Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sharing a photo essay on the story behind Gifts and Graces' premium Retazo Collection. These special bags are made by disadvantaged women sewers in Pandacan, Manila, and Boni, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines. Special thanks to George Moya who conceptualized the photo essay with us, took the beautiful photos, and helped us with the copy. Hope you enjoy it and support this beautiful collection that changes lives.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

From the Executive Director

On Making Gifts for People

Hi Everyone, Every now and then I share a reading with the Gifts and Graces team that I felt was particularly inspiring. Among my favorite sources are Brain Pickings, Farnam Street, Mark Miller, and Fr. Shay Cullen. I've been encouraged to share this with the larger Gifts and Graces community. So this series From the Executive Director is a peek inside communications within the team. We hope that in this way we can open our hearts to let you see what moves us. For our inaugural post for this series, here's something I shared just recently on bringing joy by making gifts for people. Enjoy! - Greg

July 13, 2014

Dear Team,

Sharing an inspiring read for the week from one of my favorite blogs Brain Pickings Weekly on why money is not wealth. 

"If we didn't invest so much of ourselves in what we do – which includes what we ourselves believe, what we wish existed, and what direction we want to move the world in – then why bother doing it at all? As John Green put it, it's about making gifts for people and putting them into the world, hoping those gifts might bring them joy."

This expresses for me why we do what we do - to move the world in the direction we believe it should move. And what a great way to think about our work and our products - making gifts, literally and figuratively, to bring joy. So when we do our product development, when we design our projects and programs, one simple question to ask is: Will this bring joy?

You can read the entire article here: 

The article from this week's newsletter is a great read too.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Coffee Break Conversations with Ms. Vie Reyes

By Mikaela Reyes

This past weekend, I went on a coffee eco-tour in the Sagada, Mt. Province with my fellow Kaya Collaborative colleagues. Part of the tour was a coffee tasting session in a restaurant called Bana’s CafĂ©. My friends and I trekked to the area where the coffee fruits grew and checked out the coffee-making & roasting process that the community implemented under the business model set by Bote Central, a social enterprise that hopes to revolutionize the Philippine coffee landscape. And, of course, we were offered the product of their hard work: Civet coffee. The civet cat eats the coffee fruit, which allows the coffee seedlings to be transformed by the cat’s digestive enzymes. When the seeds are extracted from their feces and cleaned, it is ready to roast and be turned into high-class coffee.

A cup of delicious civet coffee
Little did I know, three days later, Gifts & Graces was going to present me with the opportunity to learn about the workings of Bote Central through their founder, Mrs. Vie Reyes. Through our first “Coffee Break Conversations,” Ms. Reyes discussed the brief history of the discovery of coffee, the business model that Bote Central implemented, and the fair trade practices that their organization applies to directly benefit the coffee farming communities in the provinces.

Ms. Vie Reyes talking about coffee, fair trade and her social enterprise, Bote Central
Coffee was discovered when monks and missionaries observed that goats were extremely hyperactive, even at night, upon eating coffee berries from a tree. The monks decided to try out the berries themselves. They were delighted to find that coffee kept them wide awake even during the long hours of evening prayer. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Coffee was discovered through the observation of goats, who were extremely hyperactive, even at night, upon eating berries from a tree. Monks and missionaries decided to try this diet out. They discovered that it kept them wide awake even during the long hours of evening prayer. Coffee’s reputation then spread all across the globe. If coffee started out with goats, fair trade started out with the coffee industry. When it was observed that coffee farmers didn’t get their fair cost, fair trade industries started to kick in.

Reyes explained that, currently, the value chain for coffee starts out with the smallholders of the beans, then to the agents, to the consolidators, and finally, to the coffee buying stations such as Nescafe. However, this process did not leave a big enough impact to the livelihood of the smallholders.

Instead, they proposed a smaller scale value chain to be implemented in coffee communities: from the smallholders to community-based COOPs/POs/COs to community-based or local markets and eventually to export markets or markets outside of the community. As a fair trade enterprise, they offer goods and services to the communities to aid them in their coffee-making processes (ex. roasters) and also teach them how to reach their broader market.

This model implemented a value-adding strategy. Usually, farmers gain revenue by selling the raw green coffee beans that they collect from their land, without actually understanding their potential values. Green coffee beans are served 1.2x the value per kilo, roasted coffee beans are sold twice as much, while one cup of coffee is sold for 12x as much.

