Morning Routine

These days, I spend the first two hours of each morning at the garden. My mom once told me that everything looks so serene at 5:00 in the morning and after finally having the strength to wake up that early, I had to agree.

Our garden is usually a blend of colors but at 5:00 in the morning, everything looks like it’s desaturated and under a blue filter with an opacity of approximately 25%. It’s not the depressing kind of blue. Rather, it’s the kind of blue that makes you want to sit back and enjoy your cup of hot tea and patiently wait for the sun to show up.

I recently took on the responsibility of looking after my mom’s Echeveria collection and I’ve been trying to apply the things I learned from various articles online. I wasn’t born with a green thumb, but taking on this project is such a huge responsibility so I try to lessen the casualties as much as possible. I make it a point to water them once a week, give them enough sun, and make sure they are healthy. The Echeverias are looking fine, so far. As a matter of fact, I noticed some mini Echeverias this morning:

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Pups also started to appear in some of our cacti. It takes so much time and effort to nurture these plants that’s why my mom and I were thrilled when we saw the teeny tiny versions of our cacti and succulents.

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Yellow Mandala | Canon 550D
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Grafted Gymnocalycium mihanovichii | Canon 550D

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I usually spend the whole two hours at what I call the “propagation station” and monitor the progress of the herb cuttings and some of the succulents. Majority of the first batch of herb cuttings I planted during my grandfather’s birthday died so I tried use a different technique in propagating the second batch of cuttings.

It’s a nice break from all the articles I’ve been writing and crafts I’ve been doing. I have to admit though, there are days when I feel extra impatient. I understand that it takes some time for the plants to grow, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like it’s taking forever to see any progress. There are days, however, when I’m rewarded with blooms from our plants. I must say, seeing their beauty makes the whole waiting period worth it.

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The last picture is actually a Spearmint. I removed the flowers after taking the picture because according to some articles, the leaves begin to taste bitter once the flowers appear.

 

It’ll take a few more weeks for the pups and herb cuttings to grow into healthier and well, much older versions of themselves. Until then, we’ll have to continue our morning routine and take good care of every single one of these plants.

How about you? What’s your morning routine?

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Google My Business Workshop Seminar

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Google My Business Poster | (c) Avel Manasala

When you graduate from the university, you think that finally, you can stop studying and learning. Well, that thought is indeed inviting. However, once you begin to apply for jobs or work for offices/companies, you realize that it’s a different playing field. The rules have changed, and you need to keep up. You then go back to browsing articles online, learning what needs to be learned, and equipping yourself with the tools that you need to prepare you for your career.

Since I decided to take the leap of faith and become a social entrepreneur, I have to keep looking for resources, services, and tools to help me grow and manage my business. As a social enterprise that’s based in Cotabato City, it’s even more difficult to reach out to clients because of all the bad publicity. People usually think of Cotabato as a place of war and that’s definitely not the case. For quite some time, I’ve been thinking of ways to reach out to more people, I’m just fortunate that I was introduced to Mr. Avel Manansala of Google Business Groups – General Santos City.

He then invited me to attend the Google My Business Seminar Workshop which was held at STI College Gensan. Through the seminar, I learned about the different Google products that I can use for Eco Choices. It’s funny because I’ve been using the Google search engine and Gmail since around 2006 but I had no idea that they also offer products that can help you put places on the map (Google Maps), rate and review establishments (Google Local Guides), and keep track of clicks and site visits (Google My Business). Mr. Marcus Foon, the GBG community manager (GLOBAL) based in Singapore,  answered our questions and gave us tips on how we can maximize Google’s products and features such as this one:

Map

People usually use Google Maps to look for specific places and directions. I had no idea that it can also be used to display some of your products, input some information about your business, answer queries, and post reviews. I was also stoked to see Eco Choices on the map! So yeah, if you want to find us, just type Eco Choices on your Google Map and you’ll find us. You can also leave a review so we know how to improve our business.

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(c) Avel Manansala

About thirty entrepreneurs with different products and services attended the seminar. We were all given a chance to talk about ourselves as entrepreneurs and share our products and because of that, we were able to network with each other. I’m sure  we all Googled each other after the workshop.

We were also interviewed by Rean Hazel Hacosta of TV Patrol Soccsksargen:

 

The Internet is a powerful tool that should not be limited to the use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While it’s no secret that these social media platforms help boost online presence and improve business, there are other products and services offered by Google that can help you closely monitor your business.

