It is a deeply personal experience for me whenever I hear of or encounter a Filipinx-owned business. My knees turn to Jell-O, my palms sweat, my heart rate increases and more often than not, I tear up.
Before you call me overdramatic, it’s important for you to know the backstory. In the Philippines, entrepreneurship is not a class that you take with trust fund babies and angel investors; it is a way of life and a means of survival. From makeshift street food stands to tiangges (local markets with stalls selling a variety of goods), starting a business to survive is a common trait that most Filipinxs I know share. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Manila, and I still remember the many businesses that my relatives and neighbors have launched throughout the years.
It is especially prevalent during this time of COVID-19, when many workers were laid off or whose hours were lessened due to the pandemic.
In Filipinx culture, the act of hustling is not a cute hashtag or Instagram caption ― it is an old habit that cannot die; a side-effect of imposter syndrome; an homage to the many immigrants and ancestors who paved the way for us to live the life that we want to live.
For many, seeing Filipinx-owned businesses on a global scale is not only rooted in the act of survival, but celebrates the necessary rebellion toward the many colonizers who told us that we couldn’t.
Lydia Querian, founder and chief creative officer of Daily Malong, told HuffPost, “To me, owning a business is freedom. As a mother of a newborn, it is important to me to be able to find balance making sure that my daughter is able to have all the attention that she deserves from me. Personally, it has been a way to decolonize my livelihood, like our ancestors used to. You farm, you eat, but in a modern setting.”
There are a ton of Filipinx-owned beauty, wellness and fashion businesses that have been thriving throughout the years, but here are some that you should know about.
Kaya Essentials is an impact-driven online female artisan marketplace that showcases Filipino organic coconut skincare and other products by Filipino artisans. The brand believes in the “kaya natin″ philosophy, which in Tagalog means “we can do it.” Founder Sara Ku values this as a personal affirmation and as a community to come together and make an impact. Through their partners, they fight childhood hunger by providing a school meal for a child in the Philippines and the U.S. through their partners. Kaya’s organic virgin coconut oil is out of this world. Bathing in virgin coconut oil is part of a beauty ritual in parts of the Philippines, and Kaya has successfully managed to bottle this experience and make it accessible for Filipinxs abroad.
Created in a dorm room in 2013, BRWNGRLZ’s mission was to create representation of women of color in the accessory world by having Black and brown models wearing their products. Since then, it has become a laser-cut jewelry company that has donated thousands to U.S. and Philippine organizations for the safety and well-being of Black, Indigenous and marginalized communities. Their accessories are well-made, trendy and hella fly.
Cambio & Co. is an ethical retailer specializing in contemporary, conscious fashion made with Filipino soul. It exists to create sustainable livelihoods for artisans in the Philippines, while empowering Filipinos in the diaspora to #WearYourHeritage and reconnect with culture through fashion. Cambio’s beautiful and diverse pieces are one-of-a-kind, and the brand cares deeply about ethical employment for those in the Philippines.
The sister company of Cambio & Co., Sinta & Co. empowers couples in the Filipinx diaspora to celebrate their heritage on their special day. It provides beautiful Filipinx accessories and ceremony essentials for their weddings.
Daily Malong is an e-commerce store offering handwoven products directly from the different indigenous communities in the Philippines. The store’s business model strives to empower weavers and artisans, and purchasing directly from them makes it a sustainable and ethical operation while making it accessible to Filipinx in the diaspora. Daily Malong’s products are inimitable and come from the Philippines’ diverse indigenous communities; they cannot be manufactured or imitated anywhere else.
Founded by Filipina Isadora Alvarez, Back Beat Co. is a perpetually cool lifestyle brand born and bred in California. Built with every step and thread in mind, the Cali-cool company provides West Coast basics like tees and jumpsuits, infused with California’s surf and skate culture. Their jumpsuits are breezy and feel like butter on the skin. Best of all: They are so good for the environment. Buy. Now.
Pinay Collection is a Toronto-based merch line featuring minimalist and hand-lettered designs for unapologetic Filipina/xs. By featuring Tagalog words known to diminish and shame Filipina/xs, this brand works to highlight resistance and stories of reclamation. From Zoom meetings to socially distanced Filipinx get-togethers, Pinay Collection’s merchandise line is a way of claiming one’s independence and highlighting one’s resistance ― all while looking cute.
MAAARI creates swoon-worthy and sustainable products that are rooted in age-old Filipinx traditions. Fil-Am owned and operated since 2016 by Ivy Ocampo and Jeanette Sawyer, MAAARI features beautiful minimalistic jewelry/accessories and Pinterest-worthy home goods. MAAARI (ma’a’a•ri’) in Tagalog means “what is possible” and “can be done.”
Magpie Alchemy provides botanical skincare, CBD and self care products. The owners’ wellness journey began when their daughter Maggie (Magpie) was born, and they wanted to take charge of their family’s health. Their choice to limit exposure to chemicals and artificial ingredients led them to research and study how their ancestors used the healing power of plants to take care of their bodies. All the products found in their urban apothecary are, according to them, “equal parts science and love.”
Malaya Botanicals is a WOC-owned business that provides premium CBD products to support one’s healing. Before launching Malaya Botanicals, Filipina American founder and CEO Pia Barton looked for ways to relieve her injury-related pain from being a triathlete, as well as her debilitating fibromyalgia. Created by women and for women, Malaya Botanicals’ products aim to inspire women to practice daily self-care through the healing power of CBD.
If you’re interested in learning more about Filipinx-owned businesses, please check out @pinayista, a community of self-identified Filipina entrepreneurs.