Photo: Rags2Riches / Things that Matter Face Masks Collections. Support Philippines’ front-liners fighting COVID-19 with your purchase of face-masks here. Proceeds from this collection goes to the relief fund.

Conversation with
Therese Fernandez-Ruiz
Social Entrepreneur
President & Founding Partner
Rags2Riches, Philippines

(Watch full interview here!) | Excerpts below:

Survival Advice for Social entrepreneurs

Some of the social entrepreneurs that I have heard from are really struggling. They do not have enough cash reserves for salary for this month or even next month. Let alone for the next few months. Some have all their cash in inventory, and inventory right now is very hard to move and very hard to sell. Some have their assets in receivables and receivables are also very hard to collect these days…

It has been very challenging for everyone. We are all seeing something that we have never seen before, and I hope we won’t see again in our life time. It is going to be more difficult before it gets better.

Therese Fernandez-Ruiz (speaking) at The Future Re-Imagined Conference, AFES 2018

But we are a community. So, we keep each other in check, and we support each other. I have never seen this happen before where entrepreneurs who are usually considered competitors are now working with each other. So, I think there are some great developments from this crisis. In the end, we are in it together and there is no other choice but to support each other. Because if we don’t, we are all in the same boat, and it is just going to sink with all of us in it.

Watch the interview here! 

First things first

First of all, we did what we could to ensure our staff’s safety. We (actually) implemented working from home the day before the lock down was announced. Our team were able to bring home materials and computers to set up for working from home right before the lock down.

Next, we brainstormed on the things we could do “right-now”, and things we could do in the “mid-term”. For the “right-now” we decided to pivot our production. We diverted some of our artisans working from home who have a sewing machine into sewing face-masks.

While we haven’t produced the products (face-masks) yet, we have photos of them on the website to invite our advocates to pre-order them, and donating the profits (from this specific collection) into a fund to purchase meals and PPEs for the front-liners such as doctors, nurses, security personnel and the people who need work outside so that we can stay inside safely in our own home.

Watch the interview here! 

Stay Alive! 

It really depends on what their situation is. For some, it is more dire than others. (I would advise them) to try very very hard to not die at this time. Try to stay in business for as long as you can. Stretch out your resources, negotiate with your landlord or whoever you need to pay for your utilities, so you could stretch the cash that you have, and be able to maintain some of your team members. If you’re able to maintain all, that’s great. But if not, as long as you keep yourself alive and get to the other side (alive), then you have a chance to re-employ anyone whom you had to let go of during this time. Just try, just try to keep yourself alive during this time.

Watch the interview here! 

Therese Fernandez is President and Founding Partner of Rags2Riches (R2R), Inc., a Fashion and Design House empowering community artisans based in the Philippines. Reese and the company have been recognized internationally through Fast Company, Sundance Channel, Vogue, Marie Claire, Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Forbes 30 Under 30, and many others.

Central to R2R’s purpose for being is the community of artisans who are lifting their families out of poverty through crafting eco-ethical fashion and home accessories from overstocked fabric and indigenous materials. For the past 10 years, the R2R team has built a sustainable end-to-end business and trained 1000 Filipino community-based artisans.

Learn more at rags2riches.ph

Therese was a speaker at The Future Re-Imagined Conference on Money for Idealists. You can watch her video here