For some, they may find Olivia and Diego Jewelry as just another brand of accessories.  But for the stay-at-home mothers and human trafficking survivors in Davao, Philippines, O & D has been a source of hope, creativity, and empowerment.

“We want to show how the power of community can empower women. We also want to promote local craftsmanship,” Yana Santiago shared, the founder behind the Olivia & Diego Jewelry.

Olivia and Diego

One of the many artisans behind the upcycled accessories of Olivia and Diego (c) Olivia and Diego’s Facebook Page

Everything started when Santiago proposed a social business in Davao City.

“After graduating in Manila, I decided to go back to my hometown. I found this NGO online, Taikala, Inc. who supports women who were trafficked (and also former prostitutes). They were looking for a livelihood where these women can be more involved at the same time earn an income,” she narrated.

“I realized that I have a degree in fashion and I’m passionate about social entrepreneurship, so I proposed a social business that would give these women jobs.”

Olivia and Diego Jewelry

The artisans behind the upcycled products of Olivia and Diego

Olivia & Diego Jewelry is a social business that produces upcycled handmade accessories handcrafted by the women in the community.

It also encourages socially responsible consumers who seek an alternative to mass-produced products.

Aside from being stewards of the Earth, Olivia & Diego Jewelry hopes to reach out more communities for them to teach women and children in producing beautiful pieces of jewelry out of upcycled materials and make it a sustainable livelihood.

When Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs asked Santiago where she gets the motivation, she replied:

 It was really the passion for social entrepreneurship more than anything, that got me wanting to start a business. At first, all else didn’t matter, so I guess it was in a way leaping without looking!

Santiago did not deny the fact that her business also encounter struggles just like any other business.

“I have encountered a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur. Often, things do not go as planned and it’s quite difficult to take a career path that is less traveled. I’m still learning and like everyone, I’m still a work in progress.”

More struggles arise especially if you’re a woman.

“As a woman, there will always be people who would try to bring me down and doubt the advocacy,” she shared. “However, I try to remember that to promote a good cause, I must also embody my principles. I will always be ethical and fair to the artisans, no matter how hard it will be for me.”

Closing the interview, Santiago left an advice to millennials who wanted to pursue their passion

“Do not be afraid to get your story out there and don’t be afraid to learn and listen from others’ stories. Be willing to relearn everything and re-align your purpose and business because things do not always go your way. It’s important to ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing because it will be your motivation for trying times.”

Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs by Confirmis

CBN – PH000000977

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