Mr. Avel and Mr. Marcus, thank you once again for the opportunity. I learned so much from you. Until next time! 🙂

 

Eco Choices: Product Shoot

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Two hands, countless crafts, endless possibilities. | Canon 1000D

I spent the entire morning crouching over our wooden table to take pictures of Eco Choices‘ water hyacinth crafts. While it’s always difficult to wake up early on a weekend, I had to fight the temptation to go back to bed because during the Visual Merchandising Workshop, Mr. Rey Soliven mentioned that the best time to do a product shoot is between 9:00 – 11:00 in the morning via natural light. I found a wooden table by the window and after preparing everything, I started to shoot.

I had to measure every single product, after placing it carefully on the table. I wanted to photos to be bright, sharp, and clean not because they will be used for our website, but because the products are equivalent to sleepless nights, expensive workshop fees, revised design concepts, body pains, and hours that I will never get back. I only noticed that I’ve been working for hours when my back started to hurt. I looked at the products and I couldn’t believe I made those. Two hands. Countless water hyacinth crafts.

I’m not writing this so I can brag about what I can do. I’m writing this because I want to give you a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. There are stories behind each output, and the effort put into each and every single one of them is exceptional. It’s not secret that the products are not perfect and that’s okay because at the end of the day, it’s their imperfections that make them beautiful.

 

 

Entrepreneur Diaries: E-Commerce Seminar + Visual Merchandising Seminar and Workshop

Last May 24, 2016, entrepreneurs gathered at the Greenleaf Hotel in General Santos City to attend the Seminar on Expanding your Business through E-Commerce, an event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry Region 12 in coordination with the E-Commerce Office, the Regional Operations Group, and the Special Concerns Group of DTI. Topics such as Introduction to E-Commerce and Different Internet Payment Platforms were discussed by Ms. Janette Toral, e-commerce advocate of the Philippines and owner of http://digitalfilipino.com.

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So far from the stage but so ready to learn! | Olympus C-5060

I was still a bit groggy when I arrived ( I left Cotabato City at 5:00 in the morning) and during the first few minutes of the seminar, I was overwhelmed with the numbers that Janet showed in her presentation. Apparently, there are billions of internet users all over the world and a huge percentage of that are active social media users. These numbers are impressive! Representatives from Shopify, Ureka, TackThis, Paypal, Gcash, and PayMaya were also there to tell us more about their products and services.

The Visual Merchandising Seminar and Workshop was scheduled the next day, May 25, 2016 at FB Hotel in Koronadal. It was nice to sit down and listen to one of my mentors, Mr. Rey Soliven as he emphasized the importance of visual merchandising and showed various techniques on how to present our products. I think it’s high time that I learned about visual merchandising, especially since our team struggled during the Treasures of Region 12 Trade Fair last year – we did not have the right tools, and we had a hard time decorating the booth.

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Bedazzling Booth Concept | Asus Zenfone

We created mood boards, mini booths, and come May 26, 2016, we were asked to execute the designs that we submitted. There were busy hands everywhere, and it was just refreshing to see the creativity and resourcefulness of the participants. Rewards were given at the end of the program, and after an exchange of calling cards, the participants were finally on their way home.

As a rookie in the world of entrepreneurship, I’m grateful for events like these. I get to network with fellow entrepreneurs, and I always leave with a cup filled with new business-related discoveries.

Eco Choices Craft Workshop: Water Hyacinth Frames

Always share your story. Keep it short, simple, and make sure that it’s attached in all of your products. Don’t forget to include your contact information, of course.

I kept hearing that reminder in almost every workshop I attended. I wrote and revised the story of Eco Choices in the hopes that with a few words, people will understand what the battle cry of our social enterprise is. We’re a small business based in Cotabato City, we have a soft spot for social work, and the only reason why we started with this business is because we wanted to help provide solutions for the increasing water hyacinth problem in our part of the country.  The beginnings may be simple, but our dreams are big that’s why we’re always excited to tell people about our business and share what we know about water hyacinth crafts.

It was one of those dry and humid nights last April when I received a text message from Ian Magallona, a student from the Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He asked about Eco Choices and invited us to share what we know about making water hyacinth frames. I cringed at the thought of facing college students and teaching (introvert alert!) but I decided to give it a go since it’s an opportunity to let more people know about our business and it would be nice to teach a craft workshop again. After a few more exchange of emails, I found myself in a bus on the way to General Santos City.

