Tejo  is a social enterprise, which was started in 2013 by Gabrielle Marie A. Cruz, a graduate of the Master of Science in Management Program of the University of Asia and the Pacific. Upon graduation, her next big challenge was how to earn a living, but give back at the same time. Combining her passion for hand woven bracelets and the desire to help the community, the idea of Tejo was born. The goal was to create hand woven pieces which would provide livelihood and fair income for the underprivileged.

a story in every wave

Gabrielle or “Gabs” for short, says that her love for hand woven bracelets began as early as grade school, when they were taught how to make them in school. She found herself still making these bracelets even she entered high school and college, and would often make for her friends and family. When Gabs finished school, she saw this as an opportunity to start a business. “I organized a community-based livelihood program where I would teach moms from low-income communities how to make the bracelets I had loved for so many years,” Gabs shares.

According to Gabs, Tejo is a Spanish word that means “I weave”, which is the essence of their advocacy. “By simply wearing our bracelets, customers create a ripple of hope within the homes of Tejo’s livelihood partners.” Read more about our interview with Gabs as she shares to us her passion for weaving and social entrepreneurship.

BDJ Women’s Summit 2016

Why do you think social entrepreneurship is important?

Social entrepreneurship is important, because it introduces the idea that businesses can run with the goal of giving back at its core. Like many young people, I had initially planned to find a good job, earn for myself, and when I’d reach a stable point, eventually give back to the community. Social entrepreneurship has taught me that you don’t have to wait to help. You can start a business today that works to address issues within the community. You’re hitting two birds with one stone; you’re earning for yourself and helping the community at the same time.

How did you decide on which community to help?

We had heard of the CCT program of DSWD. We knew we could come in and provide sustainable livelihood for their beneficiaries. We started with a group of moms from Muntinlupa. Many of them never had formal education or work. We provided them with training, modules, materials, etc., so they’d be able to make our pieces from home. With the success of our first group, we wanted to replicate it within our immediate community. Working with our local barangay, we started working with a new group of moms in Parañaque. Because they couldn’t afford help to look after their kids, it was always hard for them to find work. Slowly, we started adding more moms to our program. With this financial empowerment, they were no longer completely dependent on their partners. They could contribute to the home without having to leave their house.

Livelihood Program
Green Living Shoot Day

How do you come up with the patterns for the bracelets?

The patterns develop from my personal taste, my preferences of color, patterns… We also get inspiration from anything as random as fabric, store displays, etc. Pinterest is also an amazing source of inspiration.

What are some challenges that you have faced with managing Tejo?

As a social enterprise, we experienced a lot of the challenges new businesses do during the first few months -when you’re spending more than you earn, the slow processing of our government documentation, etc. In the beginning, it was also challenging to introduce ourselves to establishments we wanted to work with, and supply our products to. As a new brand, we had to convince them that our pieces, along with the story they brought, would be items that would sell. With regard to our clients, it was also a challenge to introduce fashion accessories at our price point. People are more used to items imported on a large scale from big factories abroad. We had to explain that ours weren’t mass-produced, that they were providing fair income for our livelihood partners, so they couldn’t be priced the same way that high quantity imports were.

Inez bracelets
dina

What are some challenges that you have faced with managing Tejo?

As a social enterprise, we experienced a lot of the challenges new businesses do during the first few months -when you’re spending more than you earn, the slow processing of our government documentation, etc. In the beginning, it was also challenging to introduce ourselves to establishments we wanted to work with, and supply our products to. As a new brand, we had to convince them that our pieces, along with the story they brought, would be items that would sell. With regard to our clients, it was also a challenge to introduce fashion accessories at our price point. People are more used to items imported on a large scale from big factories abroad. We had to explain that ours weren’t mass-produced, that they were providing fair income for our livelihood partners, so they couldn’t be priced the same way that high quantity imports were.

What do you like about the enterprise?

What I like the most is the feeling of satisfaction, knowing that what we do benefits people other than myself. Knowing why I do what I do helps keep me motivated on days when it’d be easier to just get a regular job.

What’s a memorable moment you got from a staff?

Tejo’s first Christmas party was an important day with our girls. We had a challenging first year, but we knew we needed to celebrate with them. We each said a prayer aloud of what we were thankful for that year. All our livelihood partners included our livelihood program in their prayers. After all the exhausting first months, hearing that  was so energizing! It was the push we needed to end our first year on a high!

mercy
3-bar display

What are some things that you’ve learned from managing your own social enterprise?

I’ve learned that we’re all essentially the same, regardless of what background we come from. Our livelihood partners are all moms, who share the same dreams our moms have for us. What they lack, however, is opportunity. When given the opportunity and a little push in the right direction, their dreams for their families become possible. From our clients, I’ve learned that there is a strong desire among Filipinos to help. We’ve heard so many stories from our clients teaching their daughters or nieces about what wearing our bracelets mean. We’re regularly interviewed by college students who want to learn more about how we’ve combined business and giving back.  This growing interest gives me so much hope for the future social enterprise communities, and how our country will look like in the coming years.

What inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing?

Running our social enterprise is definitely challenging, but our livelihood program is a great motivation on difficult days.

What advice/suggestion would you like to give to those who are aspiring to start their own social enterprise?

It can be quite overwhelming to even think that we can take on a social issue. You will probably think that, ”I’m just one person.” What we constantly remind ourselves of is to “start small, but dream big”. Make a list of concrete things you dream of accomplishing. For us, it was how many livelihood partners we wanted to have, how many outlets we wanted to supply, etc. Everyday, work towards crossing things off that list.

A Bit About Gabs

  • Hobbies/Interests? I’m a pinterest addict! It’s a great way to get inspiration for everything!
  • One thing you can’t leave the house without (fashion-wise): I love my rings!
  • Favorite accessory? Does a white t-shirt count?
  • Describe your style in 3 words: Relaxed. Comfortable. White (more often than not, it’s what i’m wearing haha).
mixed bracelets

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