Thoughts: Sparkfest 2017

This is a skincare blog so I do relate this to skincare and talk mostly from the point-of-view of skincare. If you’ve been following H&L for beauty posts, you can skip to the very end where I talk about it directly.

 

TL;DR

  • Sparkfest is great
  • Social entrepreneurships right now are great
  • But new startups catered to the majority are what we need right now

 

I attended Sparkfest 2017 last June 24. It was a great event that clearly inspired a lot of the attendees, but there were some aspects of the whole Pinoy movement that doesn’t sit well with me.

Screen-Shot-2017-06-29-at-3.46.59-PM
Screenshot of the “About” portion in the Sparkfest website | Source

Before I start, I wanted to make a few points clear:

  • This is pure opinion on a topic I don’t have insider knowledge about. Just wanted to give my two cents and hear all of your insights too because, as mentioned, I don’t know much about the business side of it all. My full disclaimer is here.
  • I enjoyed Sparkfest and clearly saw the hardwork the organizers put into it (shoutout to the emcee in the Forum!), but I do think there are points to improve.
  • I really love the social entrepreneurships we have right now and aren’t calling on them to change. This call is for those still planning their startup.
  • The cost of the products these social entrepreneurships make are completely justifiable. They’re doing an amazing job supporting local communities, creating beautiful high-quality products, using the highly underappreciated talents of our local craftsmen and artisans, and maybe even advocating for environmental conservation too. This will reflect in their prices and I do believe they’re great value for your money.
  • The cost and screening process of events like Spark are justifiable and understandable too. This is a call for event makers hoping to follow in their footsteps. We have a lot of great but exclusive events so I hope you create one for those who normally wouldn’t be targeted by these events.

IMG_8864

So if you’re unfamiliar with the current startup and social entrepreneurship (SE) scene, this might give you a good idea:

Step 1: Check out Yabang Pinoy’s Instagram page. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a great movement advocating for pride in Filipino products. The brands they feature are a good overview of the local startups and SEs that have become relatively mainstream.

Step 2: To get an idea of where the Philippine population stands right now, check out this and this link. It’s the self-rated and official poverty incidence rating. Keep in mind where people’s priorities probably are in spending their money from these stats.

Step 3: Now head back to Yabang Pinoy’s IG or visit Kultura‘s branches if you have the time. Scout the prices of these products and keep them in mind as well.

Let’s recap:

  1. Notice that YP’s IG page is very distinctly Filipino. They feature a lot of beautiful handicrafts made by Filipinos.
  2. I’m assuming you, the reader, lives in the Philippines. You see day-to-day just how many people don’t earn enough. But if you don’t, the links say that around 50% rated themselves poor while the official percentage is 21.6%.
  3. The products are very pricey. If you did visit Kultura’s branches, you might also notice that there’s not a lot of Filipinos buying the products being sold there compared to, say, Forever 21.

Okay, the information above sets the base for my insights so I’ll get right into it now.

IMG_8903
Left to right: Armi from Up Dharma Down, Nico from Ibarra watches, Maricris from Yabang Pinoy

Sparkfest was an event targeted towards Filipino entrepreneurs and changemakers. The speakers were the do-ers who were able to become successful in this market. There were, however, a few things where the whole Filipino/Pinoy movement falls short for me.

A. The intention of the social entrepreneurships kind of contradicts who their consumer base is.

These SEs never meant to compete with the market of mainstream brands. Though they create distinctly Filipino products (remember point #1 in the recap), they wanted to create pieces that were wearable everyday. They didn’t want people to buy their products just for the sake of buying local. They wanted people to buy their products because they genuinely liked them. Yet the people buying their products often do consciously want to support local. The MUNI community (a great one, too. You should check them out if you haven’t yet.), for example, is a big supporter of these brands. They’re doing a great thing by being conscious of their actions but they don’t represent the greater market. Most people don’t consciously go local.

It was Maricris from YP that explained that many SEs don’t want people to buy local just because it’s local. But her main point in the talk too was to be conscious of where you put your one peso (Filipino brand or foreign business?). So let’s separate the two and try to address them:

  1. Local brands that do compete with the market of mainstream brands (so brands like Artwork with very wearable everyday t-shirts, Bayo, Penshoppe, Bench, etc.)
    Though not SEs, these are the local brands creating products that people really do buy not just for the sake of buying local. They may inject a bit of Filipino pride in their product line (often through “Proud to be Pinoy” shirts or the like) but their products in general typically follow Western fashion.
  2. Local brands that don’t compete with mainstream brands through distinctly Filipino artistry and design (which is the kind of business YP endorses)
    Usually SEs (or at least the most popular ones are like Anthill and Risque), they’re brands creating beautiful pieces but these pieces and prices aren’t really practical for your everyday Filipino. While the artistry and craftsmanship is undoubtedly insanely beautiful and well worth the money, that is if you have the money. And quite a lot of Filipinos don’t. Brands like these are undoubtedly awesome for what they’re doing and the sheer quality of the products they create, but this leads me to my second point and my main concern with the whole Pinoy movement in general.
IMG_8918
Left to right: Randolph Longjas (UberStories), Mito Fabie (rapper), Nina Terol (McCann World Group)

B. There aren’t SEs and startups catering to the masses yet and Sparkfest and the speakers weren’t encouraging businesses like these either.

