Updated: Jun 24
The Filipina Feminists asked five Filipina eco-entrepreneurs the same five questions that we asked this issue's feature, Roanna Medina of the Humble Market. Meet Kristina Reyes-Lopez, Nikki Sevilla, Celina Reyes-Alejandrino, Maan Aguila, and Tini Dahl.
Even though we're currently under enhanced community quarantine, we invited five women to a virtual roundtable discussion of environmentalism and entrepreneurship. These inspiring bosses teach us a thing or two about starting a business and taking care of the planet.
Meet our panelists:
Kristina "Krie" Reyes-Lopez
Founder and Executive Director of Messy Bessy and HOUSE Foundation
From Messy Bessy's website:
Messy Bessy is a line of natural, biodegradable, non-toxic home and personal care products.
Our business was established in 2007 for the main purpose of providing education, employment and rehabilitation for at-risk (formerly abused, trafficked, incarcerated impoverished) young adults.
At the onset of our first college graduate in 2015, we’ve established the HOUSE Foundation (Helping OUrselves through Sustainable Enterprises) in an effort to scale and replicate our social innovation.
Co-Founder and Managing Partner of EcoNest PH
From EcoNest's website:
Nikki has an extensive experience in marketing and retail distribution as she has handled premium international brands in fashion, bathroom, and kitchen systems for more than a decade. She found the need to provide trustworthy eco-friendly solutions and alternatives for local industries after being exposed to different manufacturing facilities and technologies across the globe. Now an advocate for lessening harmful single-use plastic wastes, she co-founded EcoNest Philippines with the aim to encourage consumers and business owners to be mindful on how their products and brands consume and dispose of resources.
If and when she gets breaks from running the company, she either explores islands or cuddles her bulldogs.
Celina Reyes-Alejandrino & Maan Aguila
Founders of Simula PH
From Simula PH's website:
It started when both of us wanted to make a difference in our own little way by making a positive change in the world. Then we decided how that small difference made a huge impact on other people. We’re proud to present to you Simula—a local Filipino brand which means "to start" where we make zero waste products even more accessible to our fellow Filipinos. Our collections are carefully selected and we make sure that we've tried the products first before it goes out! We hope that we can help you start that small step to making the world an even better place!
Always remember, it starts with you! Keep the earth happy!
Co-Founder of The SORA Life
From The SORA Life's website:
We all know what it’s like to have a closet full of towels for different occasions: one for yoga, one to keep you dry at the pool or beach, one to lounge on for the out-of-town weekend trips. We couldn’t find a towel that could do it all, let alone fit into our bags without taking up much space. So we set out to make one that would never weigh us down - a towel that allows us to move freely from the yoga mat to the beach, from city to sea (while looking cute at the same time).
The idea was to make it easy for you to keep moving through the days as you want to, with one towel that does it all. Most importantly, we wanted to achieve this by being as kind as we can to our planet.
Whether it's making sure that our towels are made from recycled materials, down to the small details (like packaging and business cards that are made ethically), we know that collectively, these little bits matter. We want you to have it all – a towel that makes a statement both visually and ethically.
What inspired you to create an eco-friendly business?
Krie: Back in 2007, the idea of green products first came into my mind since, at the time, there was no strong local green brand yet. So instinctively, I thought it was a great opportunity to be first to market. A green business also appealed to me since I myself was looking for better, greener alternatives for my home and my pets. Lastly, since I was working with at-risk youth, I was thinking of coming up with a product that "gave back"—in this case, providing homes with a safer alternative—so that in a way the young adults are part of something that is bigger than any of us.
Nikki: My inspiration to create an eco-friendly business came in many forms and it was a long worthwhile process. The whole concept was formed by years of exposure to various outdoor activities as I have always loved nature, different industries and business mindsets that have helped me understand bit by bit the possible impact of this new business.
I literally prayed long and hard to find what my passion was and where I would be useful for the society and the Earth. I started in culinary arts then I ventured into fashion, real estate, sanitary systems, kitchen systems and at the back of my mind, I always think to myself, “By doing this task and handling this job, what am I able to contribute to humanity?”. Of course I would justify myself by always focusing on my involvement in the economy but deep inside it was a weak excuse. For the longest time, I’ve been hearing everyone say “find your purpose” and little did I know that the inspiration has always been the small voice in my head and the inkling to protect nature and life in any way I can.
Cel & Maan: It stared with a personal advocacy where we saw the need for a solution to the pollution in the country. Many of us are faced with the problem of where to get eco-friendly and affordable items to start the zero waste journey here in the country so we decided to open Simula so we can give access to products that are sustainable and useful.
Tini: My main motivation was to create my own business. It has been my dream for a long time and I come from a family of entrepreneurs. The notion of starting an eco-friendly business is something I felt wasn't even a choice. It shouldn't be a choice anymore. We all need to be a part of the change, however big or small.
Would you consider yourself an environmentalist? How did you get involved in this advocacy?
