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.
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.
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.
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.
“I got a blank face baby… and I’ll write your name”
Someone dropped by the store today to give me this mask. Turns out I’m invited to participate in an exhibit and I’ll be using this blank face as my canvas. The best part is, I have the freedom to do whatever I want with the mask! I’ll be posting the final output so stay tuned! 🙂
I took a break from work and stepped outside when I noticed that it started to rain. I wanted to take macro shots with my Olympus C-5060 and capture the glossy finish of the raindrops but since I wasn’t getting the photos that I want, I switched to my trusty Canon 550D. It was cold outside, obviously, but I didn’t mind because I was busy taking pictures of the raindrops.
I like how raindrops sit on top of leaves or flower petals. It’s like there’s a universe with teeny tiny people inside every single one of them. I tried so hard not to touch the leaves while shooting so they won’t fall off. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing in my head the whole time.
It took me a while to find the perfect combination of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to capture this. I was also doing the Asian squat the whole time and it was quite a struggle. I love the photo nonetheless.
Someone played in the rain this afternoon. I wanted to scold him, but then he flashed me those big brown eyes and my heart melted. It’s unfair, really. I have his meds ready just in case he ends up with fever tomorrow.
The raindrops made pleasant sounds as they hit our roof. I stood there for a while, listened, and tried to tune the world out. I then found peace in the rhythm of the falling rain and the scent of wet garden soil.
I went back to work after taking this picture. It was a short break, but it was enough to make me feel energized. I hope I get to take more pictures tomorrow, with or without rain.
Fact: not all days are awesome. Some days are better than others, some worse, and some days you break your favorite glasses. Yes, the one that makes you look like a librarian (even if you really are a librarian, minus the glasses).
I was closing the gate yesterday when I noticed that the flowers in our garden were in full bloom. Just imagine, in a sea of green, there were spots of yellow, purple, lavender, pink, and red in different shapes and sizes. I grabbed my Olympus C-5060 and started taking pictures of the flowers. Determined to highlight the details of each flower, I decided to use my camera’s macro feature.
Here’s the thing: it’s been seven years since I last used that camera so it took a couple of epic fail photos before I managed to capture the photo above. The bud is smaller than my fingernail and I’m just happy that the details are visible.
I guess I also wanted to zero in on seeing beauty in adversity, rising after each fall, bouncing back, or simply… paying attention to the tiny details that we often neglect. The downside of social media is that it’s so quick to react and bash people since we’re given that venue to do so.
I believe it’s still important to take things with a grain of salt, pause, and research before channeling our inner keyboard warrior and saying things that will be screen capped at some point in the future.
No really, I just wanted to take pictures of the flowers.
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.
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.
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.
To the 2nd year Business Management students of MSU-GSC, thank you so much for having me. Until next time! 🙂