Happy steps towards a new lifestyle

Happy steps towards a new lifestyle

HABI Footwear, a Philippines based Fashion Company working with urban poor mothers of Kawan in Sto. Niño, Philippines has signed a loan of USD 10,240 with a Dutch Angel investor. The loan will help HABI Footwear formally register as an exporting business and increase production to meet the increasing demand of foreign and local markets.

HABI Footwear combines practical shoes with original designs, carefully handcrafted by women in the Philippines using socially and environmentally friendly materials.

One step back:

The initiative started in the last year of college when Janine Chiong and her team had to deliver a business plan as a graduation assignment.

By then, businesses similar to HABI Footwear had already started in the rural communities in the Philippines. So how do they remain original? Janine mentions that HABI Footwear has partners in business rather than employees, ‘the relationship goes beyond business, it is also based on friendship’. Furthermore, the company has unique products produced in a unique way. No other business uses recycled racks and track tires to make footwear and the prices are lower than the competitors’, which combined gives HABI Footwear the competitive advantage they need. The company’s target market consists of people between 18 and 35 years old, who are very visible online. To reach this target group, HABI Footwear uses Facebook pages, Twitter and blogs.

During the interview at Growing SMEs the Netherlands, last November, Janine offered an insight into the life of women entrepreneurs in The Philippines. ‘Women in The Philippines are very competitive and driven. It is really important that you put your heart into your business. There is a lot of potential for women entrepreneurs in the Philippines. Female empowerment is important’.

During the Growing SMEs Marketplace, Janine was able to talk to Princess Máxima and Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilliane Ploumen. ‘She (Princess Máxima) asked a lot of questions, was really helpful and really listening. I was overwhelmed and thankful. It really empowered me personally. Being chosen to meet her is a privilege’.

‘I can’t say how thankful I am for participating (in the Growing SMEs conference) because, as a young entrepreneur, I didn’t have much experience. I found out what financing options I can look into’ she adds. B2B meetings during the BiD Week opened doors to potential partnerships for HABI Footwear. ‘Partnership is always a good thing- it creates networks for both parties. It was a fruitful week.”

A step in to the future:

When asked about what she believes in and the plans for HABI Footwear Janine said: ‘We don’t want to stimulate people to buy our products because of pity or charity. We want to grow big enough for people to want to invest in us.”  The first step has been taken. The loan HABI Footwear has received thanks to Janine’s ability to tell her story and the network opportunities the conference provided will help the company work on their goal to grow communities through livelihood and empowerment. ‘Finally, more mothers can come in and be welcomed in our group. Funds for trainings and a product development initiative will also finally be abundant.  We can move forward, targeting another community for a new product line that we are conceptualizing, which is still environmentally and socially sound. New products include home furnishings and bags that utilize Philippine indigenous materials’, says Janine.

HABI Footwear wants to expand their marketing efforts, from traditional media to digital ones. ‘We need improved communication strategies to make sure we meet our targets for the year. Now that we have our own showroom, potential customers and partners can finally reach us easily and in a more professional manner’.

Janine would like to share a piece of advice to other entrepreneurs starting and growing a business in an emerging market:

“Come up with something the people need.  Come up with a product that can address a need. Be responsible and be socially and environmentally oriented.” Janine Chiong.

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