How to grow a business from ‘rags to riches’

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
How to grow a business from ârags to richesâ

Reese Fernandez Ruiz founded Rags2Riches or better known as R2R 13 years ago in Payatas after she and her co-founders met a group of enterprising women who made foot rugs out of pieces of fabric. For their hard work, these artisans only earned P10 to P16 a day because they did not have access to supplies of fabric or to the market, hence their need to rely on middlemen.

These women inspired Reese and her co-founders to build R2R as an enterprise with an artisan-inclusive, end-to-end supply that could create opportunities for artisans to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

R2R started as a business and design solution to unfair trade in urban communities in Metro Manila but today, it is a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines.

When asked about their plans for R2R during this pandemic, Reese said, “During this difficult time, our main goal is to just keep going while keeping each other safe and healthy. We understand that this year might be harder before it gets better; that is what we are preparing for. The tactical activities change often but the goals and values remain. For the next few weeks, we are releasing new collections that are relevant for this new, hopefully better, normal. While on lockdown, our design team was able to create loungewear, pillows, home accessories, face masks, and other essentials.”

She continued, “Since we have been around for 13 years, we have experienced many challenges in shapes and forms that we have never imagined when we started. Each challenge was different, but our approach has always been guided by our values. We have encountered trust issues in our communities (when we were starting), cash crunches, financial concerns, production bottlenecks, design limitations, and the like. Today, while we are still encountering concerns especially as we go through this pandemic, these present concerns are not insurmountable because we were able to handle past challenges.”

Reese, a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, with special courses (after graduation) in Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Central Saint Martins, and Santa Clara University, shares with us her tips in starting a business.

Rags2Riches president and founding partner Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.

1. Start with the right intentions. If you are starting an enterprise just because of money or being your “own boss,” you may be disappointed quickly because money or profit is a result of creating value that people would be willing to pay for. Start an enterprise in order to solve a problem or fulfill a need. Start an enterprise with purpose, and let that fuel you.

2. Your company’s culture is not an inspiring poster on the wall. Your culture is your values in action.

3. When your company is doing well, it is easy to be kind. But it is more important to be kind when the company faces challenges (and it will). How you react during the hardest times will shape your character and build up (or tear down) your company.

4. Learn to love numbers! What you don’t know CAN and WILL hurt you and your business, so you have to know your numbers, understand what they mean, and make decisions accordingly.

5. You don’t have to do everything BUT don’t also hire away your problems. Excessive and unnecessary overhead is not healthy and is hard to sustain.

6. No task is beneath you especially if you are starting up and have very limited resources. Answer calls? Do it. Carry boxes? Do it. Meet with clients? Yes, do it.

7. Don’t forget to take care of your ultimate place of business: the Earth! Seriously, we sometimes forget that we all live in this world and it is finite. We can’t do “business as usual” without considering the effects of our company on the environment.

8. Take the time to pause and think. When you are an entrepreneur, it is easy to drown in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. Be intentional about taking these breaks! Your next big idea may come from these times.

9. Foster good partnerships and nurture them! Keep your promises, respond to messages, manage expectations, and go the extra mile in your own way.

10. Build your enterprise in order to serve a purpose and create positive impact. You don’t have to be called a social enterprise to do well or create an inclusive supply chain. You can start small as long as you start somewhere.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)


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