Gifts & Graces staff members sipping coffee while listening in on the conversation
Bote Central, the Philippine Coffee Alliance and many other coffee revolutionaries focus on the farmers, the sector that needs the biggest help. They tell organized farmer clusters to get seedlings from communities, not from corporate sources, they aid them in their sourcing of quality green beans, and lastly, they make innovations to help communities prepare coffee at no extra cost.

Bote Central now has 43 community-based coffee enterprises all over the Philippines implementing the same business model as what I had experienced in Sagada. In these areas, Bote Central was able to help the community members start to own the coffee that they were producing. They instilled in the worker’s minds that it was their craft and so helped them take charge of their businesses. These community-based coffee enterprises are developing and Vie Reyes plans to expand to many more areas.

Hopefully, in the future, more collaborations and conversations between Bote Central and Gifts & Graces will arise as a result of the emerging industry of fair trade. Thank you once again to Ms. Vie Reyes for an insightful conversation!


Mikaela Reyes, an incoming sophomore from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, is the Kaya Collaborative intern for Gifts & Graces this summer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Conversations: Sheree Gotuaco shares her insights

For this Conversation, we catch up with Sheree Gotuaco, CEO of Elite Garments, home of the Freeway, Ensemble, and Solo brands, and one of G&G's newest Directors. This interview was conducted by Lexie Shulze for the Metro Society feature. 

Name: Sheree Roxas-Chua Gotuaco

High School attended: Immaculate Conception Academy (High School)

College attended: University of Southern California (BS Marketing and Management), Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles (Fashion Design)


Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? 

My nuclear family was close. We always spent time together (my parents and 2 younger siblings) during holidays or summer breaks, even if we were already studying in the US. My parents both work, but they were almost always around for dinner and weekends. Like many children from private schools, my life was considered sheltered.


How did you get involved with Gifts and Graces? 

Marivic (Limcaoco) called me up to ask me if I would like to join and be a Director of Gifts and Graces as Sandy requested. They thought that my experience in retail would help in getting more ideas to improve the marketing and selling aspect of the products. Right now, I help in product development (creating collections for existing products) and giving suggestions and guidelines for retail penetration. I just joined the group this August and have been enjoying my involvement. It feels good to help and be creative at the same time.

Were you always into outreach growing up or did you only recently get into it?
I was part of the Social Action Student Staff in ICA. We visited some less fortunate areas. I remember that there was a time we were asked to go for an overnight in one of the communities, but my parents did not allow me. I cried a lot that night. During college and after, unfortunately, I did not have much opportunity to get involved in outreach programs.

What was your moment of epiphany to devote time to Gifts and Graces?
When Marivic called me up and told me about G & G, it sounded very interesting but I was also concerned about adding more responsibilities to my very full plate. But when she explained that I did not really need to implement the plans, but would just be guiding and working with a full team, it became a lot less daunting and more exciting.

Two main things attracted me to G & G, the first is also to be able to have the chance to expose my children to these communities. My children do not have much exposure to less fortunate communities outside family, friends and school, and through this I can hopefully make them be more aware of the realities outside their sheltered world.

Second, using creativity and ideas through products and helping the communities at the same time sounded very exciting. Working with other directors and the G and G team are also definite pluses.


What message would you like to leave the readers about their social responsibility to the less fortunate?

At this early stage, I have not seen the end fruits of my contributions yet, but from my standpoint now, I see the personal benefits like how it feels good to help and be part of the process.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Love in Business

          A few years ago, at a training session for microfinance executives, someone joked that those of us working in microfinance should automatically gain entry to heaven. I took that sentiment and shared it with the social workers in the NGO I was working with at the time. I think they are the real everyday heroes, working in education, health, advocacy to better the lives of the urban poor beneficiaries of the foundation. This would not be possible without love.

          I realize it may sound strange talking about love in business but at the core of it, I believe that's what drives social entrepreneurs and social development workers. And the concept is not limited to social entrepreneurs. Read this great blog post Love-in-Business from Jennifer Ann Gordon on her blog Business to a Different Beat. The title was so appropriate that I borrowed it for this post.

          It is from love that springs the value of treating others the way we want to be treated - to treat our employees with compassion, to listen because we want to be heard; it is because of love that we treat our customers ethically, produce the best product possible, and provide responsive customer service; it is love that fuels our generosity that enables us to give of ourselves as mentors or as supporters in a network. The list goes on.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with us and other examples of love in your workplace.