Ma-daughter tandem creates growing ‘anthill’ fabric venture
It started with a goal to set up a business that will allow a mother-daughter tandem to do what they wanted—have a business that will cater to the high-end market and help communities as well.
Annie Tan Lim and daughter Anya opened Anthill Fabric Gallery in Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City, on Feb 6, 2010, with that concept in mind.
It was a perfect tandem as Annie has been in the textile business for 18 years while Anya has been exposed to many social work activities, which has given her a chance to work with ethnic tribes in the country.
Annie started in the textile business serving a niche market targeting high-class families, who wanted textiles custom-made for their parties.
“She used to have a shop here in the uptown area, but she later went downtown and set up Black Fabric, which caters to those that orders in bulk,” said Anya.
Anya said her passion had always been to do something to help improve lives of other people especially communities in different parts of the country.
With the Anthill Fabric Gallery setup, the partners said they decided to have two segments of the business—a limited fabric cuts segment catering to the high-end market and a social segment, which is the social enterprise part of the business.
For the social enterprise segment, mother and daughter invested time and effort to visit the different communities that they could tap as suppliers and partners for products that they could display in their shop.
Because Anya has been exposed to these types of works, she got help from various foundations and civic organizations that refer them to these communities.
“Now we are working with different communities from the three regions in the country. In Luzon, we are engaged with a rural Abra weaving community, in the Visayas, we have an urban community of mothers in Tisa that makes our rag dolls and in Mindanao, we have the tribal community of Tingue in Bukidnon that makes our antique accessories,” said Anya.
Two years ago, Annie and Anya were working full-time to set up and grow the business. Now, they have at least eight full-time employees to help them with the day-to-day operations
The cash cow of the business at present is their limited fabric cuts from all over Asia, which Annie’s patrons in her previous business patronize.
The limited fabric cuts are also a hit among Cebuano designers and design students who come and buy fabrics for their designs.
“We also have guest designers whom we consult for our product developments especially when it comes to creating more value for the products that we get from our communities just like the woven fabrics that we develop into something relevant to young people now,” said Anya.
In their shop they have three sections—the Fabric Sugar Rush, the Indie Workers Trail and The Colony.
The Fabric Sugar Rush is where they showcase their collection of limited fabric cuts, which they buy from all over Asia.
According to Anya, what people like about the limited cuts is that if they buy it, they will be the only one that has it in Cebu because they can only buy from three to six meters of the one kind of fabric.
The Indie Workers Trail section, on the other hand, is where they showcase the works and products of their communities like the hand-woven fabrics from Abra, the rag dolls from Tisa here in Cebu and all other products that they have developed from the hand-woven fabrics like an iPad case, receipt organizer, a notepad, and a travel envelop.
They also feature the products developed by one of their employees named July.
“July’s insects and Balay ni July are made of indigenous materials. His ants made of the ‘sigay’ shells were a hit when we opened, so we asked him to make more insects that we are now displaying here,” she said.
The Colony section aims to encourage young entrepreneurs to start their business by displaying their artistic products there like accessories made of rolled papers, clothes designed by student designers and more.
According to Anya, they have guest designers whom they tap to tell them about trends in colors and designs, which they then request their communities to incorporate in their products.
Anya said these helped them create more products that people would like to have.
The mother-daughter tandem see many potentials especially the hand-woven fabrics of our local weavers, which they want to promote as something that people can use in many things not only for clothes during “Linggo ng Wika.”
“We aim to help recreate our culture to make it matter to the future,” said Anya.
The partners are also developing more products that they can sell in their shop.
Riding the wave of technology, Anya said they would soon launch their online shop where people could conveniently shop at Anthill right at their computers.
“Well, it’s our way of making sure that I can still continue promoting the business even while I study in Australia for a year,” said Anya, who is leaving on February for Australia.
The partners plan to introduce the online shop in their second year anniversary celebration.
Anthill Fabric Gallery is one among few social enterprises that we have now in the country and is a rare one being an investment by a Filipino.
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