I met with Ian and his group mates the night before the workshop to give them a crash course on water hyacinth frame making. Some steps were tricky, but they managed to pull it off and finish the frames just a few hours before midnight. They also gave me an orientation on what to expect during the workshop, plus a short list of topics that I should discuss during the session.

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Showing the students how to measure the chipboard.

The next day, we went to Grab-A Crab for the workshop. There were approximately 60 students in the function room, all ready to learn how to make water hyacinth frames. I began the session by telling them about my story, and why I’m into handmade products. I then told them about the humble beginnings of Eco Choices and then showed them the different products that we have. After a few more minutes, it was time to teach them how to make the water hyacinth frames.

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I walked around the room to assist those who struggled with the materials. I kept telling them that it’s okay if the output isn’t perfect since that’s not what the goal is. They were there to learn how to make water hyacinth frames and everyone did exactly that. As a facilitator, I stopped myself from imposing what the output should be, since each person’s creative process and interpretation is different. By the end of the session, I was surprised to see that some of them made 3d art on their water hyacinth frames. I also noticed that some of the students decided to save the paper because according to them, the texture is nice and they want to use it for something else.

It was a joy to watch the students go home with their water hyacinth frames. Some didn’t finish on time, but they still brought the materials home because they’re determined to finish and use the water hyacinth frames. It was a joy teaching them and learning from them.

IMG_1605To the 2nd year Business Management students of MSU-GSC, thank you so much for having me. Until next time! 🙂

Eco Choices: Water Hyacinth Keychain

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Water Hyacinth Keychain | Canon 550D

This is one of the mini projects I’ve been working on for weeks. We’ve received a lot of requests to produce water hyacinth keychains but since we were very busy, I never had the time to sit down and work on design concepts and prototypes. Finally, after a lot of edits, we can finally launch these handcrafted Water Hyacinth Keychains.

Made with water hyacinth paper, brass plated metal, and semi-precious stones. You can use these to accessorize your bags and wallets. It can also be an instant necklace once you add a chain.

Each piece is unique. No two pieces are the same. Available at Eco Choices

Flow

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The Accidental Glass Coaster | Canon 550D

You never know what to expect when you’re working with resin. Even if you strictly follow the instructions, sometimes external factors affect your output. Case in point: floral bangles. I tried to work with dried flowers and turn them into bangles, but I ended up with a bigger, and much more colorful coaster from my Alma Mater.

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Doubtful | Canon 550D

Marley is definitely not impressed with the output. Well, so was I but it was so hard to pop out the coaster. I think I spent the whole morning using up most of my upper body strength but to no avail.

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Anticipation | Canon 550D

Of course when things don’t work out, it’s best to proceed to the next task so off I went to the next item on my to-do list: production for Eco Choices. After hours in the work shop, I managed to finish a new set of accessories! I’ll post it tomorrow so stay tuned!

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Downward Dog | Canon 550D

When I finished production, I went outside to shoot. That’s Mordred, our Aspin, trying not to fall asleep during yoga.

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Bloom Forever | Canon 550D 

In case you want to know what happened to the coaster, ta-da! 🙂

The Sunday Currently | 02

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And You’re To Blame | Canon 550D

Writing this after walking around our garden. I borrowed my mom’s 50mm again and took some pictures of flower and garden accents. Don’t you just love the bokeh? I played with different settings and produced various results but the picture above is my favorite.

CURRENTLY 

Reading
Wordpress shout outs from all over the globe. Thank you everyone !:)

Writing
The Sunday Currently vol. 2

Listening
To my favorite person. ^_^

Thinking
Of things to do next week.

Smelling
The scent of liquid detergent.

Wishing
For permits to finally be approved next week. Also, no power interruptions please!

Hoping
For peace and joy in my heart.

Wearing
My favorite UP shirt and board shorts.

Loving
Second chances, guys who prove that chivalry isn’t dead, and people who are willing to lend a hand.

Wanting
A big bowl of ice cream.

Needing
Stronger lungs.

Feeling
A lot of emotions.

Join The Sunday Currently link-up by siddathornton!

Sneak Peek

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An Experiment| Asus Zenfone

You work on an item for days with an image of the possible output in your head.

Once the output is finished, you realize it can be something else.

Behold, Eco Choices‘ first collaboration with a fellow entrepreneur here in Cotabato City.

I’ll officially “launch” this soon. Stay tuned. 😉