#DTIMalasakit Story from DTI-Region 11 (Davao de Oro)

A designer-entrepreneur from Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley) has dedicated herself to help in uplifting the lives of the indigenous peoples (IPs) and persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

Cheri-Lou Aranjuez, who has been in the international fashion scene for her impressive creations, has built her business on the foundation of helping others.

After my graduation in Fashion Design, I really wanted to involve my community. I was never tempted to establish my business in the city because I want to go back to my province,” Cheri-Lou narrated.

In 2016, she invited some women in her locality to join, observe, and learn how to sew in her shop.

By learning, I motivated them to work. I saw their potential. I saw their strengths and I started from there. It was never planned to extend my involvement to different women groups, it just happened that I saw their products and found their fine craftsmanship and I got interested. I am very glad that these women groups are situated near my hometown. They are all accessible to me. Also, the Women Development Council of Compostela Valley Province is very supportive in empowering the women groups,” she said.

While several stay-at-home moms in Montevista serve as sewers for the apparel collection, her weavers who produce her hand-woven fabric are from a nearby cooperative.

Through the years, Cheri-Lou’s products expanded. From sewing office uniforms and fashionable gowns, she has already included bags in her product lines just this month. She has decided to be in this venture because she has seen the opportunity to widen her market by introducing trendy and functional bags that still carry with them the culture of the IPs.

With this development, the designer-entrepreneur has to hire more women beneficiaries and workers to keep up with the production of her bags. Thus, she has hired the IPs and PDLs to produce her straw bags that are delicately crafted to pass the discriminating taste of buyers.

She has involved the IP-Mandaya community in Barangay Andap in New Bataan, the town that was devastated the most when Davao Region was hit by Typhoon Pablo in 2012. This group of at least 20 women IPs do the weaving, embroidery, and beadworks for her bags. Specifically, they do the embellishments based on their tribe’s patterns and colors.

Meanwhile, the inmates of the local correctional facility do the handcrafted straw bags.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has provided Cheri-Lou with various support, especially in exposure and market access. She has been a constant participant of different DTI-organized trade fairs.

Cheri-Lou has engaged the different women communities because of her desire to see them enjoy a more comfortable life.

Ang earnings nila ay nakadepende sa demand. Per piece ang rate nila. Like for one bag, nasa P500 to P900 per bag ang labor. That’s the bag only. Iba pa iyong sa Mandaya na nasa P300 to P600 per bag ang kita for the embellishments. Iba rin ang labor fee sa gumagawa ng wooden handles,” she shared.

When asked how she defines success, Cheri-Lou says: “As an entrepreneur, I can say I am successful when I can see the men and women in my community improve their lives.”♦

Published in Pilipino Mirror on 24 July 2019.