Young entreps get global platform

Shoes made from water lilies by Prima Facie. AJ BAJO

A young entrepreneur from a 2017 start-up company of senior high school students who transforms water hyacinth into high-quality sneakers and sandals won this year’s Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Eighteen-year-old University of the Philippines-Diliman freshman Bea Battung, who pitched her company Prima Facie’s business model in front of established businessmen in the country, said the win opens young entrepreneurs to a larger audience for their advocacies.

“It will serve as an opportunity for us to communicate better our advocacies to our customers and potential customers. Through this win, perhaps we will be able to inspire others to, for example, try their own businesses and try to search for problems and see opportunities in it,” Battung said.

“In our case, it was water hyacinths. It’s usually just clogging. It’s one of the major causes of flooding. Personally, after winning, the main take away is learning from all the mentoring sessions,” she added.

Prima Facie was established in 2017 by then Accounting and Business Management students from St. Scholastica’s College, Manila’s senior high school Leadership Academy.

They started a shoe line called Ananda, from the Sanskrit word meaning “bliss” or “happiness,” which integrates synthetic and waterlily leather into high-quality sneakers. The sneakers were followed by a sandals line which they call Reis. The sandals costs P799 and also incorporate water hyacinth in its make.

According to Battung, their operations were received well until their graduation in 2018, the year they saw a drop in their sales.

Stepping up into college and losing the constant communication with other company members was a challenge they had to overcome, but in her presentation Battung said that she sees working team-based now as key to their company’s growth.

Currently, Battung said they sell their products online via Facebook and Instagram. She said that they are also open to expanding their portfolio.

Previously, the company has participated in local and international fairs such as the Filinvest Christmas Holiday Bazaar, the Likhang Habi Fair in Glorietta and at a trade fair in Beijing.

“Our priority now is finding a partner manufacturer and perhaps, a government institution to help us improve and search for other uses for water hyacinths. As of now, water hyacinths and innovating its use is our priority,” she added.

More than the thrill of running a business at an early age, the company of young owners are fueled by the goal of promoting the local industry, empowering communities and pushing for environmental awareness.

Prima Facie donates a pair of slippers to a child in the Hospicio de San Jose for every pair of the Reis sandals sold.

From over a hundred applications from different universities across the country, five finalists remained to compete over the award which will entitle them to proceed to the global finals in Macao, a cash worth P200,000 and continuous mentorship from EO members.

The judges included the founder and chief executive officer of Stylist in Pocket Technologies Sheree Gotuaco, co-president and director of the Net Group Raymond Rufino, managing director of GetCre8ive and StraightArrow Corporations Ia del Rosario, owner and founder of the Henry Hotel Hanky Lee and international entrepreneur Swish Goswami.

The mentorship is a novel addition to the EO awards. In its five-year run, this was the first year they introduced a six-month mentorship program that would enable the winning student-entrepreneur to sit down with one successful EO member.

Established in 1987 by young entrepreneurs, the EO organization now has a global business network of more than 13,000 front-line entrepreneurs from 57 countries. In the Philippines, it has a network of more than 160 top entrepreneurs and business owners.

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