are. You want those people who are doing it to keep going so you can be a part of that.”
Whether you’re picking up small magnets or elaborate handwoven mats, these products help these businesses to keep creating. They help support makers who are fighting for something—keeping a shoemaking tradition alive and thriving, a livable wage, human rights. They know their “why” and hold on to it when things get tough so they can continue to #makeforgood.