By Robert A. Vergara, Jr., Digital Reporter
AKABA’S 24–year–old Chief Operating Officer Daniel Lumain was immersed in implementing policies for government-run companies before the country changed leadership in 2016 and put an end to his two-year career.
But that backdrop gave him “not just the connections,” but also the fuel to continue being of service to his countrymen. He then returned to his undergraduate thesis at the Ateneo de Manila University and grew it into what Akaba is today: a social enterprise selling bags and accessories made of handwoven textiles by over 100 weavers from Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Abra, Oriental Mindoro, Zamboanga, Sulu, Basilan, Iloilo and South Cotabato.
“It’s our mission to help these weavers promote their artistry and craftsmanship, but at the same time create a sustainable business that is relevant to the supply chain,” he said. “When we went to Ilocos Norte, we found out that a lot of weavers create handwoven textiles for around a month or so, but only sell them for around P20 per yard, and when we went to the market we actually saw middle men selling them for P150 to P200.”
Unlike many handwoven crafts, however, Akaba didn’t target the so-called “tita market.” “We chose a younger market and lowered our price points. What we always say is if you buy a high-end product worth P10,000, sure you’ve helped a community, but when is the next time you’ll help them? We can sell a product for around P1,500, sell a hundred pieces, and basically continuously support the communities.”
Akaba currently sells its wares across major malls, but because it aims to become an established “Southeast Asian brand,” it is also expecting to enter e-commerce platform Amazon to tap the American market this year, on top of its plan to expand its ties with Cambio Market to further introduce the brand in Canada. Lumain added that the team is also considering to widen its Asian market by selling its products in Hong Kong and Japan.
“I always believe that poverty is not just an economic situation, it’s a mind-set problem,” he said. “These people changing their views, believing that there’s a chance for them to have a better life, that in itself is the biggest achievement that we’ve had.”