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December 19 2017

Olivia & Diego | Upcycled Jewelry

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Yana Santiago, a 26-year-old Filipina who’s passionate about social entrepreneurship, fashion, and local brands. I believe in the power of community.

What exactly is Olivia & Diego?

Olivia & Diego is a social business that works with communities of stay-at-home mothers and human trafficking survivors to create upcycled jewelry made out of fabrics from discarded cotton-knitted tshirts that are beyond repair and fabricated into woven ropes.

What inspired you to start Olivia & Diego?

After graduating in Manila, I decided to go back to my hometown, which is Davao City. I found an NGO, Taikala, Inc. who supports women who were trafficked (and also prostituted). They were looking for a livelihood where these women can be more involved at the same time earn an income. At that time, I was very interested about social entrepreneurship as I have briefly learned about it in college.

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I looked for ways to learn by entering several contests. Initially, I submitted a business plan to Social Global Business Summit 2013 hosted by Yunus & Youth in Kuala Lumpur. I represented the Philippines in the Young Challenger Competition, joining other social entrepreneurs from other countries. I got inspired to develop the idea more that eventually led to working with the communities and launching the brand.

How did you come up with the name?

On a week-long surfing trip at Mati City in Mindanao island, my teammate, Kayan and I met a married Moroccan couple, Olivia and Diego, who were backpacking their way across the Philippines.  We were so inspired with Olivia and Diego’s passion for life and their commitment to giving back to nature, making wonderful memories along the way. These values were what helped shape the brand’s culture.

Where are your products sold? Are they sold in stores?

They’re sold in the Philippines, Malaysia, Canada, UK, Germany, Belgium, Singapore, Japan, Australia, and the US. Usually, they are sold in local online shops but we also consign in different stores in those countries.

What is your favorite part about running Olivia & Diego?

My favorite part about running the business is I get to learn everyday – from my artisans, partners, customers, and from running the business itself. The experience always challenges me to re-learn what I know and how it’s not always by the books.

Your products are handmade out of happiness, can you share with us how?

When we had the first few sessions with my teammates, we always had fun – whether it was staying up late at night or doing shifts at booths when we were just starting out. It was always a lot of laughs and inspiration. The first few pieces were done with smiles on our faces and hopes in our hearts that our story will be heard.

Is there a favorite product?

I love the necklaces because it can effortlessly add color to any outfit – whether it’s a plain white shirt or a little black dress. It’s very versatile!

How do you spread the word about your company?

I share Olivia & Diego’s story wherever I go, even if I’m not the best public speaker. I’m amazed at how much support it has been getting through word of mouth. I also e-mail a lot of potential partners, retailers, advocates, and design collaborators.

Fashion,Look Of the Day, Jackets, Fall Fashion,

Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?

Your “why” will be your fuel in times of uncertainties or self-doubt. Always remember “why“. Your “why” is the story that gives you a sense of direction because it re-aligns you with your purpose.

Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 

“The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.” -Sophia Amoruso, #GirlBoss

About She's Fit to Lead

She's Fit To Lead is a community for the next leaders of our generation. We believe the simple act of connecting with one another is a critical step in building confidence and a successful future. Our community connects young women at college campuses and starting careers across the country, challenging and empowering them to unlock their true potential. ABOUT SFTL

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