Rebie Ramoso makes it her mission to uplift the lives of artisans in underprivileged communities through training, livelihood and just trade. A co-founder of Quarkus, a social enterprise and product design studio, Rebie, with the help of her team, celebrates the ingenuity and craftsmanship of Filipino artisans through innovative bags and accessories and provides them with opportunities to have a more sustainable income.
Entrepreneur Interview Q & A
What is the name of your business? What does your business do?
Quarkus is a social enterprise and a product design studio. We develop products that match human needs with business and technology through a process called design thinking.
One of our primary goals is to provide opportunities to artisans in urban poor communities by partnering with them, giving them additional training in order to have the skills and tools to create products of high value and craftsmanship, and creating avenues for them to have a more sustainable source of income.
Currently, we have partnered with several home-based workers, NGOs serving in urban poor communities, as well as other social enterprises, and have worked with them in designing and developing lifestyle accessories, bags, and organizers. We have been successful in bringing these products to market through our partner retailers, and we continue to do so, with the main goal of giving more livelihood to Filipino artisans.
Why did you get into this field? What opportunities did you see?
I have always believed that Filipinos are blessed with a wealth of talent, and sometimes what prevents them from reaching their full potential is that they have limited opportunities and options, given the circumstances that they are in. Once avenues are given to them, and people start to have faith in their ability to create things, then that is when they are able to dream more for themselves and their families, and to do more to grow. Being an artist and designer, it was natural for me to marry my interest in creating relevant, functional, and innovative products, with my passion for helping other Filipino artists and artisans.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Each day presents new challenges, especially when our goal is to ensure that we continue to provide opportunities to the people that we are helping. With that in mind, we consider it our responsibility to make our business sustainable. When you know that you have the obligation to help other people, you are more compelled and inspired to make things work. Sometimes the formula is not clear cut, so you have to be flexible and open to opportunities and meeting like-minded individuals who can support you towards your vision.
What has been your greatest reward?
It has always been the greatest reward to know that the lives of the people you are helping have improved. When you realize that they’ve begun to have a better view of themselves, and that they are able to look forward and dream more for their families, then you know that in your own way, you have made an impact.
If you could change something, what would it be?
I’ve always hoped that by doing business and by partnering with artisans in underprivileged communities, I am able to bring in a new perspective among those who live more comfortable lives – and that is to see and treat people with respect and compassion, regardless of their status. I think that although there have been a lot of social enterprises that have been successful in bridging the gap between people from various walks of life, sometimes there are still misconceptions about urban poor communities and individuals living in these areas. I have always believed that no matter where we come from, we must be willing to see each other beyond social markings. We are after all, human beings, who deserve to have the same kind of respect, faith and compassion as all others.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Being in business is not always easy. There will always be challenges along the way. The difference lies on how you see these challenges; and it is valuable to see them as opportunities to learn and to improve yourself, instead of seeing them as warning signs and buckling up as soon as you see the slightest chance of failure. Being an entrepreneur means being with others and finding like-minded people who could help and inspire you to tread on. More importantly, we must never forget our reason for starting our business in the first place – whether it is to pursue a passion, find a solution to a problem, or to help people, our reasons for doing business will serve as fuel for us to move on.
Social Media. Yay or Nay?
Definitely yay. I think we must see that the benefit that social media gives us is interconnectedness. Wherever you are in the world, you are able to connect with people, whether through affinity, familial ties, or interest with the help of social media. It helps our business to make use of this tool to share our products, our stories and to let others know what we are doing and whose lives have changed, and hopefully inspire other people to do the same.
How do you market your products or services?
We market mainly through social media, lifestyle magazines, websites, and word of mouth. Our partner retailers, like Common Room and Common Thread, have also been helpful in spreading the word about Quarkus. Other social enterprises and organizations, like Smokey Tours and Not A Daydream, have likewise helped us share our vision and our story.
If your business sells products, how do you handle production?
Our production is mainly done through our partnerships with home based workers and artisans, and organizations who serve urban poor communities, with a strong livelihood component.
What is unique about your business?
What is different about Quarkus is that we develop products using the insights that we gain from people, on what they need and what is useful to them; and we make these products, with the help of our partner artisans, whom we are also helping to have a stable source of livelihood.
At the center of our business are the people that we are serving; and these are our clients and our partner artisans, and so we conduct our business with the objective of fulfilling our responsibilities to them in mind. They are the fuel that sustains us.
Sell me your product/service
Quarkus is all about understanding what you need and giving you a practical solution to meet those needs. Our bags and accessories are testament to the ingenuity and skill of Filipino artisans. Moreover, Quarkus has heart. By supporting Quarkus and our products, you are able to help the lives of artisans in underprivileged communities, and you allow them to dream bigger and better for themselves and their families.
How can people get in touch with you? What’s your website url and contact information?
Contact Number: +63 2 436 0011 // +63 926 655 7518