These SEs are doing an amazing job bringing the local industries forward yet are extremely underappreciated – and it’s clear why. These brands aren’t accessible to the majority.

Screen-Shot-2017-07-01-at-8.46.17-AM.jpg
Fun fact: The students at GK (previously some of the poorest of the poor) speak fluent French and have been going to France giving speeches in fluent French and receiving standing ovations. These Filipinos have been bringing recognition to the country without most of us ever even knowing it. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

There’s an understanding among social entrepreneurships advocating for recognition of Filipino products that they’re not going to get this recognition from Filipinos. Filipinos aren’t proud of something until a lot of Westerners love it. Those distinctly Filipino brands and SEs go over so well with Westerners and overseas Filipinos more than they do in the homeland. Human Heart Nature, for example, is bigger in France than in the Philippines and the students at Gawad Kalinga can attest to that. Human Nature receives international awards year after year, yet they’re still just known locally as “that all-natural Filipino brand.”

Filipinos have a high level of colonial mentality and with the statement above in mind, it’s clear why. Good Filipino products aren’t accessible to them. Not even great, just good. (Like not repackaged alcohol kind of good. I’m looking at you, Eskinol.) The decent products that are available to the majority are from foreign companies (like Unilever). It’s easy to see why colonial mentality is so strong with lower income households when the US has always painted itself as “the land of milk and honey.” First world countries are the ones providing these low-income households decent, affordable, and practical products. From any person’s point of view, these countries just look so much better than the shithole low-income households experience everyday. How can we expect Filipinos to love the Philippines when their country doesn’t prioritize them?

IMG_8909
Zak Yuson from Rappler’s MovePH and Ivan Henares, Heritage Conservation Advocate

C. Events like these aren’t open to those who can benefit from it most.

Here’s the kicker: we don’t make good products for majority of low income households, we push for nationalism and a business mind among Filipinos, and then we make events targeted towards “changemakers” exclusive.

I’ve worked for an event similar to Spark, NYBC, TedTalk, and those youth camps and I saw the same thing. There’s always a screening process that somehow tends to keep the majority out and the privileged or the lucky ones in (often unintentionally). Whether it’s the application, the cost of event, the group of people it’s open to, or even just the language the application was in, you’ll notice from these events that the attendees are mostly affluent and well-educated.

For the record, I enjoyed Spark and I do think that my money was well-spent. The cost was understandable and I think they did a great job overall. I’m not saying they need to suddenly change and cater to the masses – it wasn’t their goal in the first place. This is a call to event planners and businesses hoping to create a similar project. We have a lot of inspiring events with great speakers catered towards “changemakers.” But just like brands, we need events catered towards everyone else.

 

I think there are more questions we need to ask for up-and-coming startups and SEs about what a Filipino brand needs to be. The events and brands we currently have are undoubtedly making a big impact in the country, but what can a new player do that’s different yet equally important as the SEs right now? Is it truly for the Filipinos if most Filipinos can’t afford these products to begin with? Do they cater to the needs and tastes of Filipinos? Can the people making these products afford their own work? And the most difficult of them all: How can we balance cheap and quality that’s accessible enough to everyday Filipinos yet preserves our environment and pays Filipino communities well?

 

Some other points I’d like to clear up and reiterate from above:

  • I know that the initial goal of SEs wasn’t to target the majority.
    • In terms of price, their products and brand values are going to cost. I guess their goal is to grow and eventually reach out to more people like what Human Nature has done (great quality products at affordable prices) but even Human Nature isn’t that accessible. Celeteque, though not an SE, has done a better job reaching out the majority (affordable, quality, accessible in all major drugstores). SEs like Human Nature are rare, but so are brands like Celeteque. We need more of both.
    • In terms of style, I guess we’re hoping we’ll adopt them as mainstream eventually?
  • I’m hoping for some kind of hybrid between SEs and big business. A big business with the advocacies and integrity of SEs is the ideal, though not necessarily feasible where the Philippines currently stands right now. :(
  • This is pure opinion on a topic I don’t have insider knowledge about. Just wanted to give my two cents and hear all of your insights too because, as mentioned, I don’t know much about the business side of it all.
  • I really love the social entrepreneurships we have right now and aren’t calling on them to change. This call is for those still planning their startup.
  • The cost of the products these social entrepreneurships make are completely justifiable. They’re doing an amazing job supporting local communities, creating beautiful high-quality products, using the highly underappreciated talents of our local craftsmen and artisans, and maybe even advocating for environmental conservation too. This will reflect in their prices and I do believe they’re great value for your money.
  • The cost and screening process of events like Spark are justifiable and understandable too. This is a call for event makers hoping to follow in their footsteps. We have a lot of great but exclusive events so I hope you create one for those who normally wouldn’t be targeted by these events.

