How Filipina 12th-graders used coconut to bag int'l entrepreneurship awards

Liza Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2019 06:03 AM

Alaina Tria and her friends would often see a vendor selling coconuts outside campus. Curious as to what happens to the husks after extracting the juice, these Grade 12 senior high-school students from Saint Scholastica’s College found out it ends up as agricultural waste. 

Passionate about environmental preservation, this motivated the team to research and discovered there are useful products that can be made out of it. 

From left to right: Gwen Villaver (EVP for marketing), Porsha Mangilit (corporate secretary), Alaina Tria (CEO), and Raphaella Sanchez (EVP for HR) with their 2019 JA CoY awards

Fashionable, functional, Filipino

With the help of mentors and teachers, the team of Alaina Tria, 17; Porsha Mangilit, 18; Raphaella Mae Sanchez, 18; and Gwen Maurie Villaver, 17, formed Terra Philippines, a start-up company manufacturing bags out of coconut coir. 

Terra’s first product, Isla, or island in the vernacular, are multi-purpose bags with detachable and re-organizable pockets made out of coconut coir and recycled textile sourced from local farming communities in Laguna, Quezon and Albay. Domestic sewers from Metro Manila, meanwhile, are tapped to piece the product together. 

“I think what motivated me into participating was the fact that I'm an environmentalist who love fashion,” Tria, the group’s CEO, told ABS-CBN News.

“When we were conceptualizing our bag, I was researching about the coconut coir, which I think is an underrated fiber with huge potential when introduced to the market, and implementing the use of recycled textiles.”

The group’s next endeavor, Bucko, will be a belt bag.

Terra’s Isla bags

Terra’s Isla bags

Terra’s Isla bags

Terra’s Isla bags

The team utilized social media in marketing the product here and overseas, meeting purpose and profit.

This business success anchored on social responsibility won first place at the 2019 JA Asia-Pacific Company of the Year competition, besting 19 other student firms from 13 countries and territories. 

Terra was also adjudged winner of the FedEx Access Award, which recognizes student-run businesses that best exhibit the principles of global connectivity. 

“It starts with a great product with a strong advocacy,” said Emilie Nolledo-Tan, who was one of the teachers and mentors of the students when they started Terra Philippines.

“They had to work hard to overcome the problems that came their way and be able to work together despite different personalities. 

“They were humble enough to be guided and learn from feedback and attention to details, from scrutinizing every word of their speech, their Powerpoint, their annual report, financials, how to present, outfits and trade booth design, etc. Details help you stand out.”

Terra with their mentors, Dean Pax Lapid and Emilie Nolledo-Tan

Indonesia’s Zeal Student Company took home second prize, with its shoes invention, which converts physical energy into Piezoelectricity that can be used as power to charge small gadgets such as cellular phones and power banks. 

Zeal Student Company of Indonesia

Another contingent from Indonesia, Sagasco Student Co., was third place with their footwear product made of water hyacinth with a touch of batik to represent the tradition and heritage of Indonesia.

It also received the Best Financial Management award by COL Financial for demonstrating good understanding of sound financial management in their business.

Sagasco Student Co. of Indonesia

Ecovators from Singapore and TEAM Bread from Korea, meanwhile, were voted as Young Entrepreneurs’ Choice Award.

“With the JA Student Companies, students not only gain their first entrepreneurial experience of starting and running a real company, through learning by doing, they have also developed the much needed 21st century skills, complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity,” said Vivian Lau, president and CEO of JA Asia Pacific.

Junior Achievement Asia-Pacific CoY competition, Manila 2019

Established in 1967, Junior Achievement programs help prepare and empower the youth to benefit from the region’s economic development and create a positive impact in people’s lives and communities. 

It helps develop future business leaders in partnership with educational institutions, equipping students to understand business, economics and entrepreneurship. 

Each year, the global JA network of over 465,000 volunteers serves more than 10 million students in over 100 countries. 

Among its distinguished Philippines alumni are COL Financial Chairman Edward Lee and Ortigas and Co. President and CEO Jaime Ysmael.