“Empower a woman, and you empower a community.”

Andrea Benoya, a devoted mother, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey with a single, noble goal – to provide a brighter future for her children by sustaining their college education. Her story began when she applied as a saleslady at a local hardware store. Little did she know that this modest job would lead her to a life-changing path that would not only uplift her family but also breathe life into a community.

One fateful day, her employer set up a stall at the Agbiliwa Provincial Trade Fair organized by the Department of Trade and Industry. The stall showcased framed cross-stitch artwork, and Andrea was entrusted with the stall. As she immersed herself in the bustling trade fair atmosphere, she was captivated by the myriad of handicrafts on display which ignited a spark within her. Armed with just 700 pesos from her first paycheck, she then decided to try her hand at selling her own cross stitch artwork, and it wasn’t long before she ventured into accessory and souvenir-making such as key chains and embroidered wallets as an additional source of income.

Andrea’s journey took an inspiring turn when she was introduced to the rich and captivating Mangyan culture during a local church outreach program. Inspired by their artistry, she began creating Mangyan-inspired beaded accessories, fusing tradition with innovation. In the year 2003, Andrea made a life-altering decision. She left her job and chose to pursue her love for crafts.

Working tirelessly from home, Andrea meticulously handcrafted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, each piece telling a story of the Mangyan’s connection to nature. Her signature creations featured beads, seashells, coconut shells, Ramit– a handwoven textile made by the Mangyans, and other native materials, skillfully woven into wearable works of art. Her creations were a fusion of contemporary style and traditional Mangyan aesthetics, a unique blend that instantly caught the eye of those around her.

At first, she wasn’t entirely sure how to market her creations, so she began selling them at government offices near her home. The response was beyond her expectations. Customers were not only impressed with the beauty and authenticity of her products but also appreciated her dedication and commitment to preserving indigenous culture.

Buoyed by the positive feedback and a growing customer base, Andrea decided to take her venture to the next level. With her newfound confidence and the unwavering support of her family, Andrea officially founded “Te And’s Handicrafts.” in 2005. This marked the beginning of her incredible journey as an entrepreneur. But she didn’t stop there; she set her sights on bigger opportunities and a wider market.

Andrea’s dedication caught the eye of the Department of Trade and Industry. Recognizing the potential of her products, she was invited to participate in the Agbiliwa Provincial Trade Fair as an exhibitor. The unique appeal of her products, combined with the compelling story of preserving indigenous culture, drew crowds and sparked interest from both locals and tourists. Her booth, adorned with colorful displays, emerged as a highlight for trade fair attendees. Her participation in Agbiliwa not only increased her sales but also raised awareness about the importance of supporting local artisans and preserving indigenous traditions.

But Andrea’s partnership with DTI didn’t end there. DTI, through its One Town One Product (OTOP) program, provided invaluable support in product development. DTI commissioned experts who guided her in refining her designs, enhancing product quality, and even branding her creations. This assistance not only improved the marketability of her products but also ensured they met the highest standards of craftsmanship.

Te And’s Handicrafts’ beaded accessories reflect the rich tapestry of Mangyan culture, weaving tradition into every design.

The program also facilitated her participation in various trade fairs and exhibitions such as the MIMAROPA Naturally Agri-Trade and Tourism Fair and National Arts and Crafts Fair, opening doors to new opportunities.

In addition to OTOP, Andrea actively participated in the Kapatid Mentor Me Program in 2017, which pairs experienced business mentors with budding entrepreneurs to provide guidance and mentorship. Through this program, she gained critical insights into marketing, finance, and operations.

Andrea’s determination also caught the attention of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which recognized Te And’s Handicrafts as the Best DOLE-assisted Livelihood Project in 2020. Moreover, she also received assistance from the Department of Science and Technology, which provided essential equipment for her craft.

Over the years, Te And’s Handicrafts has gained recognition far and wide. Her customers included not only local government agencies but also tourists seeking unique and meaningful souvenirs. Her pieces became tokens of appreciation, bridging cultures and celebrating the rich heritage of the Mangyan people.

Andrea’s dedication to giving back to her community is one of the most inspiring aspects of her journey. She recognized the talent and potential of the Mangyan people in her province and actively employed them in her business. By doing so, she not only provided sustainable employment opportunities but also played a significant role in preserving the cultural heritage of the Mangyan community. Aside from that, she now serves as a trainer in handicrafts, dedicating her time to teaching women’s associations in her community the art of creating beautiful accessories. Her role as a mentor and educator has empowered countless women, enabling them to gain financial independence and embrace their entrepreneurial spirit.

In the words of Andrea herself, “Entrepreneurship is not just about profits; it’s about creating opportunities for yourself and those around you.”

Today, Te And’s Handicrafts’ creations can be found in Pasalubong Centers in San Jose and Mamburao, as well as in the OTOP Hub in San Jose. Andrea’s dedication continues to shine as she is gearing up to fulfill bulk orders, including the handcrafted beaded medals for the upcoming Southern Tagalog Regional Association of State Universities and Colleges (STRASUC) Olympics 2023. Looking ahead, she envisions a bright future for Te Ands’ Handicrafts, with plans to build a gallery that will showcase her creations as well as the Mangyan culture.

Andrea Benoya’s (In photo), owner of Te And’s Handicrafts, participation in regional and national trade fairs provided her with access to new markets and distribution channels. It also offers a unique opportunity to network with other local artisans, designers, suppliers, and potential business partners.

Andrea’s journey proves that entrepreneurship knows no boundaries, and that with the right guidance and determination, any passion can be turned into a thriving business. Through every meticulously crafted beaded creation, she weaves a story of empowerment, resilience, and the enduring strength of women. Her success is not just measured in beads and shells; it’s measured in lives touched, dreams realized, and traditions upheld. ♦

Date of release: 04 October 2023