Pinay Joins 2015 Forbes List of Social Entrepreneurs Under 30

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

Photo Credit: Reese Fernandez-Ruiz Twitter

Meet Therese “Reese” Fernandez-Ruiz, the 29-year old Pinay president and co-founder of Rags2Riches (R2R) who made in the 2015 Forbes list of social entrepreneurs under 30 years old. She is among the 30 individuals from over 100 nominations, as carefully selected by Forbes Magazine’s distinguished judges.

According to Forbes, Rags2Riches had “a consistent 100 percent annual growth rate” during its first 5 years of operation (2007-2012). So far, R2R has trained more than 900 artisans across Metro Manila and employed 50 people. This includes marketers, professionals, strategists, and in-house artisans.

As explained at, the project started in 2007 from women living at the Quezon City Payatas dump site, one of the largest urban poor communities in the Philippines. To make money, they used to create doormats and rugs out of scrap fabric materials (retaso in Filipino), but earns very little.

R2R said that in those times, the skills of these women are being exploited by greedy suppliers and middlemen. And due to the lack of knowledge in the business, each worker only earns P12-16 per finished product, which is equivalent to around $0.30 a day that time.

To help them increase their income, Reese Fernandez-Ruiz and R2R provided them with trainings and access to the market. The team collaborated with local well-known designers including Amina Aranaz-Aluna, Oliver Tolentino, Olivia d’Aboville, and Rajo Laurel. Local celebrities endorse their products.

Using scrap materials, the talented hands of these artisans convert them into fashionable items such as wine bottles, handbags, eyeglass cases and many more. R2R’s mission is to lift Filipino artisans out of poverty. Their vision is that one day; Filipinos who were born in poverty will not have to live in poverty.

“This only proves that Filipinos are really talented and can be very competitive if supported by honest individuals. This also shows that actions are far better than just complaining that life is hard.” Famous local economist and TV broadcaster Winnie Monsod (Mareng Winnie) told TN.

“Aside from the obvious amazing natural resources and warm, friendly people, what fascinates me most is the potential of the country to be even more amazing in many things.” Reese Fernandez-Ruiz said in 2010, when she received the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

“Our people have outstanding talent and our country has outstanding resources. This combination, if harnessed well, could make the Philippines a model country and society one day.” She added, noting that social entrepreneurs can be very successful once they commit 100 percent of their time.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz has already received other honors and awards. This includes the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011 by the World Entrepreneurship Forum. She won the Young Global Leader award by the World Economic Forum in 2012, and Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.

Among the 29 other individuals who joined the list of Forbes social entrepreneurs under 30 in 2015 include Kiah Williams, 28, (SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine); Jen Anderson, 27 and Jane Mitchell, 28, (Cofounders, The Reset Foundation), and Fiza Farhan, 28, cofounder, Buksh Foundation in Pakistan, and Minhaj Chowdhury, 25, co-founder of Drinkwell.

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