"People, planet, and profit," the formula that won Jacinto and Lirio the grand prize at the Business in Development (BiD) Challenge Philippines in 2009, continues to guide the social enterprise today.
Noreen Marian Bautista, Ma. Charmagne Celine Cruz, Ryan Pelongco, Patricia Anne Lalisan, and Anne Krystle Mariposa were seniors at Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management when they conceived the idea for the business that would put them on the map. It was at the school's business accelerator program that Jacinto and Lirio, which uses water hyacinth plant leather to create fashionable bags, really grew.
The young entrepreneurs joined the BiD Challenge in 2009, balancing academics and graduation requirements with the budding business, and eventually bested 33 other participants to win P350,000, a Web site development package, and a chance to represent the country at the Global BiD Challenge in the Netherlands.
Jacinto and Lirio, Spanish for hyacinth and lily, is a marriage of technical innovation and social entrepreneurship. It sought from the beginning to address the ecological problems presented by the spread of the water hyacinth and to provide affected communities with a stable source of livelihood, all while reaching a good bottom line.
The water hyacinth, commonly called the water lily, is an invasive, fast-multiplying aquatic plant that has become known for clogging water and irrigation systems, causing floods and increased pollution. These aquatic pests can grow up to two meters wide, reducing the marine ecosystem's light and oxygen, changing the water chemistry, affecting local biodiversity, and turning affected bodies of water into breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects.
In order to address this problem, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) has promoted the use of water hyacinth as raw material in handicrafts and furniture, and has developed several types of technology that use the aquatic pests for biogas, animal feeds, and geotextiles that prevent soil erosion.
For its part, the then-students behind Jacinto and Lirio decided to invest their grant money in training for a water hyacinth community in Pampanga, which has since served as a partner community. There are other partner communities, all suppliers to Jacinto and Lirio and all with their own cooperatives, in Pasig, Laguna, and Rizal.
The members of the community gather or harvest the stalks of the hyacinth plant, clean and treat the stalks, and then weave the stalks into sheets made to look like leather.
This not only fits into Jacinto and Lirio's desire to use Philippine indigenous materials in its products; it also appeals to the tastes of consumers both style- and eco-conscious. Jacinto and Lirio has released three lines of statement plant leather bags; the first two lines were designed by internationally acclaimed Filipino designer Cora Jacobs. Priced from P2,000-P8,000, the bags are produced in a limited number and serve as art and conversation pieces for buyers.
Since their school beginnings, the young entrepreneurs have also gone on to become finalists at the Unreasonable Institute, a social enterprise accelerator in Boulder, Colorado, and at the UK Ethical Fashion Forum Innovation Awards.
"By creating well-designed, unique and stylish bags, Jacinto and Lirio improves the lives of people from both ends of the spectrum — the communities who are empowered through meaningful work, and the people purchasing who are enriched by the fashionable products Jacinto and Lirio has created," said Ms. Bautista, in charge of the group's marketing and sales, in an e-mail.
As for the young entrepreneurs, they have gone on to pursue other opportunities, but it hasn't been the end for Jacinto and Lirio. Ms. Bautista and Ms. Mariposa continue to actively manage the enterprise, which has also diversified, adding a journal line called Kwaderno by Jacinto and Lirio.
The journals are available at Fully Booked, National Book Store and Powerbooks, while the bags are available at Firma, Greenbelt 3, Makati City; Anthill Fabric Gallery, Cebu City; CCP Shop, CCP Complex, Pasay City; and Human Nature, Commonwealth, Quezon City. Those interested may also check out www.jacintoandlirio.com.- Liana Carine G. Barcia
Raul L. Locsin Building I
95 Balete Drive Extension,
New Manila, Quezon City,
Extensions: 706, 709-711
Direct Line: (632)535-9923
Fax No.: (632)535-9925
Email: New Media Group