Twenty-nine-year-old Therese “Reese” Fernandez-Ruiz, the Filipina entrepreneur behind the successful social venture, Rags2Riches Incorporated, has made it on Forbes magazine’s list of 30 social entrepreneurs below 30 years.
Ruiz founded Rags2Riches in 2007 to help the women of Payatas dumpsite. It is a “for-profit” social enterprise founded on 4 pillars: People, Profit, Planet and Positive Influence.
If you provide livelihood, you provide empowerment,” Ruiz said, sharing one of the driving-force principles of the company.
The venture originated in the impoverished communities of Payatas. It began as an informal cottage industry of rug-weavers, started by the many women who developed a means to earn a living by scavenging the waste to find and recycle scrap pieces of fabric into rugs.
However, the women were exploited by a group of middlemen, leaving the women unable to maximize the profitability of their venture. Rags2Riches stepped in to give the women fair access to the market and the formal economy, help hone their artisanal skills, as well as provide them with financial and health training for their long-term well-being.
The company has thus far trained about 900 women across numerous communities in the country, in partnership with prominent fashion designers like Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Olivia d’Aboville and Oliver Tolentino.
In its feature on the social entrepreneurs, Forbes said Rags2Riches demonstrated “a consistent 100 percent annual growth rate” for its first five years from 2007 to 2012, and described the company as the “first fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines.”
Forbes staff member, Erin Carlyle, said on the organization’s website that over a hundred people were nominated for the 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, describing the competition as “steep.”
Currently on its third year, Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs is a roster of an “elite group of people who are directing their talent and conviction to better the world,” added Carlyle.