 

Some final words:

I genuinely love our current SEs, a lot of local businesses, and great events encouraging Filipino changemakers, but I’d love to see something different and something that more people need. I honestly believe that affordable quality products and services are the best way to instill Filipino pride. If you look at how we praise first world countries, for example, we praise their most basic achievements. Like fixing a road on time, good public transportation, and clean streets. I think these “basics” are what we really need to fulfill right now if it really is going to be a Filipino movement.

IMG_8867
Sparkfest 2017! <3

I relate this better with skincare below if you’re interested (as this is a skincare blog). Hope you guys can share your insights below! You can contact me on IG or through email too if you’d rather not comment publicly. I do have a lot questions that maybe someone can answer?

  1. Do you know any successful startups and SEs that have tried to cater to the masses from the beginning? It’s obviously really hard at the beginning, but any one with a solid plan to get there from the very start. Like not in a “we’ll get there eventually” kind of way? I’ve only seen this from big companies for obvious reasons, but it’d be really cool if a beginner started in this direction.
  2. Do you know any startups and SEs catering to the masses that are just starting out?
  3. I think the Pinoy movement, where it stands right now, is about showcasing Filipino craftsmanship. And that’s great, but as mentioned, most Filipinos can only admire it from afar. You’ll really notice this with YP’s IG. The products on there are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and I’m wondering if the call for affordable but not necessarily artistic products should be a whole different movement altogether. What do you think? :/
  4. From the perspective of someone working in an SE, what are the obstacles in reaching out to majority of Filipinos? Cost (FDA approval, cost to sell in drugstores, etc) and culture seem to be the most obvious ones.
  5. If you are an organizer behind a similar event or Spark itself, would it be possible to eventually make Spark a free event that’s open for all? And possibly an event in Filipino catered towards the masses?

 


 

So here I’m gonna relate this to skincare which I hope clears up my points above:

Skincare is actually pretty basic. Like we usually think of food, clothing, and clean water as the very basics but being able to look presentable and taking care of yourself should be considered basic too. Even though we’re a developing country, it’s clear from all the whitening, anti-acne, and “beautifying” products that people of all classes want to look a certain way. The difference between the classes is what products they have access to.

If you have the time, take a trip to your nearest Mercury Drug or supermarket (ideally not in affluent areas like Rustans, BGC, or SM Makati Watsons) and check out the products available. You’ll find a lot of Unilever and P&G brands but focus on local ones. You’ll probably find Eskinol, Skinwhite, Myra-E, Maxi-peel, cheap Belo products, and a surprising lot of choices for feminine washes*. They’re all basically the same product under different brand names – whitening products that don’t work that well and don’t educate at surprisingly high prices. They seem affordable, but if you’re familiar with the local skincare scene, they’re actually pricey despite supposedly being “pangmasa.”

The sentiment you’re probably most familiar with is that they don’t work. They have been getting better the past couple of years but they’re definitely still lagging behind and bank too much on the appeal of whitening. These brands that don’t have enough integrity, surprisingly high prices, little color diversity in marketing and endorsements, and typically low quality of ingredients are what’s available to the majority.

Even in the lesser known side of the local skincare scene, the affordable products that fly best with the masses are subpar and the brands behind them are dishonest. The really good brands that do proudly state that they’re made in the Philippines? They make great products but are also expensive and never were meant for the masses either. V&M Naturals, Pili Beauty, and In Her Element are great examples of this. They make products that rival even the most well-known foreign brands and I personally love their line but their intended market was never the majority of Filipinos despite being proud to be a Filipino brand. Surprisingly, it’s the brands that don’t care about the Pinoy movement that have had the farthest reach so far. VMV Hypoallergenics, for example, probably the second most non-Filipino Filipino brand, makes some of the best formulations globally and have been very successful abroad. Yet they go through great lengths to not be known as a Filipino brand. Celeteque, which is the one exception to the disappointing drugstore brands, doesn’t go through great lengths to consciously support Filipino communities or be known as a proud Filipino brand yet they’re doing an amazing thing by providing well-formulated and affordable skincare to the masses.

