Spirited Lights: How four students started a social enterprise to aid Aetas from Arayat, Pampanga

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave SEAtizens Quatro
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By: Patricia Yap 

 

Starting a business is no easy feat. However, having a genuine and set purpose from the very beginning makes starting one, worth the risk.

And for college friends Bianca, Angelli, Lizzie, and Cory, their purpose for starting their social enterprise Quatro Aroma was to champion the skills and empower the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of the Philippines.

For this edition of SEAtizens, we are featuring the team of Quatro Aroma, who aims to support the Aeta community during the pandemic.

SEA Wave - Quatro aetas SEAtizens Launched digitally in 2020, Quatro Aroma is a small social enterprise that sells premium soy-blend candles with scents inspired by wondrous local destinations in the Philippines. Each one carefully hand-made and hand-poured by Aeta families in Arayat, Pampanga.

Lights for the community

Before becoming the steadily rising enterprise that it is today, however, Quatro Aroma started out—and continues—to be their senior thesis. Nonetheless, the four already agreed during the early stages of thesis brainstorming and business development that they were determined to make Quatro permanent.

“We all agreed that we wanted to commit to it until after college to really maximize impact and attain our goal—which is to empower the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines. How can we achieve that goal if we only commit to Quatro for one year, right?” said Lizzie Jaehn, Quatro Aroma Marketing & Sales Head.

The Quatro team’s main goal was to provide a sustainable and substantial form of livelihood to the IPs and to showcase their unique indigenous skills, strengths, capabilities, and craftsmanship, all the while being done in an ethical and safe environment.

In doing so, their partnered IP community is involved in almost every phase of product development: From candle-making, to package design, and to even certain areas of the actual business process.

SEA Wave - Quatro aetas SEAtizens

External Relations and Creatives Head Angelli Soliveres said they initially sought an IP community that already knew how to make candles and could be a supplier for raw materials, but understood this would not create the true social impact and involvement they wanted.

“We decided to shift the business model—from merely sourcing materials from the community of Aetas to placing them at the forefront of operations,” said Product Development & Operations Head Bianca Doria.

Quatro’s scents are inspired by local destination spots in the Philippines that when thought about, bring a child-like sense of nostalgia. Each member of the team associates memories with these locations that they’re sure others can recall as well.

“My favorite would definitely be Sunbathing in La Union. I really love the beach and having a scent that can take me back to that experience pre-COVID definitely helps me relax at home,” Soliveres said.

At present, Quatro has four signature scents: Mornings at Camp John Hay, Unwinding at San Benito, Sunbathing in La Union, and Strolling at Dangwa.

Their best-selling candles right now are Mornings at Camp John Hay, nature-esque and homey with notes of pine, fresh cedar, sandalwood, and fir, and Unwinding at San Benito, aromatherapeutic and sweet with a blend of camomile, lavender, and eucalyptus.

SEA Wave - Quatro aetas SEAtizens

Executing tangible impacts

Regularly, the Quatro team goes to Arayat to conduct candle-making and other focus workshops that will be beneficial to the Aetas. Quatro Finance Head Cory Pavia said they noticed the Aetas’ quick interest in candle-making and often asked questions regarding the business process itself.

Soliveres shared that after their first workshop with the community of Aetas, they were informed that they already secured another livelihood opportunity by simultaneously producing candles as well for another small and town-localized business.

Moreover, Pavia shared how the Aetas were keen on discovering scents around their area, pitching how these could be added to the candles. “[This] is a promising start for more empowered involvement of the IPs in the business,” she said.

Every step of the way, Quatro envisions their partner community to go beyond actual skill into a “growth mindset” that’s coupled with entrepreneurial knowledge so the IPs could stand solid on their own.

“After all, Quatro and its advocacy can only be possible if we are able to really get to know our partner community and work alongside them, as opposed to just having a polite working relationship,” Jaehn added.

SEA Wave - Quatro aetas SEAtizens

Together, the team continues to grow excited for what changes will take shape in the Philippine social entrepreneurial landscape, especially because of Filipinos their age.

In a country where young people are envisioning themselves as entrepreneurs, however, Doria warns future entrepreneurs of the fine line between advocacies, marketing ploys, and real tangible solutions.

“This is something Quatro is very serious about—using our platform not to capitalize on realities faced by the IP sector, but to spread awareness and create lasting impact,” she exclaimed.

Positive changes ahead

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic however, Soliveres unfortunately said they faced limitations regarding their business operations and workshops due to matters such as distance, travel restrictions, and increased precautionary steps.

In response to this and for the general future, Quatro has plans to form partnerships with non-government organizations and advocacy-based organizations and enterprises. She said they could aid Quatro in expanding their workshops such as the inclusion of modules building for the community of Aetas.

“Creating a business can do wonders for your growth. But creating one with a social impact brings growth for others, and the fulfillment that brings beats monetary and personal reward any day,” Pavia added as a reminder to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Years from now, Pavia and the rest of the team hope to create and launch scents inspired by overlooked wonders in the Philippines, include more products that use details and techniques that are close to the heart of their partner community, and sell their candles in physical stores located on the actual scent-inspired location.

Furthermore, Quatro also envisions exponential growth not only for their current Aeta partners but even for more communities of the IP sector.

“One thing I’d like to stress is choosing the right partners for your business—people with the same vision. Developing partnerships based on aligned directions and goals have helped me immensely in finding purpose in every day,” Doria brightly said.

For more details about Quatro and how you can purchase and support them and their partner community, visit them on Instagram at @quatroaroma. Additionally, for anyone who would like to work with Quatro, feel free to send an email to quatroaroma@gmail.com to get in touch with them.

SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness.

 

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