Saturday, January 3, 2015

A fresh start with Humabi

“A fresh start with Humabi”
Sun.Star Davao, Jan. 3, 2014

In welcoming the new year, Dr. Richard Mata and wife Erika Soriano-Mata greeted their Facebook friends with a stunning family photo and one of their favorite verses from Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

Aside from being an in-demand pediatrician, Dr. Richard has saved many lives through his top dengue website, and made doctors’ prescriptions more patient-friendly through his innovative website,

On the other hand, Erika, a hands-on mom to three charming children, Patricia, Amanda and Richardo, has used her passion for fashion in making people feel better about themselves through her numerous speaking engagements which celebrate her audience’s God-given beauty inside and out.

Last December, this much-admired family who has been an ardent supporter of the Philippine Science High School’s scholarship program launched their own line of bags to further support the cause.

Know more about the Matas’ must-have accessory and why it’s making waves with bag lovers in this interview with Erika.

*How did you start supporting the scholars of Philippine Science High School?

About two years ago, our good friend, Dr. Charina Dioso, who was the head of the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) of Philippine Science High School, asked us if we can support some students who are really gifted but are just simply less fortunate when it comes to finances. We responded affirmatively on the level that we can afford.

We saw that helping dedicated students is a good investment because we know it won’t go into waste. These are serious students and some of them can become great leaders of this nation thus our help can multiply as we may help produce brilliant citizens who can touch more people.

*What made you think about creating bags for the scholarship fund?

Richard and I are believers of education.  We believe that anybody can get out of poverty if they will invest first in educating themselves.  We wished to continue and help more students in PhilSci.  That’s when the idea of having a business that can help these students came in.  

We are inspired by the business model of the popular shoes, Tom’s; that every time you buy a pair of shoes, Tom’s will be giving another pair for free to the poor children of Africa.  

I am a lover of fashion by nature. I love bags too and very meticulous of the design and the linings, the zippers, the color, etc.  So the idea came. And, we do believe it’s divine.

What if we can sell bags of my design for this purpose?  I will enjoy it at the same time!  So we searched for sources of locally made bags but somehow wasn’t successful at the start.  But we continued our search and finally I found myself inside the Women’s Correctional Institution.  

Not that I did something illegal, but I found that I can have my designs produced there by expert tie box bag weavers.  These weavers were also happy because it will really help them in their livelihood program.  Talking with them and learning their stories on why they were there is truly heartbreaking.  Most of them are mothers with students who also needed support.

* Who will be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from Humabi?

For every purchase of a Humabi, bag lovers will be helping two groups of people: the bag weavers of the correctional institution and some chosen scholars at the Philippine Science High school.

*Why did you choose the name Humabi as your bag’s brand?

At first I thought of another name. It was supposed to be “Sisidlan”, one of the Tagalog terms for bags but when we did an Internet search, “Sisidlan” already existed so we need to think of another name. It took some time and then Richard said, “What’s the Tagalog term for weave?”  We searched our brains first but nothing really came out, so we shifted our search to Google and there it was: “Humabi”.  We looked at each other and then a light bulb appeared!  We searched for Humabi bags in the net but there was none.  We went to DTI and they said it was available and so we registered it as the official name for our brand of bags!  Thank God!

*How did you come up with the designs with your daughters?

I have 2 daughters: Patricia, 13 years old and Amanda, 9 years old.  When we discuss about designs, they usually pull out their old favorite bags and we start from there and just innovate some more.

*What were the challenges you encountered while planning for the Humabi brand?

Well there are many challenges but I love all of it.  Mostly it’s in the availability of my stocks as I am just starting out.  Just like when I launched it on my Instagram and Facebook accounts and showed my gorgeous ambassadors, I received orders immediately and even had one person order 30 pieces for her company’s Christmas give-aways! I did not expect that to happen immediately but somehow I was able to comply.

*What makes your tie box bags different from the other previously produced tie box bags in the market?

Well there are many ways Humabi is different.  To start with, it is my design.

I first asked myself, “Will I be proud to carry this kind of bag design if I go to a mall or a party?”, if my answer is yes, then I do believe it will work also for my friends and the rest of the women out there.

The quality of each bag passes through me.  Each lining is properly examined.  They know I’m very meticulous so the quality is very high or else I will bring it back to them.  I also provided a dust bag with the Humabi logo which added some elegance in the packaging.

Aside from the design and quality, what made it also different is that we placed a lot of effort in building some class to the Humabi brand with the help of our brand ambassadors who are respected mompreneurs of the city like Marga Montermayor-Nograles, Mimi Vergara-Tupas, Kaye Gempesaw and Bianca Baretto-Uy.  We also have a surprise line-up of Celebrity Ambassadors from Manila which I will soon reveal.  We also have released our website to receive orders nationwide and internationally.  

We believe Humabi tie box bags have a wide market because they are unique, attractive, strong and affordable. It also has a good story that will entice people to buy as they know they will also be helping.  We were also able to tie-up with great stores such as Soul in Abreeza and Martish beside Villa Margarita Hotel.  In other words, Humabi bags are packaged and promoted to be world-class.

* How many colors are available and what are the different names of the designs? Can you please explain their respective features?

FAITH BAG: It’s a square-shaped handbag with wave stitch design.

HOPE BAGS:  It’s a rectangular-shaped handbag with a corn stitch design.

LOVE SHOULDER/SUMMER BAGS: It’s a tote bag with a bigger size fit for outings.

KINDNESS SLING BAGS:  It has a peacock stitch design perfect for teens.

PEACE KIDS BACK-PACKS:  Circular in shape with either butterflies or flowers as accent.  Fit for little princesses.

All of the above comes in 10 different colors--black, brown, red, white, blue, orange, yellow, green, pink and purple.

*So far, how is the response of people to Humabi?

All I got are always praises for the bags!  Usually when the package comes to their homes, they get surprised the moment they see it.  It starts from the dust bag which women really love and when they open it, they can’t believe that it was all made out of tie box twines.  

They admire the craftsmanship and the dedication given to it by the weavers.  I also realized that people really have a helping heart. Knowing that they are helping both the women in the correctional and worthy students of PhilSci gives them great joy that they supported Humabi!

* What are you future plans for Humabi? 

We are all excited.  The future is really online.  My husband is my partner and actually my IT guy.  He immediately made the website for me all by himself without the need of me hiring a website developer.  

From there, we will link an ad about my website, so his thousands of readers can easily see my link and perhaps become resellers of our unique colorful bags.  We believe there’s a niche for these kinds of bags even in the first world countries especially if they will know it’s for a good cause. I am also going to introduce another design by January and Facebook and Instagram are of big help.  

But more than anything, the future that we are looking forward to is actually to see the weavers with their children still able to finish schooling even if they are still serving their sentences and also see our Humabi scholars in PhilSci to walk on stage with flying colors during their graduation ceremony.

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