She has seen her parents struggle to make a living, as authorities would chase them down because sidewalk vendors are not allowed to take up space on the streets. If they get caught, their products go straight to the grinders, losing both their merchandise and income. But Richelle’s entrepreneurial spirit did not wane, especially when opportunities for growth come her way.
In 2017, Samahang Magbabayong na mga Nanay sa Potrero (SAMANAPO) was established and later that year Move Up Project also got in contact to form a Community Savings Group (CSG) in the area. Richelle rose up to the occasion and became the community’s leader for these groups, where she serves as the chairperson for CSG and president of SAMANAPO. But encouraging every basket makers in their community proved to be a challenge at first. “Before, there were only 34 of us who believed in the project, because it wasn’t easy make everyone trust the program”, Richelle explains, “eventually, when others saw how well the program went, more people came in to join the group. We now have 138 members.”
Before SAMANAPO and CSG, the basket weavers of Potrero were withdrawn to take concern from each other’s businesses. They would individually take loans with higher interest rates and it hindered the growth of their earnings. “With Move Up Project, we were given a chance to earn which is an uncommon thing here in our community”, Richelle says, “now that we have our own savings as a community, our members could take loans from it and at a very low interest of 3%. This gave us a chance to earn more and grow our community savings.” While members could take loans for personal reasons, they use it mostly for their livelihood. “This gave us the opportunity to get better materials for our products, unlike before when we could only buy discarded strips of plastic that were used to tie boxes, because those materials are cheaper. We don’t need to chase trucks for scraps anymore”, Richelle adds.
“With better materials, our products are not just limited to baskets anymore”, Richelle shares, “we now sell our bags of different designs in malls, to celebrities, and online. Our products have also reached Paris, Alaska, Australia, Dubai, United States of America, and many more. What we do here in Portrero have reached the worldwide market. The buyers reached out to us online and there were some who visited us here in our community.” Potrero’s products may have broken through a lot barriers, from just selling to their local market, to reaching a bigger market in malls and online, and to international buyers, but Richelle envisions to expand her community’s business venture and reach out to other communities that might also need assistance in establishing their own CSG.
“We are discussing on putting up a livelihood program that is separate from our basket weaving and that we would run it as a group. Since we are already earning from our business and community savings, I thought, why not also help others to have their own livelihood,” Richelle explains, “we already got involved in training nearby communities to weave, and that is still ongoing. I also have talked with other CSG officers in nearby cities to reach out as one big group, and teach how communities can establish and run their own CSG. We want to do this so that others may also have a chance to grow— not just us.”
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