It's Women's History Month! To honor female greatness, I'm putting the spotlight on the powerful women leaders who are at the helm of some of my partner brands. The phrase women empowerment encompasses so many things as far as its true meaning is concerned, but to me personally, it's all about lifting other women up! And this is precisely the goal of my interview series this month. Women empowerment means finding inspiration in the stories of other women.
Today, I share with you the story of Becky Stanbridge, owner of Philippines-based social enterprise Lumago Designs.
Q: Can you briefly tell me about yourself — where you’re from, your background and upbringing etc.?
A: I was born and raised in the UK, where we’re extremely lucky to have a government run health care system, great social benefits for everyone, a good (mainly) free education system which I took full advantage of. I studied Art, Graphic Design and Human Resources and had plenty of various jobs usually 3 at a time to keep me constantly learning and fund my fast fashion habit. It wasn’t until I packed everything up at the age of 23 and decided to travel across Europe and Asia that I discovered the extent of inequality in the world, firsthand. And that nine times out of ten, people were good. I believe travel is the best education one can have, and was part of the “more” I was looking for. I was lucky enough at the end of my first 9 months of travel, to join the North Carolina Medical Mission in Paranaque, Metro Manila. Volunteering allowed me to pay it forward to all the people who carried me on my journey and those who didn’t have a lot to give but their stories and good energies. The world could be a better place if we all did a little more giving. Although I came from a middle class background, in a small town I feel like I had so many things handed to me on a plate that so many others do not. I have this amazing opportunity to share what I have, connect like-minded people across continents, create more balance, share insight, skills and support. Yes, it’s selfless and self-gratifying all at the same time and can give you so much more than money can alone. The Philippines is where I fell in love — with the place and with my now fiancé, Spencer — and where we decided to start our journey together of an impactful life.
"Volunteering allowed me to pay it forward to all the people who carried me on my journey and those who didn’t have a lot to give but their stories and good energies. The world could be a better place if we all did a little more giving."
Q: What inspired you to take on a leadership role at Lumago Designs?
A: To begin with, I was terrified of the idea! I didn’t think I was capable or worthy in any way. But it was a necessity and something I was deeply passionate about. I used all the skills I have ever learnt, and researched my butt off to make sure I could do our artisans justice and keep us all afloat. If we’re talking inspiration, our ladies inspire me daily to keep going. They are the reason I do what I do.
Q: As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with challenges?
A: Having mentors, friends and the internet have all been immeasurably helpful to tap into and provide support. Some challenges are ones that are straight forward, solved with some will, know-how and gumption; others are a little more complicated. Those of the people I work with along with the language barrier have been some of the hardest, but building trust and relationships with each individual crafter has helped a lot.
Q: What advice can you give women who want to actively practice social responsibility through having their own business, but don’t know where to start?
A: I can imagine most entrepreneurs will tell you to think about what people want first of all. Is there a gap in the market? Where can you make the most impact? But perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned is that so many people want to start their own thing but not everyone can see that teaming up with, partnering or working alongside other enterprises who are doing similar things makes their and potentially your impact stronger. Think about what else is out there first, speak to them and do lots of research before you start something yourself. It’s really hard doing it alone and you might need them as much as they need you. If we think about social enterprises vs normal capital building enterprises, it’s about being socially aware and ethical in our practices and also not competing with each other but working together for a better world.
"Empowering is a difficult word to use when talking about doing it to someone else. It’s really more about enabling people to empower themselves... It has to come from within but can be enabled by outside forces."
Q: In your opinion, how can women be truly empowered in today’s global landscape?
A: I read something recently from WHO that helped me clarify my part in the community I work with. Empowering is a difficult word to use when talking about doing it to someone else. It’s really more about enabling people to empower themselves. Enabling them the opportunities they may not have had before (the education and the skillset), building their own support networks, providing their offspring a better education, saving for the future, seeing their worth through their craft which they can then in turn pass on to others in the community or the next generations – I think this is what empowerment looks like. It has to come from within but can be enabled by outside forces. All most people are seeking is opportunity.
Becky's story inspires me because...
1. She found her calling upon traveling the world!
If there's one thing I wish I could do more or could've done a lot sooner in my life, it's definitely traveling to different countries. I strongly believe that traveling does make us wiser and a lot more empathetic — Becky's story is a testament to this. Seeing reality in the perspective of people from various cultural backgrounds was her impetus for wanting to do better for others. Traveling can bring forth the most life-changing leaps you could ever take.
2. She believes in forging partnerships with like-minded people.
...and I think this is something I need to learn. I'm a perfectionist, which can be both good and bad; it's good because it means I give my 100% effort in every task but it can also be bad because I prefer to do things my way. Sometimes there's that fear of losing control of my vision. BUT it is true what they say: no woman is an island! To completely thrive and realize our full potential, we must not be afraid of reaching out to others. We have to share our vision with others. We can't always rely on ourselves to make things happen. Two, five or even ten heads are almost always better than one.
You can shop Lumago Designs products HERE.