Cristina Patwa could talk for hours about her beloved grandmother, Pamela, who passed away early this year. At one point during our interview, the Los Angeles-based Filipina entrepreneur was even moved to tears recalling her memories of childhood spent with her lola.
“She was very tough, very loud, very much the boss of the household,” she tells ANCX of the woman she fondly calls Mommy Pame.
Cris was born in Davao City. She and her family moved to the US—to Queens, New York to be exact—during the 1980s. For most of their childhood in the Philippines, Cris and her siblings were taken care of by their grandmother while their parents strived to make a living.
Mommy Pame owned a fruit farm where Cris, her brothers, and cousins would tire themselves out running around. Once everyone’s exhausted, a merienda of freshly picked mangoes and buko awaited them. It was in this farm that the now successful entrepreneur got some of her early lessons in running a business. She saw how her grandmother created a real sense of community among the farmers, and how she treated them like family. “She lived to feel connected with other people,” she says.
Cris admits to being “a very shy, anxious child.” But thanks to her “rebellious, loud lola,” she gained the confidence she needed to pursue her dreams. She graduated magna cum laude with a BSBA in Accounting and MIS from Boston University. She eventually obtained an MBA from UCLA Anderson, a CPA in the state of California, and graduate certificates from Stanford University and Tufts University.
Despite the fact her grandmother has passed on, she remains an influential figure in Cris' life. Mommy Pame was her inspiration for Enroot—the beverage company she co-founded with no less than Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt and producer John Fogelman.
Cris, who worked in finance, has made a name for herself in the US entertainment and media industry over the years. One of the last posts she held was as Director of Business Development for the Disney-ABC Television Group where she was in charge of $500M in retail revenues for hit shows such as J.J. Abram’s “Lost,” Shonda Rhimes' “Grey’s Anatomy,” among many others.
Her media stint opened doors to developing friendships with John, who was J.J. Abram’s agent. John, meanwhile, has been friends with Brad for about 25 years. And Cris, for her part, was previously co-CEO of FactoryMade, which oversaw the development of businesses that include the Chateau Miraval olive oils with the Jolie-Pitt family.
“I was very pregnant when I first met Brad [many years back],” the Hollywood exec-turned-entrep tells us. She remembers the actor to be very warm and affable, and he struck her as a real artist. “You can see this in how he works, how his brain kind of moves like an artist, how he feels his way through his instinct.”
It was the actor’s idea to create a healthy, alcohol-free beverage and the Filipina welcomed it. But she said she would like the company to be built with a sense of community, a value that’s embodied in small-scale farming—something she learned from her grandmother. “The idea of community is very hard to find right now in the US, in these divisive times,” says Cris.
The group named the company Enroot because, as the brand’s website says, it is “a verb that means to implant by fixing our roots into the earth.” Since it was founded by a caring community of chefs, farmers, advocates and entrepreneurs, they wanted a name “that could represent our strong connection to our food, the earth and each other.”
But what exactly is Enroot?
“Enroot is an alcohol-free replacement for let's say a champagne or a cocktail,” says Cris, “meant to be enjoyed with friends, with food—the way you would a champagne or a cocktail but in an alcohol-free form.”
Produced in partnership with the James Beard Foundation, the esteemed non-profit culinary arts organization, and 12 award-winning chefs from its Impact programs, Enroot was designed to become a healthier beverage alternative for those looking to cut down on their calorie and sugar intake. It claims to only contain 25 calories, has no added sugars and sweeteners, no lab-processed ingredients, is vegan / plant-based, gluten-free, and kosher.
This early, the product has gotten very positive feedback. It was recently honored with a NEXTY award as Best New Organic Beverage. NEXTY is a biannual awards program organized by New Hope Network to recognize “innovative, inspirational and integrity-driven products in the natural products industry.”
As for her very famous business partner, Cris tells us he definitely makes sure he has time for Enroot. “Brad designed everything you see here,” the Pinay businesswoman says, pointing to the bottles of Enroot in front of us. In fact, in time for the premiere of his movie “Bullet Train,” the brand launched a limited edition Ladybug Relax tea blends, which is named after the film’s lead character.
Cris knew her grandmother would have been very proud of her if she were still alive to witness her success. “We’ve crafted something really special, which embodies the values that my grandmother planted in me,” the dutiful apo says. “I feel like she kind of knew I could do more, that I could do great things one day.”