“Indigenous people (IP) community is one of the most neglected groups in the present time. Opportunities and aid do not reach them,” Maereen Olayta shared to Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs.
To address this issue, Maereen, together with her co-founder Churchille Montealto, decided to start Katutubong Kamay Handicrafts Co. (KHCC), a social enterprise that provides a sustainable livelihood for the IP communities in the Philippines.
“(It was) 2014 when we discovered an IP community, a group of Aeta located at Brgy Kati-Kati Site, Guimaras. We saw the ingenuity they put in their crafts which can be translated into a business opportunity for the community.
With our personal funds and effort, we tried to build on this and updated designs to become more fashionable and marketable. When we tried to show this, it was unbelievably sellable,” Maereen narrated.
KKHC envisioned a sustainable and empowered Indigenous community with a sense of pride and dignity in IP communities’ culture, craftsmanship, and heritage through showcasing their own crafts.
“We believed that the hands of these IP communities exemplify craftsmanship and that leveraging on these could really become a great opportunity for them.”
To promote the unique indigenous materials, KKHC maintains their raw materials native and handmade.
Moreover, the founders of KKHC had an initiative to partner with their benefactors and makers bringing their advocacy that is to enhance IP ingenuity and make it into an opportunity that will be for the community’s advantage.
Though a noteworthy advocacy, challenges are still inevitable in this endeavor.
“The greatest challenge was working with IP communities with very different language, culture, and vision in life. However, we were able to overcome these by total immersion and really living and empathizing with them.”
Despite the challenges, KKHC was able to expand their production from the Visayas region to the Mindanao region particularly in the Matigsalug IP Community located at Brgy Sinuda, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
“To all the millennials and aspiring entrepreneurs, we all know that the road to success in putting up business is rough, but one thing that paves these roads is the fulfillment you get when you know you’re changing lives through the business.”, Maereen said.
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