Krie: I don't consider myself an environmentalist—especially in the strict sense of the word. I have always just seen environmentally conscious products and service as a more sensible alternative. Back then, it was considered a fad or a trend, but I believe now it is truly the sensible option—especially in light of all our natural disasters, climate change, and even the virus.
Nikki: If we have to classify my behavior, then yes, I can say that I am an environmentalist but I would like to emphasize that I am human and I just so happen to understand and become aware that it is human nature to respect the Earth. Not exploit it for our own selfish gains.
I got involved in this advocacy because I have seen and encountered so much pain caused by human beings to living beings to the point that it is not right to stay quiet and keep it all to myself. I am far from perfectly living a sustainable lifestyle but in order to heal and help, staying silent and trying to cover up the issues or pretend there’s nothing wrong will only make it worse.
Cel & Maan: Social media has its way to get to you. We saw so much videos and posts about things we humans do to contribute negatively to the environment without us even knowing it. From there, our eyes were opened to the fact that as human beings, one of us needs to step up and be the change.
Tini: I am an environmentalist in the sense that I believe that climate change and the environment are our generation's most pressing issues. However, I am not perfect, I am still growing and I still have so much to learn within this field.
Do you have any tips for our readers who may want to shift to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle?
Krie: I think the best advice I can give now is to stay informed. If you learn about what is best for your health, your family, your environment, then shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle becomes common sensical.
Nikki: I suggest that you should not consider shifting to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle as a “want” but rather as a “need”. It should not be a choice to begin with. Start reading the statistics, “listen to science”, understand the impact of wastes, and have an open heart and an open mind for you to understand the situation. This is a reality that will affect the whole world. We cannot emphasize it enough. Our company cannot do it alone. Begin at home, do some research or simply share content online. Start with small steps and you may always contact our team and we can send some information that you may start with.
Cel & Maan: Do first with what you have instead of buying things just to jumpstart your sustainable & eco-friendly lifestyle. You'll never believe what you have at home could be that useful!
Tini: Just that any improvement is an improvement. You don't have to become a zero-waste, vegan, anti-airplane person overnight, but for today, maybe skip meat at lunch and turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
As a female entrepreneur, did you face any unique challenges when you started your business? How did you overcome them?
Krie: It's very hard to identify what are unique to me as a female entrepreneur. But I am used to not being taken seriously, to mansplaining, and to being stereotyped. So with these alone, I can perhaps assume that many transactions and collaborations would have gone differently if I were not a female.
Nikki: As a female entrepreneur, it was very difficult for me to find my voice in the beginning. There are so many preconceptions about my age and my looks that some people didn’t take me seriously. I was “just another girl trying to advocate for the environment”, “company margins had to be protected” so there is no reason to invest in a business being run by a girl who have recently started, etc.
What I did was, I studied every night about everything that I can and that is when I started to have confidence in explaining what they did not know and did not understand. I also started qualifying and filtering people who are willing to learn and people who simply want to hear their own voice and their own thoughts. I studied, I practiced, I failed and most of all I persisted every single day even if no one wanted to hear me out.
Cel & Maan: Surprisingly, no. Many of our friends were very supportive of our advocacy and of course, the business. It was also actually an advantage for us because one of our products are the feminine pads and cups which contributes so much trash if we don't make the switch. It was easier for us to connect to our audience that way.
Tini: In my case, I feel like being female has only been beneficial on my road to entrepreneurship. I have a female co-founder, female employees and we collaborate with female artists—all of them have been the embodiment of hard work and kindness you so often find in women. There is a unity with women that I am so grateful to be a part of!
Do you have any advice for women who want to start their own businesses?
Krie: The best advice I got years back is to just do it, and when you won't know how to move forward—because you won't—just keep showing up and you'll figure it out.
Nikki: I have two words – move forward. You will fail. People around you will bring you down, you will never have enough of everything you need but every single day that you are working for your purpose is worth it. If you do not feel the energy or the drive, just pivot. Do your best to find that never ending power within you that is aligned to your real purpose. “Never give up” is too vague, I say give up the things that do not grow you and move forward with wisdom, a better plan, a bigger goal and a brighter vision.
Cel & Maan: Our mantra: Always believe in yourself! The only person who can push you to your limits will only be yourself. So, you go girl!
Tini: Choosing to start my own business has been one of the most happiness-driven choices I've made in my life and I thank myself everyday for taking that leap. My advice to other women who find themselves in the same position is to try and remove all external input and know that it is possible, and you can do it. One question and concern that I get asked about a lot is how much capital and time is needed to start a company. Today, there are so many ways to keep initial costs down and you can test an idea without leaving the stability of your job. So, if you have a product in mind that you want to share with the world, produce a small quantity, create a website using a template and ask your friends to help spread the word. You might end up with 50 pieces of this product stuck in your room OR you'll end up living your dream. You'll never know if you don't try!
We want to thank Krie, Nikki, Cel and Maan for giving us their time and sharing their insights about eco-entrepreneurship to us and our followers! To those who want to make the switch, please support their brands! Read more about their eco-friendly and sustainable businesses in this issue's TFFs Picks.