I genuinely love all the outputs of the brands (except the drugstore ones), events, and movements I’ve mentioned. Even the pricey ones help the Philippines in an equally important way. While I don’t love the products that drugstore brands create, I do appreciate that they cater towards those who don’t have access to better. But a part of me also knows that they take advantage of these people too.

I started Honest & Local to promote local brands. I hoped that through this they will eventually become accessible to the masses while keeping their integrity. I’ve come across some great skincare SEs like Kala Milk and MyPrime but also equally good non-SEs like Skin Genie that make great and affordable products that are accessible to more people. I hope through this discussion we can find a good balance of both. Human Nature has done this incredibly well but I feel like they, too, are taking advantage of the lack of education of the majority through their greenwashing.

I hope that discussions like this also encourage us to educate one another and call out brands who bullshit. I can see and feel the Philippines getting better in so many ways, but I’m also class A and don’t get to experience what majority of Filipinos do.

*Feminine washes are horrible for you btw. Don’t use them. The proper way is to add one drop to a tabo of water. At that ratio, might as well not use it.

 

Advertisements

5 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Glad to have read this! I’ve also been consciously trying to support local brands in all aspects – not just skincare and makeup, but even clothes, food, etc. As a student/recent graduate, I was saddened to find that it wasn’t exactly easy on the pocket. :( Aside from being a bit more expensive, local products are harder to find. Most brands just aren’t as accessible yet, as say, Ponds (been trying to find a local alternative to their Dewy Rose Gel moisturizer in the same price range haha kaya sila naalala ko).

    As for question #2, I’ve actually been eyeing Natureals on instagram! For every soap you purchase, they donate one to charity. :) I haven’t gotten around to ordering from them yet though. I still have soaps to use up in my stash. But I’m definitely going to try their products soon :)

    I’ve also read that Hair Fairy Dry Shampoo donates a proceed of their earnings to a ward in National Children’s Hospital, a government Pediatric hospital :) It’s a bit difficult to score a bottle since stocks run out quickly, but I finally got one in a bazaar after about a month of searching!

    Like

    • Ponds isn’t actually local but their reach locally is definitely one of the widest. You might like skingenie! I suggest the tomato mask though it’s not as light as a gel but definitely has better ingredients and does leave a rosy glow. Or better yet their immortal gel! Haven’t properly tested it out for myself but the ingredients are great. I’ve only patch tested and I’m liking it so far!

      Oh I never knew that I’ll look into them! I’ve been using Kala Milk lately. Have you heard of them? Great SE as well

      Oh really? I see their product pretty often. They seem to have a lot of resellers. Sayang lang na aerosol siya. Di ata tumatanggap ng aerosal cans ang mga junk shop locally? O di marami kasi mahirap siyang irecycle o di talaga siyang marerecycle. I’ll double check though!

      Thank you for your recos!! Will def look into them more. And very true! It’s difficult to support local brands in metro manila, I can imagine how much more difficult it would be outside big cities. The ones that are very affordable aren’t so great. Even bench, penshoppe, artwork I think they manufacture their clothes abroad? May have changed though I’ll double check that as well. Have you found local brands that you really like and are affordable?

      Like

      • I know! I used to think Ponds was local pero hindi pala. But their reach is impressive! Sana ganun din ang local brands :)

        A lot of local stuff is actually manufactured abroad as well :( Even proudly local brands like Happy Skin, when I bought some of their stuff a while back, the label says Made in Taiwan! The dream is to have them manufactured here as well :)

        As for local brands I love that are affordable, I love Human Nature stuff, Detail (the make-up is really good quality!), and Celeteque :) I also use the lip and cheek tint of Skin Genie and I love it. I’ll look into the other Skin Genie products you recommended, thank you so much! :D

        And, just to veer away from skincare, a great SE is The Happy Project. IG: thehappyprojectph. They hire PWDs from manufacturing to selling the products themselves :) I’ve bought stuff from them before and I have no complaints with the quality :) Bayani Brew and Locally are also two drinks that source their ingredients from our local farmers. Locally is a bit too sweet for my liking but I dilute it and I’m good to go. Haha. Bayani Brew, I haven’t tried yet. Hopefully soon!

        Like

      • LOOOVE THEM (the happy project i mean). Ahhh you’re like my local brand twin!!! haha <3 you should check out all the partner SEs of Human Nature! Aside from Bayani Brew, their peanut butter is really good! Plus if you ever get the chance to visit GK, their duck burger is sooo fresh (you can actually visit the live ducks at the farm haha) and really good but super simple. It apparently won the best local burger award or something

        I actually have a post coming up about where to buy local beauty brands offline (and online for non-Philippine residents). Do you live around Metro Manila? I could link it to you once it's published!

        Like

      • Oh my gosh I’m so lucky to have stumbled upon your IG and your blog!! Yes please! <3 Thank you sooo much!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: