How a Pinay turned her acne problem into a blooming beauty business
Maria Concepcion Macalintal, founder of organic soap company Diwatang Maria, and business partner Maria Daisyrie Almendras-Ward.
Photo release
How a Pinay turned her acne problem into a blooming beauty business
(Philstar.com) - September 10, 2020 - 8:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — While most people are stuck at home during the pandemic and wondering where 2020 is going, a young social entrepreneur from Laguna has been working on a project inspired by her childhood story of overcoming skin problems.   

Maria Concepcion Macalintal, founder of organic soap company Diwatang Maria, returned to the Philippines after studying in Europe and working in Singapore, to create a Filipino brand and promote entrepreneurship. 

After tremendous amounts of research in Manila, Milan and Marseille, she is now head of a growing company. Despite the pandemic, she has been using her project management expertise to create jobs for Filipinos and, soon, will ship her brand to the United States, United Kingdom and other countries, even the Bahamas. 

Leap of faith

The 30-something innovator had enjoyed the posh lifestyle of Asia’s best cities and Europe’s fashion capital when she decided to leave everything behind, and start focusing on creating an internationally competitive beauty brand.

She dared to challenge the norms and uplift Filipino products. Her motivation was strong.

As a child, Macalintal used to have skin issues. Just like most teenagers, she was the object of ridicule of some unscrupulous teeners. First, she had white spots on her face, then acne.

“Sinabugan ng granada!” a boy would tell her, she said, remembering the painful words, but quickly brushing off the past. Her mother would diligently take her to specialists when she was growing up. When she started slaving away in the corporate world, she experimented on all types of soaps and splurged on popular beauty products. 

Macalintal said: “We know that a lot of Filipino consumers prefer imported and popular brands. We can’t blame them since these imported products went through rigorous testing with the aid of technological advancements in the industry.” 

She used to be one of those consumers whose buying behavior is influenced by popularity and fad, without considering so much about price or quality or safety. “Before putting up my business, I was one of those who will do everything just to address a skin issue."

And so, exactly two years ago, Macalintal put up a company. She wanted to compete with the best in the market. She wanted to prove that Filipino products are of high standards, safe, sincere, reliable and good as advertised.

Macalintal, a  graduate of the University of the Philippines, used her knowledge and skills in her specialty industry, the global relocation business. She and her colleagues relocate expats around the world. “This is maybe the reason I landed on a job that involves people, in this case, efficient and effective moving of people from different parts of the world."

After working in Singapore for five years, she became part of an Erasmus Mundus program by the European Union and received a triple master’s degree in strategic project management in Politenico di Milano in Italy, Heriot Watt University in Scotland, and Umea University in Sweden. It was during her stay in Milan that she figured out what she really wanted to pursue in life.

While studying there, she had a penchant for attending international expositions and events in Europe and noticed that the Philippines was usually not represented or recognized while neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore had their own contingents.

From then on, she made a vow to create something that would proudly represent Filipino craftsmanship and ingenuity. She wanted to venture into agricultural and organic products, but she was still looking for something that would serve Filipinos and Asians.

“In coming out with my own products, I wanted to make sure that it will address the needs of Pinoys when it comes to skincare. In doing so, the products should be giving solutions to skin problems that are unique to Asian skin, especially the Filipinos," she said.

Skincare innovator

With all the inspiration, knowledge, experience and resolve to awaken the “Diwatas” in every Filipino that will not only promote organic skincare and foster nationalism at the same time, Macalintal spent sleepless nights to perfect the products she’s been forming in her mind.

She immediately formed her team of researchers and craftsmen, then tapped the expertise of a respected chemist to help her formulate a product that would cater to the needs of the Filipinos as far as skincare is concerned. And to guarantee the efficiency and the realization of her long-term goals, she found a good partner in the person of Maria Daisyrie Almendras-Ward, a former colleague in Singapore who shares her passion and advocacies for quality and organic skin care and anything that is proudly Pinoy.

“It took us at least nine months in the planning, research and testing before we came to perfection. We were determined to make our brand 100 percent pure, sincere, competitive and reliable,” said Macalintal.

Having tried and tested other local and imported products, Macalintal and Ward put the brand in a different market positioning, which is less popular to the majority of the market they are trying to reach.

Organic soaps are gaining popularity not just in Asia but in different parts of the world, knowing and believing in the benefits of organic soaps, Macalintal and Ward decided to produce organic soaps.

“Up to this very moment, Filipinos will run to the shelves of whitening soaps – local or international brands and this is the greater slice of the market. To live by our mission to provide solutions to Pinoys’ skin issues, we came up with the three variants that answer the five major skin problems of Pinoys and majority of the Asians, and our products only use premium quality organic ingredients derived from plants,” Macalintal said.

And on September 10, 2018, Macalintal and Ward, together with other partners, launched Diwatang Maria variants – Sinukuan,  Makiling and Cacao in the market, distributing through online selling.

“Each variant is a declaration of  Pinoy’s ingenuity. We want to promote the stories of diwatas, the stories that made our childhood memorable because of the stories of love, bravery and compassion that embody the diwatas,” Macalintal added.

The partners also designed their business to be cost-efficient but not to the point of harming the environment.

“Honestly, it is hard to be in a business that promotes eco-friendly products since it would mean more production cost. For our brand, we shifted to no plastic packaging because we believe that our Diwatas are guardians of the environment. And to live up to our name, we promote plastic-free packaging, and we guaranteed that our products are only from plant-based ingredients.”

Doing projects in the “new normal,” however, is a challenge for every person and business entity. To survive every day of uncertainty entails perseverance. 

“The pandemic has changed everyone. It has changed personality, attitudes, views, principles, and beliefs. And it has remodeled how we do business, how we make a living. It has redesigned and reshaped the norms. With this fact, the brand, in its own little ways, is guiding those who are interested to brave the challenges of this pandemic through small acts of generosity and bayanihan,” she said.

For the past two years, particularly the past eight months, the brand has been making different efforts to help communities face safely the pandemic. Just recently, to celebrate its second anniversary, it launched its Bayanihan in the time of pandemic campaign through its social media platforms. The brand is giving away resellers kits and some of its partners, existing resellers also sponsored individuals to become resellers.

“Diwatas are also heroes, and in every Diwata reseller is a hero since these people are fighting to live a decent life, to lift others. They are advocates for the environment, empowerment, bayanihan and of course, Filipino beauty – inside and out,” Macalintal said.

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