It was an ordinary, still-stuck-at-home kind of afternoon when I met Alaina, Yaelle, and Porsha for a zoom call. The last time I was with them was more than two years ago, at the PICC, during their graduation from the Senior High ABM Program of St. Scholastica’s College, Manila. These three are not your typical college students; they are part of the local business workforce who need to adapt to the changes brought about by the COVID19 outbreak.
Alaina, Yaelle, and Porsha are the co-founders of Terra Philippines, a thriving eco-fashion brand that began as a school requirement in the ABM program of their Senior High School. They started their student company with their classmates and created Isla (pronounced as ‘ayla’), a multi-purpose bag made from coconut coir, recycled fabric lining, and synthetic leather. Inspired by the coconut ‘wastes’ produced by the coconut juice vendor outside St. Scho, these three and their classmates made something fashionable from it. Years later, Terra continues its commitment to creating sustainable fashion items and was recently included in Scoop Asia’s “4 Filipino- owned Sustainable Brands that You’ll Get Your Money’s Worth.” I sat with them to chat about life, Terra, and their experience as teenpreneurs.
Q: What keeps you busy nowadays?
Alaina & Yaelle: School, org and internship work, studying another language, spending time with my family, and running Terra.
Porsha: I’m also using this time to focus on my creative pursuits. Currently, I am an active ambassador and mentor of JA Philippines, an NGO helping young entrepreneurs.
Q: What’s the story of Terra then and now?
Alaina: Terra Philippines began as a student company initially operated by 16 senior high school students. With our commitment to the earth, which is another definition of the word Terra, we created and sold Isla.
Yaelle: The bag piqued the public’s curiosity with its detachable pockets and impact on Filipino communities benefiting from the Pilipinas Ecofiber Corporation, along with the local sewers who helped create the bag.
Porsha: Right now, it is a challenge to continue running the business. We need to adapt to the digital space more extensively and deal with a supplier who recently closed their operations. This October, we will be joining Manila FAME as an exhibitor; it is a prestigious sourcing event for premium quality artisanal products.
Q: What does it mean to be a teenpreneur?
Yaelle: A teen who has grit, resilience, and courage to dive into uncertainty and take risks to start and run a business. They are the people who are not afraid to stand out and be different, even if not everyone understands it at first.
Porsha: You’re up to the challenge of creating something–may that be a product or a service that can fill in a gap in the market.
Alaina: To be a teenpreneur means breaking down the stereotypes associated with young age, teenagers’ sense of responsibility, and their ability to decide for themselves.
Q: What do you think are the advantages of being a teenpreneur?
Alaina: As a teenager, most of the time, we already have that certain path to follow; now, though, opportunities are everywhere, even for us, teenagers. We get so many ideas who we can be or we would wish to be. One great advantage of being a teenpreneur is that you learn about business at a young age. Making mistakes is somehow more acceptable because it affects fewer people in the process.
Yaelle: You have greater chances of experiencing early success and, of course, the rich experience that will make an entrepreneur more competitive or valuable in the market.
Q: How about its disadvantages?
Porsha: I think it’s the pressure to perform and exceed the expectations of running a business while doping schoolwork. Achieving balance could be very challenging.
Q: What’s your message to aspiring teenpreneurs?
Yaelle: Keep growing, exploring, and testing yourself, but don’t forget to be patient and be kind to yourself because it’s not easy. We each have our timelines in life, so there is no point in comparing. You’ll eventually end up where you’re supposed to be in God’s perfect timing, so keep trusting the process and the pace of your life.
Alaina: Cross that bridge when you get there. Even if being a teenpreneur makes you think about all the uncertainties you may face, think about it until you finally face it; there’s no point in worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. Take your leap of faith and follow your passion. Don’t let the invisible wall that you’ve imagined block you from taking your first step as a teenpreneur.
Porsha: Dream big. Often, you’ll find yourself questioning whether pursuing your business idea is worth it. Entrepreneurship is always about dealing with more failures than victories. But these setbacks are stepping stones towards improving your business model and understanding your industry better. I think what separates entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs is perseverance. Don’t be too quick to give up. Pivot. Adapt. Most importantly, keep your vision and dream alive.
Terra Philippines is one of the many student companies established in the ABM Program of St. Scholastica’s College Manila Senior High School, in partnership with Junior Achievement Philippines. The SHS ABM program prepares students for business, management, or accountancy courses in college through an immersive experience of establishing and operating a mini-company in their two years of Senior High School. In SY 2020-2021, Isadyale Co., a student-led company for essential, sustainable wearables like facemasks, and Paraluman, Co., for eco-friendly planters, won 1st and 2nd Place, respectively for the Company of the Year 2021 competition of JA Philippines.
By: Jonna Marie A. Lim