A love for the arts and home province inspired an entrepreneur in Kalibo, Aklan to put up her own business.

Sheree Reynaldo, founder and designer of Buttons ‘n Things Crafts & Designs, said it all started with her arts and crafts hobby and almost zero knowledge on the business management aspect.

“I started my business as a hobby. I put it up using a little capital and knowledge,” she said.

“Passion and creativity were among my greatest ‘capital’. I am also determined to promote the world-class products of Aklan. I want to make our products known,” Sheree added who exudes enthusiasm in promoting and helping the local brands and artists of her province.

Sheree Reynaldo, owner of Buttons 'n Things, posing with models that wear her creations

Aklan province is abundant with indigenous materials and a known tourist destination, making it an ideal place for hand and crafts businesses. The province is a known producer of abaca, a type of leaf fiber, that is often used to produce cloth, bags, wall decors, and other hand-crafted products. In addition, Kalibo is a prime producer of piña cloth, a soft type of fiber cloth made out of pineapple plant. This cloth is also used for barongs.

Sheree admitted that during the first three years she was not very serious in the business and only showcased the designs of local artists.

“I was more of an artist than an entrepreneur,” said Sheree who mentioned that her business management skills only improved after a few years in the business.

Today, Buttons ‘n Things Crafts & Designs sells different products including bags, hats, fashion accessories, souvenirs, and indigenous arts and crafts materials. They manufacture and design hand-crafted products, mostly made of organic materials. The enterprise believes in the importance of continuous innovation and self-expression.

Buttons ‘n Things has also been a partner of various local brands and startups in Aklan that need a place to promote their products and materials. Most of the materials used are sourced from suppliers within the province, and each product was intricately woven or made by the locals.

Through Buttons ‘n Things, Sheree does not only offer jobs to the local artists and marginalized sectors of Aklan but also promotes environmental awareness through the use of indigenous materials.

Employees of Tamayo's Handicrafts, source of Buttons 'n Things' fabric, processing dried buri into raffia.

DTI assistance

After three years in the business, Sheree realized that her creativity and passion to help others alone would never be enough to make her enterprise sustainable. This is when she decided to invest in improving her skills on managing a business.

Sheree looked back on how the programs of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have helped her improve her business further.

“DTI provided various seminars and trainings, which included product development and technical skills training,” said Sheree, pointing to the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program as the main platform that gave her the biggest boost. “That’s when I realized that creativity is not just the only thing that matters—you also need to look into the business side,” she added.

The KMME program promotes coaching and mentoring approach among large corporations to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) scale up. MSMEs were equipped with skills and knowledge on various aspects of business operations.

Buttons 'n Things employee working on the design of a new accessory

“The regional and national trade fairs were also of big help for the exposure that my business needs,” said Sheree who met a number of buyers during these events and eventually became her institutional buyers. This enabled her to consign with popular department stores across the country.

As a means of giving back, Sheree decided to impart her own skills and knowledge as well.

“To share my blessings, I provide free trainings in many communities. I participate in various skills training programs for women and indigenous peoples,” said Sheree.

“One of our advocacies is to help local artists showcase their work,” said Sheree who takes pride in the creativity of their partners.

Today, Buttons ‘n Things has teamed up with 50 partners who needed a venue to showcase their local products and indigenous supplies and materials. These partners included organizations that support or employ women, senior citizens, persons with disability (PWDs), and out of school youth.

Bags, pouches, ref magnets, earrings, and other accessories at Button 'n Things shop in Aklan

Slow fashion

For Sheree, her business follows the slow fashion approach since her products were not mass produced.

“Our artists and workers put much effort in weaving and in creating the products we offer,” said Sheree, noting that this approach serves as a challenge in sustaining the production. This process ensures the quality and uniqueness of each item.

This arrangement also assures that artists and workers are given fair payment for the items they produce.

One of the greatest challenges in managing Button N’ Things, according to Sheree, is educating their partner communities. “It takes much effort to train and provide them skills so they can have jobs. We also need to equip them with the needed business skills for them to eventually stand on their own,” she said, stressing that this has been one of the most important lessons she got from KMME.

Sheree constantly thinks of ways to innovate their products, which she also imparts to partner startups and artists.

Shelves containing Buttons 'n Things' bestsellers: pouches, bags, and other accessories.

“Competition is very stiff, and we need to stand out,” said Shree who would always remind her partner enterprises and artists to look beyond the usual designs and products.

Sheree shared that she is guided by her personal principle: “Success is not about fame, money, or awards. It is about becoming the best of yourself and finding your passion.”

True enough, Sheree successfully found her niche and made sure to give back by taking time to share her passion, talent, and skills to her fellow business owners and artists in the province of Aklan.

Asked on how other can be successful in this business, she said: “Share your blessings. Share your skills. Create jobs.”

Three ref magnets called "Joan', made from raffia