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Rags2Riches Pinay makes Forbes entrepreneur list

Cherry Salazar (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A 29-year-old Filipina who literally turned rags into riches has been featured in Forbes magazine’s list of 30 social entrepreneurs below 30 years old.

Therese “Reese” Fernandez-Ruiz opened opportunities for women residing in the Payatas dump in Quezon City through a business venture-cum-livelihood project she co-founded in 2007 called Rags2Riches.

The women from the dump, home to about 12,000 families, used to earn a living by turning scrap fabric materials (retaso) into doormats and rugs.

Picking up from where they had started, Ruiz taught them how to craft scrap fabric into marketable items such as fashion handbags, eyeglass cases and wine bottles to augment their income.

Known designers – Amina Aranaz-Aluna, Rajo Laurel and Olivia d’Aboville – have collaborated with Rags2Riches while TV hosts Bianca Gonzales and Kim Jones, celebrity stylist Liz Uy and ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon have endorsed their products.

Forbes said Rags2Riches showed “a consistent 100 percent annual growth rate” for its first five years from 2007 to 2012.

More than a hundred people were nominated, and the competition, currently on its third year, was “steep,” said Forbes staff Erin Carlyle on its website.

Forbes described Rags2Riches as the “first fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines.”

Since its launch, Rags2Riches has trained over 900 Filipino community-based artisans, whose products are being distributed in retail outlets here and abroad.

Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs compiles a list of an “elite group of people who are directing their talent and conviction to better the world,” said Carlyle.

Among those featured in the list are Kiah Williams, 28, who established a non-profit organization that has distributed $3 million worth of medicine to some 20,000 patients in the United States, and Minhaj Chowdhury, 25, who helped filter water contaminated by arsenic and fluoride for some 200 million people in Bangladesh and India.

Ruiz had also been recognized among 40 Under 40 Leaders in International Development by Devex in 2013, as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012 and as Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Entrepreneurship Forum in 2011.

AMINA ARANAZ-ALUNA BANGLADESH AND INDIA BIANCA GONZALES AND KIM JONES ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR ERIN CARLYLE INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT KIAH WILLIAMS LIZ UY MINHAJ CHOWDHURY QUEZON CITY
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